When your looking to build your website, yes it’s important that it’s attractive and appeals to the eye, but unless you construct it wisely, it is unlikely ever to rank highly in the search engine result pages, or more commonly known as the SERPs. There are two main areas to focus on when trying to rank your website highly, and they are what’s called on-site SEO and off-site SEO. This blog post will take you through what’s needed on-site, so that you can maximize the technology to your full advantage.
Getting the basics right
There are five main components in each and every web page (if developed correctly) which the search engines give greater weight/credit to. Let’s look at them one by one:
The title tag is the most important element in any web page, and when deciding what to put in it you should be aware that you are addressing two different audiences. One is the human visitor to which you are providing your content for, and the second is the search engines themselves. For the human visitors your title should be interesting and offer the reader what it is they are looking for. Describe what the web page is about, and what it is you expect them to be looking for. Remember, if we take Google for example, the most popular of all the search engines, the title tag is what you see in the SERPs listings. It has space for 62 characters before it is cut off, so make sure you write a title in that number of characters or less, else the tags contents will be missed off at the end and all your potential visitors will see is “…”.
The second audience is the search engines themselves, in the title tag place your main keywords in a non spammy, human readable form. Remember, search engines place the most emphasis on the title tags contents, so try not to waste space by having lots of “ands” and “check out” type words in there, keep it as keyword rich as possible whilst making sure the words you use do exist within the web pages content.
It is a balance your trying to form here, so use your judgment wisely, and you should come up with a title which both entices the human visitors to click your link, and includes the keywords you are targeting within the search engines.
The header tags are the h1 through to h6 tags. These are second in importance and should again be used wisely. It is best practice to only have one single h1 tag in each page and you can have then for example two h2’s, perhaps 4 h4’s and so on on down to the h6. These tags signify to the search engines the important sections of the web page, such as paragraph headings. Again, keep them keyword rich, but not spammy, and don’t use too many either as the more you use the more diluted the power of each one becomes.
The meta description, which is placed in the head section of a web page like the title tag is, is what is shown in the SERPs pages below the title tag. Again if I use Google for this example, it shows a maximum of 156 characters before it is cut off with that dreaded … again. What I wrote about the title tag also applies to the meta description tag, so make sure it is enticing to the human searcher, and describes the content of the web page well, and is keyword rich once again.
The meta keywords which are placed within the head section of web pages has somewhat lessened in value over the last few years as far as Google is concerned, but the other search engines still use them when evaluating the ranking for your website. It is important to not use too many, a maximum of ten is best, and try to use two or three word phrases instead of single word ones. In addition to this make sure the keywords you enter do actually exist within that pages content. Keep them in order too, ie: the order in which they appear throughout the pages content. Avoid repetition, this may have worked in the late 90’s but today’s search algorithms are much more advanced and can recognize the “stuffing” of phrases, which basically means putting the same terms in over and over again in order to try and cheat the system. Do not do this, should your website throw up enough red flags then your site can be marked for human review and this type of activity cannot be hidden.
Bold, emphasis and italic tags
Lastly we come to these three tags, and just as human writers use a bold or emphasized font when trying to draw attention to the important points in a text, so to do the search engines. One common mistake often done is to place entire paragraphs of texts in these tags, either because the developer is too lazy to properly style the web page, or again like the meta keywords, is trying to cheat the system. Don’t do this, just use these tags on one or two word phrases. It’s fine to mix them up, in fact it is a good idea to have some bolded and italicized at the same time.
All of the advice given above should provide you with a good solid, and time proven method to effectively construct your website in an optimal way for both human visitors and your on-site search engine optimization efforts. Do not consider them set in stone, variation is good and is to be encouraged, so use your head and mix things up a little to use each tag as effectively as possible for your particular websites content and target audience. The first thing any website owner should do is make sure their on-site SEO is performed correctly, as it is this foundation upon all other SEO efforts are built upon.