How do I optimize my site for the search engines?
There are many factors which can influence whether a particular web site appears in the search engine results pages and where it falls in the ranking.
These factors can include:
- The number of other sites linking to it
- The content of the pages
- The updates made and with what regularity
- Changes to the search algorithm – and other factors
Here are some things to consider in order to get better rankings in the search engines:
- In the visible page text, include words users might choose as search query terms to find the information on your site.
- Limit all pages to a reasonable size. Doxia Web Design recommends one topic per page.
- Make sure that each page is accessible by at least one static text link.
- Don’t put the text that you want indexed inside images. For example, if you want your company name or address to be indexed, make sure it is not displayed inside a company logo as search engines currently cannot read text within images.
- Make your pages primarily for users, not for search engines.
- Create a useful, information-rich site, and write pages that clearly and accurately describe your content.
- Images in gif, jpg, or png format can be assigned “alt attributes” in HTML, providing search engines a text description of the visual content.
- Images can also be shown to visitors as replacement for text by using CSS styles.
- Video & audio content should have an accompanying transcript if the words and phrases used are meant to be indexed by the engines.
- By using tools like Google’s cache or SEO-browser.com you can see what elements of your content are visible and indexable to the engines.
Consider Your Keyword Usage
Keywords are fundamental to the search process. In fact, the whole process of retrieving pertinent web pages in search engines is based on keywords. As the engines crawl and index the contents of pages, they keep track of those pages in keyword-based indices. Bottom-line, the engines have millions and millions of small databases, each centered on a particular keyword term or phrase. This makes it much faster for the engines to retrieve the data they need in a mere fraction of a second.
Obviously, if you want your page to have a chance of being listed in the search results for a particluar key word or phrase, it’s highly advisable to make sure the key word or phrase is part of the indexable content of your document.
Consider Keyword dominationSearch engines measure the ways keywords are used on pages to help determine the “relevance” of a particular document to a search request. One of the best ways to “optimize” a page’s rankings is, therefore, to ensure that keywords are prominently used in titles, text, and meta data.
When optimizing your site with keywords be sure to use the keyword:
- At least once in the Title tag, and possibly more if it makes sense and sounds good. Try to keep the keyword as close to the beginning of the title tag as possible.
- At least once in an H1 header tag of the page.
- At least three times in the content (text) of the page. There may be additional value in adding the keyword more than that, but adding more instances of a term or phrase tends to have little to no impact on rankings - so only do so if it flows with the body, intent of the message.
- At least once in bold. You can use either the <strong> or <b> tag, as search engines consider them equivalent.
- At least once in the alt attribute of an image on the page. This not only helps with web search, but also image search, which can occasionally bring valuable traffic.
- At least once (sometimes more when it makes sense) in the meta description tag. Note that the meta description tag does NOT get used by the engines for rankings, but rather helps to attract clicks by searchers from the results page (as it is the “snippet” of text used by the search engines).
- Once in the URL
Consider the Title Tags
The purpose of the title of a page is to present an accurate, concise description of a page’s content. It creates value and is critical to both user experience and search engine optimization.
As title tags are such an important part of search engine optimization, following best practices for title tag creation makes for terrific low-hanging SEO fruit. The recommendations below cover the critical parts of optimizing title tags for search engine and usability goals:
Be mindful of length
It is a general concensus that 70 characters is the maximum amount that will display in the search results (the engines will show an ellipsis – “…” to indicate when a title tag has been cut off). Sticking to this limit is generally wise. However, if you’re targeting multiple keywords (or an especially long keyword phrase) and having them in the title tag is essential to ranking, it may be advisable to go longer.
Place important keywords close to the front
The closer to the start of the title tag your keywords are, the more helpful they’ll be for ranking and the more likely a user will be to click them in the search results.
Creating a compelling title tag will pull in more visits from the search results and can help to invest visitors in your site. Thus, it’s important to not only think about optimization and keyword usage, but the entire user experience. The title tag is a new visitor’s first interaction with your website, product/service and your business. As such, it should convey the most positive impression possible.
Consider Meta Tags
The purpose of the meta description tag is to be a short description of a page’s content. Search engines do not use the keywords or phrases in this tag for rankings, but meta descriptions are the primary source for the snippet of text displayed beneath a listing in the results.
Think about it this way. The meta description tag serves as advertising copy. It's purpose is to draw readers to your site from the search results page. That means it is an extremely important part of search marketing. Crafting a readable, compelling description using important keywords can draw a much higher click-through rate of searchers to your page.
Meta descriptions can be any length, but search engines generally will cut snippets longer than 160 characters, so it’s generally wise to stay in these limits.The meta keywords tag had value at one time, but is no longer valuable or important to search engine optimization.
Consider the URL
The URL is the web address for your site (e.g., www.mycoolsite.com). Your URL is of great value from a search perspective. They appear in multiple important locations.
Since search engines display URLs in the results, they can impact clickthrough and visibility. URLs are also used in ranking documents, and those pages whose names include the queried search terms receive some benefit from proper, descriptive use of keywords.Place yourself in the mind of a visitor and look at your URL. If you can easily and accurately predict the content you’d expect to find on the page, your URLs are appropriately descriptive. You don’t need to spell out every last detail in the URL, but a rough idea is a good starting point.
If your page is targeting a specific term or phrase, make sure to include it in the URL. However, don’t go overboard by trying to stuff in multiple keywords for SEO purposes – overuse will result in less usable URLs and can trip spam filters.