Architecting content for SEO (SEM 101)

It wasn’t that long ago that I discussed in this blog how to create good content that will get your site noticed, by both end users and search engines. But to be clear, just writing some slick text is not the whole story. The previous blog articles in the Site Architecture and SEO series (files/pages and link/URLs) made reference to doing what you can to help the search engine web crawler (also known as a robot or, more simply, a bot) crawl your site. This article is part 3 of the series.

Let’s take a look at what you can do to optimize your website’s content from an architecture point of view.

Set up your content pages like an org chart

When planning the content design for your website, organize it in a broad-to-specific flow of information with an emphasis on shallow paths. Your home page is the introduction to your content. Unless your site is tiny, save the deep dives in content for other pages. Instead, introduce your content theme, provide basic overview information, and present the information navigation scheme for the site. Thinking in terms of building an organizational chart of content will help you “bucketize” your content into logical groupings and landing pages.

However, this information categorization effort can go in the wrong direction if you are not careful. Instead of a long drill-down from the home page through folder after folder to get to the good information you offer, keep the content organization closer to the surface. You don’t need to plunge deep as you get into detail. Instead of going vertical, expand your content horizontally. Stay shallow, using many first and second level directories instead of burying your content in deep silos. This pattern of information flow will help users more easily find what they want to see and help the search engine bot crawl the information on your site.

Use <strong> tags to highlight keywords in body text

We’ve already discussed how to use keywords in your pages (in <title> tags, meta tags, heading tags, anchor tags, and the like). This selective placement of certain words emphasizes the value of those words as descriptors of the content on your page. But what about using keywords in body text? Yeah, it is still important to judiciously sprinkle your keywords in your body text. That helps the reader understand the content of your page, and a modest (and I do stress modest!) bit of repetition in the use of those keywords from the aforementioned strategic areas again in the body text reinforces your use of them.

But is that the only way to stretch your keyword dollar? Well, if you encapsulate your body text keywords with <strong> tags, this will add a bit more emphasis to the relevance of those words relative to the theme of the page. It’s not a big emphasis, mind you, but sometimes a lot of the little things can add up in value. After all, a pocket full of dimes can be worth more than a $5 bill!

Ensure text content is not shown via scripts, Flash, or images

Make sure the bot can read your content. Text is easy to read for any browser, even one as simple and as formatting strict as a search engine bot. However, bots are not human. They can see references to images and animation files, but they are hard pressed to read that content. The same goes with scripts. Bots can see the <script> tags, but since bots don’t execute the script on the page, any page element requiring the script to run so that it will be presented will be missed by the bot.

Folks who fill up their websites with images representing pretty text content to be read are making a mistake if they also want to be effectively crawled by bots and indexed by search engines. Let’s say you run a website that sells kitchen knives. Your text content about your products is read by the bot and indexed by the search engine. But an image of a chef’s knife has no indexable meaning to a bot. And neither does the a banner graphic image containing the words “Matt’s Cutlery Shop” splashed across the page.

Images are dead zones to a bot—there’s no information there to collect. If you want the text on your site to be indexed, you should put it in the page as text, plain and simple. And for the times that you do use images, you need to use ALT attributes with the <img> tag to describe the content of the image (sprinkle some of those magic keywords here if they are relevant!). That’ll at least draw some relevance of the image on the page to those keywords, even if the images themselves are not indexed.

If your site uses animation technology, such as Silverlight or Flash, there’s good news and bad news. First the good news: bots are getting better and better at extrapolating text content from these sophisticated presentation technologies. But now for the bad news: it’s still a hit-or-miss game (frankly more miss than hit), and the use of these technologies is ultimately not a good bet for SEOs.

No one is saying to never use animations. The key strategy for using Silverlight and Flash on your website is to have these be elements of a page rather than representing the entirety of your page content. That way, you can still include easily crawlable text and strategic tags for keyword usage. Try to use these technologies for image instead of text presentation. That way you still get the “wow” factor they offer to users, and your pages remain fully available to be crawled and indexed by the bots.

For what it’s worth, if you do put some text in Silverlight and Flash content, be strategic about it. Sprinkle relevant keywords there as well. Who knows? Maybe the bots might be able to make heads or tails out of the animation (as I said, things are improving in that area). At a minimum, it will promote the association of those keywords with your content to the user.

Avoid redundant content between pages

This is often a problem for sites that have affiliates sellers of their products and use dynamic URLs to distinguish which affiliate’s logo to show or attribute the inbound traffic to. But occasionally folks copy content between pages, and as Martha Stewart might say, “This is not a good thing.”

Basically, redundant content is recognized by the search engine during indexing, and often redundancies are eliminated from the index, or at least they are removed from the search engine results pages (SERPs) for relevant queries. It’s not likely you want your content to be removed in a de-duplication process when a user searches on keywords for which you’re most relevant, so make sure your pages don’t duplicate content between them.

Also avoid duplicating someone else’s content. Plagiarism is never good, so write your own thoughts on your subject of interest. Search engine indexes hold a lot of information, and that allows for detecting duplicates and plagiarism. You don’t want to be penalized for stealing someone else’s content, do you? But I bet you wouldn’t shed any tears of sadness if someone else were penalized for ripping off your content expertise and presenting it as their own, would you? When you find great and relevant content on a 3rd party site, just link to it! That’s how it’s done properly, and that is, indeed, a good thing.

Organize your content with header tags

Organize your content on your page. Think in terms of writing a theme from back at school. For each page, start off with a big idea. Then break the idea into smaller parts and develop them. Introduce the big idea with an <h1> tag. Use <h2> tags to introduce the smaller parts. Don’t worry about the weirdness of the formatting that is inherent with these tags – you can use CSS to change that.

The key here is that the <h1>, <h2>, and deeper tags (all the way down to <h6>) are regarded by the bot as more like XML than HTML in that they describe the data they contain (HTML merely focuses on the display of the information). The bot responds to this content organization by attributing the words used in the heading tag text as relevant keywords for that section. Take advantage of that concept to strengthen your keyword relevance for the bot to pick up.

Keep in mind the following tips for using header tags:

  • Only use only one <h1> tag per page. No, you won’t be considered web spam of you use two, but you diminish the value of the <h1> tag if you use more than one (after all, there is supposed to be only one big idea per page, right?).
  • Within the <h1> tag, feel free to use one or more <h2> and deeper tags per page. Use those <h2> – <h6> tags to help the bot discern the priority of content on the page.
  • Use keywords within header tags, but don’t copy the text of the title tag (that doesn’t help advance any specific ideas, and thus it’s a lost opportunity for more keyword affinity).
  • Limit header tag text to 150-200 characters.
  • And don’t use header tags on images (again because the bot can’t read images, thus this is a lost keyword opportunity) – stick with text.

Make page copy actionable and unique

When you write the content for your pages, always think about the reader. Why are they going to be interested in this? What will motivate them to come back or, better yet, link to your page? If you make your content compelling, you’ll earn fans. And to do that, you need to make your content actionable. Make it interesting, give your readers something they can do, and good things will happen.

Don’t use hidden text or links

Never place hidden content on your website. That includes things like text and links that are formatted to be shown in the same font color as the background and/or in the tiniest possible font sizes. Search engines have seen this trick played out time and again by folks who have nefarious goals of misleading both search engines and thus end users. As a result, these techniques are considered to be behavior of web spammers.

Don’t allow your legitimate site to be penalized because it used web spammer techniques. The search engines can see when such techniques are used and discount any value they might have added to a site’s relevance to the hidden keyword text, so it doesn’t even work, anyway. And the ensuing penalties imposed on sites employing this practice actually make this a very damaging technique. That’s the antithesis of good SEO!

We’re now cresting the hill but not yet finished with advice on how to make your site architecture more robust for SEO. Next up in our site architecture series: <head> tag optimizations. If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, feel free to post them in our SEM forum. Until next time…

— Rick DeJarnette, Bing Webmaster Center

Join the conversation

  1. Anonymous

    It helps me a lot!

  2. Anonymous

    That is great small tutorial, but there is more to SEO tho…If I had not ranked for major keywords on google/bing/yahoo I don't think anyone would notice my blog at all…unless I go crazy with advertising…

    But overall thanks for the tutorial its great re-read…

  3. Anonymous

    super seo site optimization tutorial

  4. Anonymous

    this tutorial will help me optimize my travel hotels website much better for search results on bing

  5. Quality Directory

    Yes, writing a slick text is not the end of the story that will draw visitors to one's site. It's just the beginning! This is a very good web design/SEO tutorial. Every good SEO effort starts with on-site optimization during design phase.

    There's a question I've always wanted to ask the Bing Community administrators. Why is it that every web page here has "Bing Community" as the title tag? Is this a good SEO technique? I don't think so. I believe this is a duplicate title tag. I'm very surprised why you choose to leave it this way. Please, change it, in order to show us a good example.

  6. Anonymous

    I would be interested in learning more about this with the user of Live Writer.  Will it adhere to the H1/H2 tags?  Very good article.  I learned from it.

  7. Anonymous

    Great article Bing team. This will be helpful to a lot of Office Live Small Business webmasters.

  8. jackin

    Fantastic article! I think these above basics that every seo should know as it helps them rank well in any search engine and also attract visitors too.

  9. Anonymous

    "And don’t use header tags on images (again because the bot can’t read images, thus this is a lost keyword opportunity) – stick with text."

    What about the "alt" text of an image, such as:

    <h1><img src="/bing.png" alt="Welcome to the Bing Home Page"></h1>

    Many web sites use images for their headings, and wrap them within the <h1> element, so could Bing not take in to account the alternative text in this case?

  10. Anonymous

    Very nice seo tutorial, 10x !

  11. Anonymous

    Wow, quite comprehensive


  12. Anonymous

    Nice intro to SEO – interesting to see bing reveal the importance of <strong> tags.

  13. Anonymous

    This is some great information and should come in useful. I see more and more search traffic coming from bing and it looks like this is going to become a major player in the search market. This sort of information only goes to help that as the more information shared with webmasters about what is expected the better they can develop sites to adhere to the standards.

  14. temi

    Thanks very much for this, it certainly clarified a few things for me.

  15. Anonymous

    clarified seo tips for me

  16. intuziast

    Surprised. Strange that the H1-H2 tags are still attached great importance.

  17. fashionfuzz

    I have a question:

    I've been trying to find information on how to play a game called the Fashion Fantasy Game. It's weird that Bing doesn't seem to have anything on this.

    Does anyone know of any forums where I can ask how to play the game?

  18. Anonymous

    Nice article, I like the KISS system. SEO should be easy to implement by everybody, no?

  19. georgechristodoulou88

    Images can be very useful and send a lot of traffic to your site. I had one site that was receiving 90% traffic from SE optimized images and that site was mostly text.

  20. Anonymous

    Fail to plan and you plan to fail. Good info for newbies and a good reminder for the rest. SEO is one driver on the front end of development of both content and design, as well as overall online strategies.

  21. sania

    Very informative post.  Thank you.

  22. luke.sarker

    Too large information, please point it out when you will continue next part.

  23. Anonymous

    Thank you, this post is well written and very helpful

  24. Anonymous

    thats really great tips here. thanks for sharing.

  25. Anonymous

    Great suggestions Rick, and might I add, that it seems Bing is quicker to index and place results then Google, our blog is showing up already in Bing and dragging in Google.

    Again excellent words to SEO/SEM by!

  26. Anonymous

    I noticed that linking to your own articles really helps. I have a blog Costa Rica, SEO and Web Design and when I linked to a post from another with my keywords in it, the next 2 days I have had 100 plus searches extra for that term! And all the hits are going to the page I linked to.

    So, try to link to your own articles, this makes for relevant content and, as you can see in the first paragraph of this blog post (HOW TO CREATE GOOD CONTENT), allows you use the anchor text the way you would like.

  27. Anonymous

    I have been reading alot of SEO books the last few months and none of them have mentioned use of the strong tag.  I will definitely be trying that on my site.

  28. Neothek

    Great article, thanks

  29. nexcheck

    great points…nice piece of advice for the blackhat types.

  30. Ryan IT

    Great article. One of the worst thing you can do these days is waste your Link Juice!

  31. Bobo Brazil

    Quality Directory,

    For the vast majority, like 99.9999 percent, of sites out there your point would be well-heeded.  But there are some sites – Google, Yahoo!, Bing, and some more – that simply don't have to struggle with SEO tweaks to get high SERPs.


  32. Anonymous

    Yahoo!, Bing, and some more – that simply don't have to struggle with SEO tweaks to get high SERPs

  33. aelusiveone

    It should also be noted that the more pages you have the more pagerank that you can build up, since each new page is automatically assigned some pagerank.

  34. Answer Blip Trivia

    Those are some really great tips for content creation. Good content will attract good links and help drive traffic.

  35. eastwood19

    Nice information. Thanks!

  36. Anonymous

    Will adhere and work on this !!

  37. Anonymous

    This is perfect.We sometimes think that it's enough to write an article.Except the content,people get more interested with creative designs at the first look on your page.It adds attraction to get traffics.

  38. eds

    Thanks. Helps to learn how Bing handles things.

  39. zhangmin_iichiba

    i have the same questions with Chris  many website use it <h1><img src="/bing.png" alt="Welcome to the Bing Home Page"></h1>  

    good or bad?

  40. Anonymous

    This sort of information only goes to help that as the more information shared with webmasters about what is expected the better they can develop sites to adhere to the standards.

  41. Anonymous

    thanks for article very

  42. hexahost

    It helps very well.. Good flow continued throughout the post

  43. Anonymous

    this is best article that provide good information. we were finding difficult to find information about this topic and this is very helpful

  44. Anonymous

    very good information for us.

  45. corbax

    What was that last thing? For people working in the Web World, we know that Google, Bing or Yahoo periodically changes its search algorithm. The algorithm is a sequence of finite instructions, of mathematical computations designed to better help us, the searchers, find more appropriate results.

    SEO is a infinite process.

  46. miles2go

    Wonderful blog, New blogger can read all the article here and clear SEO doubt. Almost every thing has been explained with different article.

  47. Anonymous

    Thanks for the useful Info… It helps SEOs very much..

  48. Anonymous

    This helps solidify the ever shifting sands of SEO!

  49. mianju00


  50. gensofts

    wow it's great sources thanks for providing here very help full

  51. Anonymous

    A mere online presence won’t serve the purpose of reaching out and impressing your target audience, to beat the competition you need a well designed website with a good search rank and for that you need help of companies which provide complete solutions in <a href=" designing and development</a> and <a href=" engine optimization</a>.

  52. Anonymous

    Very useful information

  53. timmon24586

    I read this about 6 months ago and was not using header tags at the time.  I then added them and this simple change definitely has helped boost my traffic.

  54. Scott in PDX

    This is an excellent tutorial and confirms what are already good SEO practices.  I was particularly interested to see the emphasis on the <strong></strong> tag.



  55. iddaabahisi


  56. Pradeep Singh Kushwah

    It's really helpful tutorial for SEO purpose

  57. rahulbatra188

    Its a lot of information to work on. One can learn how to write content for website and  what points should be kept in mind.

  58. Yoghurt Man


  59. Yoghurt Man

    Very useful information. Thanks

  60. Anonymous

    Social media optimization modifies the interaction and communication that definitely takes place between their target visitors and their businesses.

  61. radkoaleks

    Hi everyone here ( The above advices are awesome. Thanks to Bing's webmasters for providing us all helpful informationa. It is good to know some technics if you do website desing –

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