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Optimize your site for search engines

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OpenCities Product Team

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Once you've created a great site, you want your community members to be able to find it. Many web users will find the content they need through search engines; it's also how most users will find new content. One of the benefits of OpenCities is that our sites are already optimized for search engines, so the best search engine optimization (SEO) practice for you is to write meaningful content.

Most search engines will display results based on the searcher's query; they focus on the user's intent when they're searching. In general, the higher the result in the search results, the more relevant the search engines believe it is to the user's search.

However, the algorithms used by search engines such as Google can be unpredictable, making optimizing your site complicated. There is often a lot of trial and error to get the best results, but the safest recommendation remains to write meaningful, user-driven content.

Write meaningful content

When writing meaningful content, every aspect of the page matters. You need to write well for your URL, titles, headings, file names, and alt text, but you also need to ensure that the plain text content is essential and significant.

Search engines reward pages that answer a user's query. When writing content, ask yourself these questions:

  • Does a page answer the user's question? If not, then optimizing elements of the page won't matter. Identify user needs first, then write well-structured content to meet that need.
  • Does this content help my users, and would you still create the same content if search engines disappeared?
  • Does your content use the same language that your users are likely to use? If you speak to the language of your audience, and their searches match your page titles, they're more likely to find your content.

But there are some practices you can use for the page fields of content types on your site.

Use relevant page titles and URLs

When you create a page, you will need to fill out the Page name and Page title fields. The Page name gives the page its URL, while the Page title is displayed on the live site.

Titles should be accurate, concise, descriptive, and unique. You may want to include keywords in your title that your community is likely to search for, but make sure you don't pack your title full of unnecessary keywords.

The Page name should be as meaningful as the Page title. You can use the same title if you want to, but make sure your URL does not become too long; we recommend roughly 50-60 characters.


Add a short description

Almost all content types in OpenCities have a field where you can add a short description. This field might be called something different depending on the content type; you might see Add [content type] summary or What is the purpose of this content? You should always use this field to give a brief but accurate description of the page's content. This is an excellent place to put in relevant keywords that people might be searching for.

Please note that while search engines may use this field as a page's abstract on their results page, most search engines will use whichever content on the page that most accurately answers the user's query. These descriptions on search engines are not fixed, and there is no way to predict what content will be used, so you should instead ensure that all content, including the short description, is written meaningfully.


Use keywords that represent the page

Most pages will have a field to add keywords to your page called Add common search terms people would use when looking for this content. In this field, you can add other keywords or search terms your community might be searching for.

However, this field only applies to internal searches; search engines do not crawl this field looking for keywords. Instead, you should include relevant keywords to your title, description, URL, and body content.


Add site metadata

One more option when optimizing your site for search engines is to add metadata to your site. You can use metadata to add a default description and image for your site in search engine results and on social media. 

Learn more about managing your site's metadata.

Additional resources

SEO practice is a very complicated topic, and best practices for SEO often change. We've compiled a few resources below if you want to learn more about search engine optimization.

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