For many people and businesses, hiring an SEO specialist to accompany your staff or liaising with an agency who specialise in Search Engine Optimization is a necessary step to improving your search engine ranking and a big factor in driving traffic to your website or business. Many companies and individuals warrant the use of such SEO services. I myself run several organic SEO campaigns (along with Search Engine Marketing and social media marketing campaigns) and my clients genuinely need such a service to get the most business they can out of the internet and they have fairly dynamic business goals which change all the time, which in turn has to be reflected in their Search engine optimization campaigns. But what happens if you’re:
a) Not using a website for commercial gain?
b) New to Web development and want to do it yourself?
SEO services aren’t particularly cheap so in this post I’m going to go through some simple key pieces of SEO that you can implement on your site, which will help search engines to understand what exactly your site is about and thus help you rank better for the areas your website or blog belongs to. Please note this is no way an extensive resource on SEO, but a good starter platform. So to start of this small tutorial we’re going to talk about meta tags:
Meta Tags are segments of HTML that sit in what’s referenced in HTML as the <head> tag. There are a lot of tags to actually choose from, but for today we’re going to talk about only 2, the title tag and meta description tag. We’ll also walk you through implementing them into your website. Meta tags are not visible within the website themselves (although the title tag often appears in the tab of the browser), but they are read by the search engines in order to determine a little more about your site and also they are used in search engine results pages (SERPs).
The Title tag is very important to your website, what you want to do is make it unique and descriptive, so as a reader looking in and a robot viewing it they can both determine what your site does. For instance “Home” isn’t much of a title tag description, every website has a home page. But what’s your website about? Mine for example is “Web Design & Development | Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada”. Which is descriptive, I don’t think anyone could argue they didn’t know what the site did and also it provides a location too, I chose to do this as my website operates in that area, you may be nationwide or have no real location so may choose not to add a location. Another popular styling of the tag is some kind of branding at the start or end of the tag. Maybe “SEO service | your company name”. Although you could switch the brand and the description around I feel like many that leading with your keywords (Words that describe your web page) is probably the best idea as it brings additional ranking benefits. In terms of length, search engines are always changing and they rarely seem to be identical in parameter lengths but less than 70 characters is widely accepted as the norm.
So how to I add or correct my title tag for SEO benefits?
If you have access (I hope you all do) to your web page you need to find the opening <head> tag (HTML is generally a set of paired tags that open like <tag> and a corresponding </tag> notice how the closing tag has the same name as the opening tag but it also has a forward slash after the “greater than” sign) and insert this code as shown (obviously changing the title to what you devise is best) <title>This is my new title</title> just below it, as long as it stays within the opening <head> tag and above the closing </head> tag your title will be a ok!
The Meta description tag
The meta description tag provides search engines with information about your website, these are often used as the descriptions within the search engine results pages themselves. Although they don’t actually have to use your description and omitting a meta description from your page generally means that the search engine will create one for you on what it thinks your website is about. The first thing to note is how the meta description tag is constructed. Again it sits in between your <head>…meta tag goes here…</head>, but where it differs is that it is a self closing tag and has a bit more to it, the basic template of the tag looks like this:
<meta name=”description” content=”This is where your really well written description goes” />
This tag does not bring any kind of ranking with it, but that doesn’t mean that you should just discard it, after all it is the person who decides whether or not to visit your website from the SERPs not Google, Yahoo! or Bing!! By this I mean, if Google returned just the titles of web pages and no descriptions, many people would just click a link near the top as they would perceive it to be better understandably, but search engines don’t do this, they return a description. People read descriptions! They sell your website, in that short amount of characters you can actually sway people to choose your website and not somebody else’s, even if they rank above you! Firstly not every website in the results pages will be relevant to a persons’ search, you can normally tell this by reading the descriptions and hence start to separate the wheat from the chaff. From then if you provide a user with a well written, keyword rich segment that summarises your web page brilliantly you will get the visit as opposed to the fairly shoddy effort that could be around you. So this tag has no SEO prowess, but it has Search Engine Marketing prowess in abundance, you get 160 characters to really WOW your audience. Next time your searching through Google, have a look and see how much more appealing the better descriptions are.
Alt attributes with image tags
Like meta tags this tag is not visible (generally) to the viewer. Generally its intended use now is for those with vision impairments. But it can be parsed by search engines who once more use this data to help them gather information about your web page as a whole and the image itself. So in that case why not jazz it up and help the search engine bot determine really what your site is about. The basic structure of this attribute is the following:
<img src=”http://www.example.com/path/to/image.png” alt=”Nike Orange T-shirts” />
This small alt=”” statement helps describe the image and more than likely helps describes what this actual website page is about, there is nothing stopping you describing your website generally here also, maybe drop in some good relevant keywords too. There is some debate as to how long the tag can be, a maximum length isn’t actually noted, but its widely speculated that the 125 characters is the longest it can be before it gets chopped up, however I would suggest a lot smaller alt tag than that.
*Note that this is NOT a tag and is an attribute of the image tag. the src=”” is the source of the image file also ie. where the image is found. *
Good use of keywords within page Content
A popular SEO saying is “content is king” and its very true. Strong content is what search engines use to determine how good your site is and it’s also what keeps readers engaged and linking back to your site. That doesn’t mean that every page of your website needs to be War & Peace. But what it means is that you should try to write good content, not just type two poorly written sentences that provide the search engines with next to nothing to decide what your site is about. This is where you should have a think about the page in question and think, what are the key words and phrases about this page, what do I want people to find me in Google for, how do I want to come across to my readers. Jot these down, and go to Google’s keyword tool and paste these phrases and words into the tool and run it, look through at whatever other keywords are returned, maybe you didn’t think of a couple that Google suggested. Don’t worry about all the other parameters that Google return like competition, PPC, these are for a more advanced tutorial. Just go through and add a few more until you have a few keywords or phrases, concentrate now in writing well written content, incorporating these words and phrases into the prose naturally. I say naturally because people don’t like to read poorly written content in general and even less so if they see that it’s clearly been done in some marketing attempt. People want to read good content. Secondly search engines are incredibly clever they can tell when somebody is just trying to stuff their texts with keywords. The bottom line now, is that if you have a piece with lets say, SEO mentioned 100 times and another site has it mentioned 101 times, it won’t be higher in the rankings. You should try to use an array of different types of keywords or phrases to help the search engine robots build up as best a picture as possible of what your site does. Poorly written, or practically non-existent content is one of the biggest mistakes of websites and beginners, strike a balance between length of text, good, appropriate use of keywords and phrases and readability. There are hundreds of metrics in determining ranking, and since Google Panda, there is a shift to the user experience, so bare that in mind.
That’s about it, these fairly simple steps will go a long way to helping you achieve a better search engine ranking, they are easy fixes to implement.
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