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Style Manual

On-page optimisation

Make content easy for people to find using search engines. Include keywords in URLs, metadata and content. Create accessible links to high-quality content.

Optimise content for users first

Help people find the content they need using optimisation techniques.

On-page optimisation includes using keywords, metadata and links in the page content. Website analytics tools can also help you optimise pages for search engines.

Focus on making the page for users first, and for search engines second.

Example

You are writing content to help users claim family tax benefits.

User research shows users look for ‘child care’, ‘income’ and ‘payments’ when they need help with family tax benefits.

Write content that includes these terms and topics, and that answers the questions people are most likely to ask.

Digital Service Standard requirements

You must help the users of your service to find the information they need to meet the Digital Service Standard.

Use keywords in the URL and content

Use keywords in the:

Create URLs that contain words from the title of the page with the main keywords close to the start.

The URL should be below 100 characters and make sense to the user.

To separate words in the URL, use hyphens instead of spaces or underscores. This helps both people and search engines understand each word.

Write metadata that explains the page

Metadata is information about a webpage that search engines use. It also has other information, such as the date when the webpage was published. Metadata sits in the code in the background of a webpage.

Two important parts of metadata display in search results:

  • the page title
  • the meta description.

Write these two parts so that users can tell whether the page holds what they’re looking for.

Title

The title tells users and search engines what a page is about.

The title should:

  • include keywords
  • be different on each page
  • be shorter than 70 characters.

Titles that are too long will get cut off by search engines.

In a search result, the title is usually the first line. It works as a headline in the search results.

Example
Example search result, with the title line highlighted.
A title snippet (highlighted) for a Digital Transformation Agency page

Meta description

The <meta name="description"> field gives search engines a summary of the page’s content. Search engines often use the description in the search result listing.

Describe the content in plain language. This helps users to know if it’s what they need.

Descriptions need to be user-focused and contain keywords. They can be up to 160 characters. 

Search engines might also use a snippet of text from the content instead of a description.

Example
Example search result, with the description pulled from page content.
A meta description snippet for a Digital Transformation Agency page

Create useful links to high-quality content

Linking is the basis of the internet. The quality of the pages you link to affects the ranking of your site.

Links can be:

  • internal, which take users to pages within the same website
  • external, which take users to pages on other websites.

Use relevant keywords as the anchor text (for example, don’t use ‘click here’ as link text).

Link to content on other quality sites towards the end of the content.

Example

Make sure users can read content on all devices using responsive design methods.

[The text ‘responsive design methods’ links to a page about consistent and responsive design.]

Accessibility requirements

Write link text that makes the destination and purpose of the link clear.

WCAG quick reference:

Use analytics as part of user research

Analytics are a convenient source for near-real-time information about users. They can help you identify the language people use and give you hints about what they need.

Don’t rely on analytics alone. Use analytics as part of research with users.

Analytics that can support your research include:

  • keywords and phrases users are searching with
  • landing pages, site journeys and exit pages
  • the number of first-time and return visitors
  • the length of time users stay on a page
  • the volume of traffic and where it’s coming from
  • most and least popular pages.

Be careful of using common metrics (like number of unique visits and time on page) as a measure of success. A page might meet a user’s need after a very quick visit.

Release notes

The digital edition expands on information from the Content Guide on understanding search engines. It incorporates information from the Content Guide on keywords and search engines and on-page optimisation.

The sixth edition had some information about search engine optimisation, including a section explaining what search engines are and how they work. It had basic information about search engines but did not go into detail on how to write for them.

The sixth edition recommended using the Australian Government Locator Service (AGLS) Metadata Standard. The digital edition gives contextual links to the National Archives of Australia’s information management standards. Those standards cover current metadata requirements for Australian Government content, including AGLS.

About this page

References

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2019) Metadata standards, AIHW website, accessed 30 May 2020.

Brech J (12 June 2017) ‘Inverted pyramid style’, Web Wise Wording, accessed 30 May 2020.

General Services Administration (n.d.) ‘Keep refining’, 18F content guide, 18F website, accessed 30 May 2020.

General Services Administration (n.d.) ‘URLs and filenames’, 18F content guide, 18F website, accessed 30 May 2020.

GOV.UK (2020) ‘Data and analytics’, Content design: planning, writing and managing content, GOV.UK, accessed 30 May 2020.

Lynch PJ and Horton S (2016) ‘Site structureWeb style guide, Web Style Guide website, accessed 30 May 2020.

Morris K (24 July 2019) ‘The ultimate guide to SEO meta tags’, Moz Blog, accessed 30 May 2020.

Moz (2020) ‘Link building & establishing authority’, The beginner’s guide to SEO, Moz website, accessed 30 May 2020.

Moz (2020) ‘Meta description’, SEO learning center, Moz website, accessed 30 May 2020.

Moz (2020) ‘On-page SEO’, The beginner’s guide to SEO, Moz website, accessed 30 May 2020.

Moz (2020) ‘Title tag’, SEO learning center, Moz website, accessed 30 May 2020.

Search Engine Land (2019) Essential guide to SEO: how to master the science of SEO, Search Engine Land website, accessed 30 May 2020.

United States Government (n.d.) ‘Search engine optimization’, USAGov bilingual style guide, USA.gov, accessed 30 May 2020.

W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) (2020) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) overview, W3C website, accessed 30 May 2020.

This page was updated Friday 11 September 2020.

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