Moments that matter: Search engine optimisation beyond Blaise Pascal

Blaise Pascal

When someone is looking for information about us, our products or our services, the chosen search engine will offer the best matches.  This article offers insight into how to prepare for and make the most of the moments that matter.

What is Search Engine Optimisation?

SEO is a technique for optimising a page/website so the search engines are more likely to understand the content and present the pages in their results.

What impact does it have?

Thinking of what happens when someone searches for something, perhaps a few words, phrase or other fragment and the search engine presents the very best matches it finds, the list offered is sufficiently relevant that it is increasingly rare to need to go beyond that first page.

To get a first page listing means either that the page is the best possible match for the keywords, or is a very good match and has been enhanced by pay per click search engine marketing.  Getting considered for that coveted first page often means spending time getting the message right. With such a high bar, simply adding keywords to curry favour is misguided to the increasingly intelligent search engines and a disservice to readers.

Who is Blaise Pascal and what's he got to do with seo

The French philosopher Blaise Pascal amongst many things wrote in his Lettres provinciales "I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time."

As Pascal apologised for his letter, it is important to spend time on a page so that it succinctly says what it needs to.  Alas that is only the start.

Distilling any page into a brief summary with keywords is important for the page meta-data as the keywords can be used to suggest what is considered important and the summary might be presented to the users helping them to assess the relevance of the page to their needs before they click, it is also a good focus to keep handy when optimising and as a check list when reviewing the page.

Attention spans are getting shorter, often less than ten seconds, whilst expectations are higher (see Turning into digital goldfish); Blaise Pascale is a good example of how to be succinct.  With clarity of purpose, almost any page can follow his example and get it's main theme across in under ten seconds.

There are a few easy wins that are straightforward and easy to do: ensure the url, html page title, heading and meta-data are closely aligned and accurately represent the page.  Also it helps if the page is semantic in that it follows a logical order, usually both users and search engines appreciate this.

More time consuming is to polish the text so that it succinctly says what it needs to and supports the page well in a readable format à la Blaise Pascal.  Good prose has its place but direct language is more likely to be understood by both search engines and anyone who first sees a page.  It should be remembered that people rarely give more than a few seconds to looking at a page to see how relevant it is to them, even after starting to read people often get distracted or lose interest so the copy needs to be both relevant and compelling.

Going beyond Pascal

Often pages that many people refer to are considered authoritative so encouraging linking back to a page is useful for search engines, convenient to users and the added publicity helps too.

Pay per click as part of search engine marketing is a great technique for enhancing a listing, as cost relates to relevance, significant saving can be made optimising a page.

Semantic web is a collaborative movement to encourage semantic content is web pages and these are improving all the time.

Structured data is a way of adding meaning to a page, particularly suited to database applications.

Last words

If Pascal would want to spend time on every letter to an individual, optimising each page for everyone who reads it, making it succinct and focussed, makes most of those moments that matter, and just may help getting on that elusive first page.

By Alan Hicks