In order to receive the maximum return on your online investment, your website’s SEO needs to cross off a number of key to-do’s before it can reap the rewards. Let’s take a look at a few behind-the-scenes elements of your website that have an impact on SEO.
These little guys represent the main topics or ideas that you want your site/pages to rank highly for in organic web searches. Keep in mind that common or popular keywords will often come with a lot of competition, so try to focus on keywords that are specific to your organization/industry.
The best way to identify your keywords is to ask yourself, “who is our audience?” When you know who you’re trying to reach, and why you’re trying to reach them, you’ll be able to understand what questions they have and what they may be searching for online.
Each page on your website should try to focus on a single keyword for maximum effect. You should also be sure to include the keyword in each of these areas:
- Page URL
- Meta Description
- Title Tags
- Heading Tags
- Relevant image descriptions and Alt Tags
Title Tags (Page Titles)
Title tags tell people and search engines what content they can find on a page. Keep these short and sweet, and don’t mislead people by jamming 10 different keywords into a title tag, this will only hurt you in the long run.
Instead, focus on a single keyword and keep title tags under 65 characters for the best results. Also, try to place your targeted keyword for the page towards the beginning of the page title.
Like Title Tags, Meta Descriptions explain the content that can be found on a page, but with a longer description/summary than the Title Tag. These should always include the keyword that you’re trying to rank for and never exceed 160 characters.
Meta descriptions should be unique for each page. Simply swapping out the keyword will lead search engines to think that your page content is all the same.
Heading tags allow people and search engines to identify the main topic(s) on a page. Be sure to structure your “H tags” properly based on high level topics and sub topics so that your page structure follows a logical flow. Not everything on your page can, or should, fall under an H1 tag
For example, a page about Chocolate Desserts (stay focused) would feature “Chocolate Desserts” as the main heading/H1 tag, while listing sub topics like “Cake”, “Cookies”, and “Ice Cream” as the H2 tags. Different varieties of cake, cookies, and ice cream would then fall under their respective category as “H3” tags, and so on.
Linking out to other sites with good reputations (i.e- sites with quality content) will also boost your search rankings. Google’s Hummingbird update has placed a focus on providing web users with the best possible information, which means that if your site is linking out to the New York Times, your SEO ranking will be boosted more than if you were to link out to Jim’s News (sorry Jim).
Be sure to avoid stuffing your site with links. Google’s head of WebSpam, Matt Cutts, recently shared some insights on the amount of links per page.
Internal links are also important as they indicate the destination of text and image hyperlinks to both users and search engines. The two elements you’ll want to focus on are Anchor Text and Destination Pages.
Anchor Text & Destination Pages
Anchor Text is the on page text that indicates where a link is directed.
The Destination Page is the actual URL to which the Anchor Text is linking.
An example of this would be, “For more information, check out our Product Page.” The Anchor Text is “check out our Product Page” and the Destination Page would be the Product Page. By clearly defining where this page link is directed, search engines and users will have an easier time navigating your site.
Image Descriptions & Alt Text
All images should be embedded with descriptions of what the image is depicting. Most CMS platforms will have a simple feature that allows you to do this without any coding, but for those of you doing the hard coding by yourself, be sure that any <image> tags also include an "Alt" attribute like this:
<img src="/media/2499/empire_state_building.jpg" alt="View of Manhattan and the Empire State Building"/>Search engines can't actually "see" the image, they only know it's there because of what the HTML code is telling it. The "Alt" text tells search engines what your images are showing and how they will be relevant to readers.
Remember, Google is looking for quality, reliable information. So any attempts to “game” the system, or overload your site with keywords and links will be met with severe penalties to your SEO performance. Just follow these simple steps and watch your SEO rankings improve.