Words to use on the web

From: Writing for the Web: A Standards Based Approach to Preparing Accessible Web Content

20 May 2007

These are notes on website design for use in organisations. It is available free for non-commercial use.


  1. Different readers have different needs
  2. Many referrals are from web search engines
  3. Have you the words people will look for?
  4. One or two words
  5. Use words and phrases people use
  6. Find Associated Concepts
  7. Find popular words on a web site

Most web authors make the mistake of thinking that original work will attract the most readers. But if you use words and phrases that the expected audience don't use, they are unlikely to find your web page with a search and unlikely to understand it if they do find the page. Most users find web pages using a web search engine, looking for one or two words. If those words are not in your web page, spelt the same way as the users expects, your web page will never be found.

You can use web searches and other tools to look at the words typically used in web pages. Many web hosting services provide statistics of the words people used to find your site. But keep in mind the people who did not fond the site. Web marketing companies collect statistics from web searchers across many sites and users.

Different readers have different needs

2006 Australian Government Web Standards Audit":


Metadata standards: AGLS and Dublin Core

Gavin Dispain, Web site manager, Department of the Environment and Water Resources, carried out an extensive analysis of Australian Government web sites in 2006. The results showed up problems with the markup of some web sites, also misspelling of words including "Australia". One third of traffic to Government web sites came from search engines.

Tools for Tracking Web Use

Google Analytics (GA) is a free service offered by Google that generates detailed statistics about the visitors to a website. Its main highlight is that a webmaster can optimize their AdWords advertisement and marketing campaigns through the use of GA's analysis of where the visitors came from, how long they stayed on the website and their geographical position.

Most important, a webmaster can define and track conversions, or goals. Goals might include sales, lead generation, viewing a specific page, or downloading a particular file. By using this tool, marketers can determine which ads are performing, and which are not, as well as find unexpected sources of quality visitors. ...

From Google Analytics, Wikipedia, 2007

More powerful than logfile analyzers, such as AWStats.

Google Analytics is an example of a class of tools used for detailed analysis of web site visitors. Unlike logfile analyzer tools, such as the free open source AWStats, these tools allow the tracking of web marketing campaigns and finer grain analysis of user behavior.

Traffic Sources Overview

Google Analytics reported that 81% of traffic to Tomw Communications

Search Engines 13,861 (80.63%)

Referring Sites 2,189 (12.73%)

Direct 1,140 (6.63%)

Web designers need to keep in mind that many web users are directed to their site from web search engines. For April;/May 2007, Google Analytics reported that 81% of traffic to Tomw Communications was from search engines, 13% from other sites and 7% from direct traffic (people typing in web addresses).

Geolocation of Web Viewers

City Visits for some Tomw Communications

Sydney 3,010

Melbourne 1,878


Cranbourne 56

Wollongong 34

Google Analytics will provide maps of the location of web users down to suburb or town level. An example is shown at the country level for some Tomw Communications pages.

Most Popular Sections of a Web Site

Top Content for Tomw Communications

Pages Page Views % Page Views
/technology/transport/reva.shtml 2,402 8.25%
/2001/sa/ehome.shtml 2,386 8.20%
/2001/sa/savewater2.shtml 1,293 4.44%
/2001/sa/savewater.shtml 1,181 4.06%
/2001/sa/ecohouse.shtml 994 3.41%

Google Analytics will identify the sections of a web site showing the most activity. An example is shown for some Tomw Communications pages showing transport technology and environmental technology for the home most popular.

Keywords used to get to site

london to paris3121.7 %
electric car1841 %
canberra history1660.9 %
history of canberra1500.8 %
electric cars1490.8 %
apartment design1480.8 %
australia capital city1310.7 %
indian pacific1020.5 %
australia s capital city880.4 %
it ethics790.4 %
Other phrases1651691.6 %

Logfile analyzers, such as AWStats can produce a report of the keywords and key phrases used to find the web site. The example shows the top ten keyphrases for the Tomw Communications web site.

More Information

Slides for these notes are also available.

These are notes on website design for use in organisations. It was originally developed for ANU course "Networked Information Systems" (COMP2410 / COMP6340) in 2002 and updated to 2007. The material has been revised to make it less theoretical and more practical for an industry audience. This material was prepared and presented by Tom Worthington FACS HLM, a Visiting Fellow in the Department of Computer Science at the Australian National University (and Director Tomw Communications Pty Ltd. It is available free for non-commercial use.

Copyright © 2007 Tom Worthington

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