SEO: design for search engines

Last reviewed: November 25, 2022

People want to find what they’re looking for quickly, search engines help them do that. Designing for Search Engine Optimization (SEO) means helping search engines categorize your content so people end up on the right page faster.

On this page

Create useful content

To rank highly in search results, think about your audience and what they’re looking for. When visitors find your content useful, they’re more likely to share it with others. As visits to your pages increase so too will their search ranking.

Understanding metadata

Metadata tells search engines what your pages and assets are about. It's made up of keywords, synonyms, descriptions and titles.

Use keywords

Keywords are the most popular words and phrases that people use when searching. It’s easier for your visitors to find your content when you write it using the words and phrases they’re searching for.

Keywords need to be supported by clear, easy to understand content. Make sure your pages read naturally by not overusing keywords.


  • Doing design research will help you learn what words people use to describe your services
  • Check Google Trends for queries relevant to your pages
  • Review your page's analytics to understand the words and phrases visitors use in searches

Though using keywords in page content is more important, some search engines still use keyword metadata. CMS Lite has a keywords option in the Metadata tab. If you're using another platform, check with your web team.

Use keywords in your URL

Your URL should be clear and include keywords that describe the page topic. This helps search engines and readers understand the content. The easier your URL is to read the more people will click on it. Start with the page title and try to keep URLs under 80 characters.

See the CMS Lite Manual for information about human readable URLs.


If words or phrases are not approved for general use, such as some casual terms or slang, use them as definitions or add them to your synonym metadata. This allows you to include search terms that may not be found on the page, such as slang. For example, if you're looking for income assistance and search ‘welfare bc’ you would find the right page. This is because ‘welfare’ is a common synonym for income assistance, so it's included in the metadata.

CMS Lite has a synonym option in the Metadata tab. If you're using another platform, check with your web team.

Write descriptive page and asset titles

Both pages and assets require titles that are clear, concise and use keywords that appear in the body of the content. They should be unique and no more than 70 characters long.

Page and asset titles display in search results and help people know if they’ve found the right content.

Write clear page and asset descriptions

The description of your page or asset should clearly describe to people what they will find if they click through to it. Search engines display this information on their results page, so it should be easy to understand and engaging. Keep in mind what people are trying to find and include appropriate keywords.

Descriptions should be no more than 300 characters long and must be accurate and unique. If a group of pages or assets on the site have similar descriptions, it could lead to poor search results.

See the CMS Lite Manual for information about adding descriptions to pages and metadata for assets.

Use headings

Use headings to break up content by topic and highlight what your page is about. Including keywords in headings can improve your SEO and help people find what they’re looking for. Search engines generally place the most weight on an H1 tag followed by H2, H3 and so on.

Every page should include an H1, in most content management systems, this is the page title. If you're using a platform other than CMS Lite, check with your web team to be sure.


A web crawler is a bot that browses the World Wide Web, typically to categorize content for search engines. Web crawlers can’t see but they can read, so it needs to know what’s in an image or video before it can categorize it. For that reason, many of the steps that improve SEO also improve accessibility. Such as:

Update often

Readers and search engines reward pages that are current. Plan your content life cycle and update your pages regularly with content and metadata that meets people’s needs.

Do not forget to check any links in your content. Broken links impact the usability of your pages and usability affects your SEO. 


Web analytics can help you track your SEO and understand which content is working and which is not. This should be done as part of your content strategy.