Having a website that isn’t search engine optimized is like winking at a girl in the dark: you might have done it but no one knows. Simply having a website is not going to guarantee that anyone is going to come visit it. Without visitors it is very unlikely that your internet operations is going to generate revenues. Websites are deceptively complex, and there is an ever growing base of misinformation that can cost you both time and money. Generally speaking, if it is too good to be true, it is. Many people fall into the trap of “site builder” plans that boast low monthly rates and ease of use. While these site builders might be inexpensive, they generally do not allow full customization and the vast majority of them use antiquated, error-ridden, and sometimes even Blackhat techniques. With that forewarning, most of the content covered in this article can be used for “site builder” driven sites, and all of this information is pertinent to traditional web designs.
The difference between good, better, and best search engine optimization is the same difference between a half-ton pickup truck and an eighteen wheeler. While both examples serve similar purposes, the eighteen wheeler can move a lot of “goods”, in SEO terms these goods would be traffic. If good Search Engine Optimization drives 500 visitors a month to your website, great SEO could drive thousands of visitors to your website. Whitehat, organic, search engine optimization includes numerous internal factors which we will further discuss to help you understand how to achieve better website placement in the SERPs.
The most important SEO advice for anyone who has or is interested in a website is this: Build your website for visitors, not the Search Engine. At some point in our internet usage, I think we have all visited websites in which the content “doesn’t make any sense” because the webmaster or SEO over-zealously inserted an excessive amount of keywords! Write your content for your visitors, and take the time to make sure the verbiage makes sense. If you don’t follow this simple advice, you could potentially be banned or penalized from Google or other search engines for spamming, or equally as bad, frustrate your visitors to the point of no return.
Choosing the right keywords is a critical portion of your overall SEO plan that is often neglected. We cannot stress enough how important choosing the right keywords is — it can be the difference from making sales and taking on new customers and having a bounce rate in the upper nineties. Optimizing a website for a competitive search term takes a lot of time, technical training, patience, and hard work. Many people hold the false impression that “the internet is free” and that anyone can design a successful website without any special training or considerations.
Targeting the wrong keywords can be devastating to your SEO strategy. In order to find the best keywords, you need to research what people are actually searching for, not what you think they are searching for. Make sure you target “phrases” rather than single keywords. For example, targeting “hosting” alone will not help you. There are too many search results. But targeting “web hosting provider”, “web hosting service”, and “hosting business” will get you more realistic results (and a ton of traffic). Plus you are still targeting “hosting”. I would suggest targeting ONE “reach phrase” and TWO “realistic phrases”. Three phrases may seem like a lot, but not when one or two key terms is in all three phrases. When this occurs, things don’t get watered down, giving better results.
Let’s start with the essentials of website optimization: the Title tag and Meta tags. In the SEO industry, it is widely accepted that most modern search engines give little to no importance to most meta tags. However, no one really knows how the meta tags are factored by each search engine, so it is in a website’s best interest to include all meta tags when optimizing a web site.
For websites, the Title tag is very much like the title of a book; it describes the contents of a website. Each page of a website generally has a unique and descriptive Title tag. Here is an example Title tag that should appear in the <HEAD> of your website:
<title>My Website’s Title</title>
The title tag is very important; likely the most important tag in the <HEAD> of your website. So why is the Title tag so important? Because Search Engines not only factor in the relevance and value of your Title in terms of search engine optimization, but the search engines also use it in their search results. On any search engine, when you perform a search, the Title tag is used in the anchor text of the links for each result’s corresponding website.
Here is a little experiment explaining the importance of good naming conventions in your Title tag. Click on the following Google link and take a few seconds to observe the results.
There are well over 27,000,000+ pages in Google with the Title tag <title>Untitled Document</title> You should have observed that all of the web page links are displayed as Untitled Document. So what does this mean and why should I care? This experiment is important because it illustrates how important the Title tag is for Search Engine Optimization; if your web page(s) don’t have descriptive titles it is very unlikely that they will rank for your desired search term.
So now that you know not to name your pages “Untitled Document”, what should be inside the title tag? Some good practices for Title naming is to use the name of your business or web site along with the “keyword phrase” that you are targeting. For this example, lets assume your business sells “phones”. This is a very broad search term with over 160,000,000 results on Google. By these means, naming your Title tag “Phones” more than likely will not help you overcome the other 159,999,999 results. However searching for the term “pre-paid mobile phones” will narrow down the results to a mere 22,600,00 results. For most small to medium sized businesses, ranking on “pre-paid mobile phones” would be a long-term endeavor that could take years. Refining your search terms is a delicate process because you need to always refer back to your keyword research. If the competition is significantly less for a given search term, there is usually a reason behind it: people aren’t searching for it!
In our prior example, we were looking to sell phones, not just any old phones, but “pre-paid mobile phones”. But wait! Our company is too small to compete with the 20+ million other results, and we really only sell our phones in the Portland PDX areas. To further refine our Title tag, we might consider using “pre-paid mobile phones portland or” to target the traffic that is most relevant to our service. The likeliness of your site being on the first three pages of Google’s SERPs is more obtainable by using descriptive, geo-location specific Title tags.
Here is a good title tag using this example:
<title>Pre-Paid Mobile Phones Portland OR | MyCompany Name</title>
Keep your Title tag short and to the point, your title should not exceed 75 characters. Targeting too many keywords in one Title tag will dilute your website’s relevance. A good rule of thumb is to target one keyword (synonyms are useful) per page or Title tag, and should not repeat any word more than two times.
Here is an example description meta tag which appears in the <HEAD> portion of your website:
<meta name=”description” content=”A Description of My Business.”>
The description tag is less significant than the Title tag for search engine optimization, but it is still a ranking factor for many search engines. Your description tag is also very useful as it is displayed below your title in the SERPs. Having a description tag that accurately describes your web site’s content will increase your search rankings, and the amount of people who visit your website. Remember our golden rule from above; write content for your users, not for search engines. As with the Title tag, avoid keyword stuffing or appearing “spammy”, and avoid using sales literature. Keeping your meta description under 159 characters will ensure that your meta description is displayed in full.
Here is a good description meta tag targeting the search term “Pre-paid Mobile Phones Portland OR” from our example above:
<meta name=”description” content=”Find the perfect Pre-Paid Mobile Phones in Portland OR at Our Example Company Name”>
The keyword meta tag has been phased out and dismissed by search engines for several years now. Meta keywords carry NO weight when it comes to search engine optimization. Meta Keywords were phased out due to abuse and search engine manipulation, and you can ignore adding meta keywords to your website.
You should now have a basic understanding on the first steps of search engine optimization. The most important aspect to take away from this article is that you should be making your website with your user in mind, and not the search engines. Search Engine Optimization is an involved and ever changing process that takes time and patience. If any of the subject matter covered in this article was overwhelming, feel free to give us a call at 888.400.4002.