Website Writing Guide

Writing for government websites

Improving search-engine ranking

There is little point writing for the Web according to the best practice advice in this Guide if no one can find the information. The content must be presented so it can be found and indexed easily by search engines such as Google.

About government Web pages and search engines

Step-by-step guide to maximise Google ranking


About government Web pages and search engines
What Google indexes

Google indexes every Web page in a website, not the website as a single entity. So every page of the website has the potential to be the very first page a user sees on your website. For writers, this means that the content on every page is important.

Google lists Web pages in its results pages according to how close a match there is between the query term and:

  • the page title – the words that appear in the very top-left of the browser window
  • the page heading
  • the number of repetitions of the query term on the page.

The Web page that ticks all of these boxes is likely to go to the top of the results page.

So use headings and terms that match that which users are likely to query in Google.

You can further improve the listing by:

  • structuring the content under sub-headings
  • ensuring there are many external links to the page - Google works on the theory that if many external Web pages link to a page, then the page must be important or contain relevant content.
Did you know...
  • More than half of the visitors to most government websites come via a link from a search engine, and that usually means from Google.
  • Fewer than half of the visitors to government websites type the Web address into their browser.
  • Google reports that about 93% of their users only look at the Web pages listed on the first results page. Or, only 7% bother to look past the first ten search results. Of those who stay on page one of Google’s search engine results page, about 50% do not scroll down to reveal all ten results. 
  • A majority of users will not see your Web page if it is not displayed in the first 5 - 6 listed on the first results page.
  • Google indexes all Web pages, not just website home pages. So a high ranking for your home page does not guarantee a high ranking for any other page. Therefore, you have to write every Web page with search engines in mind.

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Step-by-step guide to maximise Google ranking

Information provided online by government will be invisible to search engines if it is expressed in words that do not match the query term entered into search engines by the user.

For every Web page you want ranked highly in search engines, follow these steps:

Step 1: Research the query terms for which users are likely to search.

Identify your target audiences and find out what words and terms they use to express your content. Find out the most popular words and terms on the Google website using their database service Get keyword ideas.

For example, if a council Web page is about rubbish collection, find out whether most users call it waste, rubbish or garbage collection.

Step 2: Create an appropriate page title and page heading.

Use the words and phrases in the title and heading that your intended audiences are likely to use as their query term. This almost always means that you should not use bureaucratic jargon, acronyms and program names in headings unless you know from the research that the target audience will definitely use those terms.

If the research has revealed that users are likely to use a number of query terms related to the topic on the Web page, you may need to create a separate page for each of the key search terms.   

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Step 3: Compose the text.

Compose the information on the page using the query terms at least four or five times in the text. Aim to write at least two hundred words. Google may consider a page containing only a few sentences to be of little relevance to the user’s query even if the title and heading match the query term exactly.

Step 4: Create and organise links to this page.

Links in the same website

Authors or editors of a Web page should identify other Web pages on the same website that are related to theirs and organise links to be created back to their page.

Links from other sites

Identify related Web pages on other government websites (local, state or national), contact the Web page owner and request a link to be made back to your Web page. You may have to create a reciprocal link on your page to their page to gain their cooperation. Presumably the content on the two pages is related.


Other topics in this section

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