Next we are going to focus on the tweaks we can make within your website and website code to “prepare” your site for the search engines.
These techniques change over time, so staying current with the engines is vitally important to the ongoing success of your webpage.
Please note: you should never abuse any of these techniques. Everything with moderation!
Let’s start with your Meta tags.
Wait a minute! If you find this too technical but want to pursue optimising your site then please give Identity a call 0845 388 5863 or contact us and we would be happy to give you some free help and advice.
Meta Tags are HTML tags which provide additional information about a web document. Unlike regular tags, meta tags do not provide formatting information for the browser.
They provide such information as the author, date of creation or latest update for the page, titles, descriptions and keywords (which tell the search engines the subject matter of the page).
For SEO purposes those last three (title, description and keyword) are what matter the most. Also important are alt tags (which provide additional information about images) and header tags (which indicate to users important areas of content on your page).
The Importance of Meta Tags:
Meta Tags are important for two reasons:
- They help provide the information that is listed in the SERPs (search engine results pages).
- They are part of what influences (albeit only slightly) how well our individual pages rank on the SERPs.
All major search engines utilize (if only partially) Meta description and title tags in an effort to understand the relevance of the site.
The Basics of Meta Elements & Tags.
Meta tags are not something you should spend a lot of time worrying about. But do focus on crafting them so they properly reflect your site and its mission.
While no hard and fast rules have been established about title tags (this is actually a Meta element but is often referred to as “Title tag”), it is widely accepted that they are an important part of a Web page.
Many SEO Firms debate the ideal number of characters to be included in the Title tag. There are a few things that are not really debated and are widely agreed upon.
For example, your Title tag should contain the most important keyword for each specific webpage (and therefore are unique to that page and are not repeated throughout the site).
Title tags should never exceed 65 characters, since this is the point where most search engines will truncate the information. While many sites routinely exceed this character limit, the value of a clear and concise Title tag outweighs any benefit you may obtain from repeating the keyword or including keyword variations.
The placement of the keyword (or key phrase) is equally important to users and search engines. It is the “clickable” portion of a search listing and because search engines do take these keywords into consideration when weighing the value of the page, it’s best to include keywords where they will be found – at the start of the Title tag.
Title tags are also an excellent spot to emphasize your brand, especially if your company or website name uses the keyword or phrase you are optimizing for.
SEO Firms that are truly tuned in to website analytics understand that targeting the intent of users often yields a higher click-through rate and can even influence the number of conversions. In other words, if your Title tag is clear, concise and conveys what the person is likely looking for, you should get a better click through rate.
It’s not all about your position on the SERPs (position 1 versus 2, or 5 versus 7) – it’s also about the quality of the listing and if it inspires confidence in your site and tells the user you have what they are looking for.
The description is one of several Meta elements which assist users in determining whether a resource will be useful to them when conducting queries and viewing the SERPs. Your Description tag conveys the purpose of the page in a clear, objective manner for these users and in some instances (should the search engines not find something better within the copy of your webpage) is used for search engine results.
When you write your Description tag think of your audience and the information you wish to convey. The Description tag is intended to assist users in determining if a listed resource will be useful to them, so stuffing keywords into this element and being “cutesy” or too “hypey” instead of being informative, clear and concise could cause alienation of the potential site visitor.
Typically the first 150 characters (including spaces) of the Description are created for the purpose of display on search engine results pages and should therefore be as concise, coherent and as objective as possible.
The Keyword tag is the least important Meta tag, but it does serve as a guide to the theme of the page, and it tells the engines what words they can expect to find on your web page.
There are a few rules for your Keyword tag. First, keep the number of keywords to a minimum – there is no value in stuffing keywords in there. A word/phrase only belongs in your Meta tag if it appears prominently in your body content. Do not repeat keywords in your Keyword tag.
It is important to realize that search engines assign little value to the keyword tag as it has been and is still abused by those attempting to game the search results pages.
ALT tags are the alternative text that the browser displays when a Web surfer is unable (or unwilling) to see the images in a web page.
The ALT tag was initially utilized to help those with visual disabilities and use was required to be in what is referred to as 508 compliance.
You should not stuff your ALT tags with keywords, keep the text short and concise and use the most relevant keyword to that page and the particular image.
Now, onto some other on page optimization techniques:
Headline tags (H1, H2, etc.):
Header tags are designed to turn text on your site into a Headline – so they actually change the appearance of the font by making it bigger – like a headline would be. The reason they help you is because the engines feel that if you have keywords within in Header tags then the page must really be focused on those words – otherwise you wouldn’t use the words in the headlines.
By the way, if you are worried about appearances you can use CSS to alter the Header tags so the text doesn’t actually look different but you still get the SEO benefit of the tags.
Try using an H1 and an H2 on your pages. Don’t stuff keywords into these tags – use a real sentence that uses your keywords well.
Such as: http://yourcompany.com/USEKEYWORD.htm. Using your keyword in the file name is another way to let the engines know the page is really relevant to those keywords. There is some debate about how much this really helps – but most people feel it should be a tool in your arsenal and it doesn’t hurt you. If you use multiple phrases use a hyphen () rather than an underscore (_) to separate words. Don’t create a huge run on string (ex: keyword1keyword2keyword3keyword4.htm) Also make sure you name the page according to what it is about, rather than just using it as a place to put random keywords.
Keyword Rich Content:
The search engines have one goal – that is to deliver relevant results to a searcher on their site. If they don’t deliver quality, relevant results they are going to lose their following. Google got so popular because they are known for great relevant results. So, it stands to reason that the best thing you can do to show the engines you are relevant to your keywords is to actually use your keywords within your pages.
Some tips for writing for the engines.
- When you're writing your content, focus on 13 of your most important keyword phrases.
- Emphasize your main keywords in the first paragraph. This is the first thing the search engines "see" so it should include keyword dense text.
- Aim to keep your page length between 200 600 words.
- If you’re struggling on where to put all those keywords, try writing no optimized copy first and add key phrases later.
- Search for words and phrases like "our product" and "it," and transform them into keyword filled phrases. Then your text and marketing flow are covered and adding keywords is simply filling in the blanks.
- Read your copy out loud to make sure it doesn’t sound stilted with all those keyword phrases. Strong search engine copywriting maintains a persuasive flow to it even with keyword phrases, and don’t clump keyword
- phrases in a big text block separated by commas. Search engines read this as spam and your prospects will be unimpressed by your nonsensical text.
- Tighten your copy and keep it focused.
- Rather than one large text block, write short paragraphs and include sub headlines that integrate keyword rich bullet points to make it more readable and satisfy the engines.
Writing for the engines is very similar to conventional copywriting except you structure your text around certain key phrases. With a little keyword phrase research and powerful benefit statements, your copy will sell your products/services in a way that the search engines love.
Tip! Some engines will take the first 100 characters of the body text and use that as the description in the SERPs (search engine results page) instead of the Meta description. Start your body text with text that incorporates the most relevant keywords for that page. Do not start with ‘Welcome to our site” – that is just a waste of space. Because engines read left to right, you may need to incorporate this in the first left cell (if you use tables).
The engines like to follow a path through your site and they like to see your pages interconnected. The best way to explain this concept is to give an excerpt of text.
Let’s say your website is about jewellery. You may have an article about how to clean jewellery – here’s an excerpt:
“Cleaning gold rings is very different than cleaning silver rings. Cleaning gemstones is very different than cleaning pearls. Let’s explore the different methods for cleaning each of your jewellery pieces”.
(By the way, I know nothing about jewellery care so for those of you out there that do know something forgive me if that made up text is inaccurate, I’m just trying to illustrate a point).
Rather than just leaving that text as is, you could chose to take some of the keywords in there and link them to another page within your site. It shows the engines that the site is focused and relevant and not just a bunch of random things thrown together.
So you may chose to link the following words:
“Cleaning gold rings is very different than cleaning silver rings. Cleaning gemstones is very different than cleaning pearls. Let’s explore the different methods for cleaning each of your jewellery pieces”
Make sure you link to pages that are relevant to the words you chose. Don’t go crazy and interlink every word but do try to make your whole site connected.
Using “NOINDEX” To Prevent Wasted PageRank:
To err is human, but not only humans make errors. The search engine bots have been known to make mistakes as well. The “nofollow” tag has gotten very popular but we hear a lot of reports that the engines don’t always pay attention to it. Although bot errors are rare, they do happen. Human error is more common what if you forget to add the “nofollow” to all your links to the page in question, or what if an external site links to the page? The site will get spidered, picked up and potentially some PageRank value will be passed on to it.
To ensure there is no bot error and no human error you should use the noindex tag when you don’t want the engines to index a page (like a login page or some other page that has no value to you in the engines)
You would place this code on top of the page:
Note: You don’t want to use the “disallow” on your robots.txt, you are better off to use the “noindex” right on the page. You could use a “noindex” in your robots.txt file but right now Google is the only engine that supports it, so you are safer to just use the noindex tag on the page.
Onpage optimization is not rocket science. However it does require patience, attention to detail and the ability to work within HTML.