One of the pronounced themes this year is “Learn from Marketing.” On August 23 and 24, The eLearning Guild will hold a Learning from Marketing Summit. During the summit, best practices from marketing will be examined and applied to L&D.

One common practice in marketing is the use of search engine optimization (SEO)—where content and content structure (most often in HTML5) is massaged for easy indexing by search engines in hopes of a more prominent listing position.

Many of us have content on the web. This guide will help you create content that Google and other search engines will easily find for people looking to learn on a daily basis.

Start with a search

Let’s say you wanted to learn about natural treatments for the common cold. You are likely to type a query like “common cold natural remedies” into your favorite search engine. My search yielded results from sites like WebMD,, and WellnessMama.

Learning often starts with Google search

Figure 1: A great deal of learning starts with a Google search

Generally, if you’re putting information out on the web, you want people to find it. There are literally thousands of sites with information about natural cold remedies. How did both well-known sites and lesser-known sites make it onto the front page?

In reality, there are a number of factors. Google’s algorithm is, of course, highly proprietary. Experts estimate there are over 200 factors that determine where your site is listed for a particular Google search. Some factors you can control, some you can’t.

What you can’t control in SEO

There are dozens of factors that are just out of your control when trying to optimize a page for search engines. For example, the age of your domain, your domain history, and your domain’s country extension all influence where your domain appears in a search. Aside from letting your domain grow older, there is little you can do to influence this factor.

How your HTML influences search

How you structure your HTML code and information relative to the keywords that people are searching for is an important influencer of your search ranking. Here are a few of the important factors that can improve your search results:

  • Your title tag. Does your keyword appear in the title tag? A strong title tag might be:
    <title>Natural Cold Remedies</title>
    Some experts have noted that the title tag is likely your best opportunity for a search engine to determine what your page is about and what type of traffic to send.
  • Your meta tags. Meta tags describe your page, and although they have much less influence than they had a decade ago, they still are important:
    <meta content="Several natural cold remedies are discussed and compared for efficacy.">
    <meta http-equiv="content-type" content="text/html;charset=UTF-8">
    Meta tags go inside the head section of your HTML document.
  • Using your keywords inside of heading tags. Google assumes your page is related to your keywords if the keywords appear inside of heading tags like this:
    <h2>Natural cold remedies</h2>
  • The density of your keyword used in the body text. Using the keyword(s) throughout your body text, without overdoing it, is an art. You want a keyword density between 0.25 and 2 percent. Err on the side of caution when it comes to keyword density. Keyword stuffing, which is the overuse of a keyword in an attempt to fool the search engine, can get a site penalized.
    To check your keyword density, you can use a free tool (Figure 2).
SEOBook offers a free keyword density analyzer tool
Figure 2: SEOBook’s free keyword density analyzer tool
  • Content length. All things being equal, longer content wins. Google assumes longer content equates to more useful information.
  • Using keywords in your image alt attributes. Images provide a nice opportunity to use your keywords. You can use the keywords in the alt attributes enclosed in each image tag like this:
    <img src="picture.jpg" alt="Natural cold remedy echinacea pictured"/>
  • Ensuring your site is optimized using responsive design will also give you a bump in the search engine ratings. Realize that more and more searches are mobile and Google wants the information it indexes to be available to all users.
  • Placing the keyword in the page file name. This can be another influencer of your rating. For example, if you name your page natural_cold_remedies.html, your URL will appear like this (Editor’s note: This URL is only an illustration—not a real page):
    Your filename alone won’t be enough to improve your rankings. However, combined with other factors it can have influence.

Off-page SEO factors

There are a number of other factors that can influence your search ranking that are found outside your HTML and content. These factors are more difficult to control than the on-page factors listed above.

  • The number of domains linking to yours. Google and other search engines look at a link to your page as a vote for its quality. More “votes” results in higher rankings for your page. The quality of the pages linking to yours is also a factor. A link from Harvard to is more credible than a link from Us Weekly and is weighted as such in the ranking algorithm.
  • Closely related to the factor above, the number of individual pages linking to your site is important as well.
  • Link context is also important, according to some experts. For example, homepage links are said to carry more weight than interior links, and links within the content are assumed more valuable than links in the sidebar.

In the end, Google’s goal is to provide the best information for a search term used. If you provide good, focused information on your page with relevant keywords, your chances of success are strong.

Good luck with your SEO. I’m looking forward to finding you on the web!