SEO stands for search engine optimization. Basically it means doing things to your site specifically to improve your search engine ranking
Search engine optimization, in a broad sense, means doing whatever you can to improve your position including off screen things like linking. This document is about On-Screen SEO. It is the art and science of manipulating web pages to improve search engine visibility. Here are the basic no-brainer things we do to our clients’ web pages to improve their ranking.
Google’s Search Philosophy
When optimizing a web site it is good to know what Google is trying to accomplish. Google is a successful big business with specific goals. If you align with their goals, you will do well. If you are in opposition to their goals, you’re a sign post in the woods.
Google’s primary goal is to sell advertising (paid listings). To sell advertising they need viewers – lots of viewers. To get viewers they need to provide answers to searches. Google’s worst nightmare is to send a user to a web site only to find no information. When you click on a link at Google, you are supposed to be taken to a site that has pertinent information about your search. If you arrive at a site and see something other than what you seek, Google has failed. They don’t want to fail. They want you to use them for search. That’s their goal and it drives all on-screen SEO.
What Motivates Google
Clearly Google’s objective is to determine if your site has the answer to people’s search. They need to determine whether or not your site will have the information people seek.
To make that determination Google has an algorithm. Their algorithm is a list of things they want to see in a site. The algorithm is a highly guarded secret. Google doesn’t empower tricksters. However the algorithm isn’t hard to reverse engineer because it is derived directly from their overriding goal of taking people to the right web sites.
To improve your ranking at Google it is imperative that you put real information on your site. Think of it their way. The last thing Google wants to do is send you to a site full of marketing-speak. There is no information there – nothing to satisfy anyone searching for specific information.
So the first rule of SEO is to provide real information on your site. Site’s that have done some research and compiled facts and information always do better. It stands to reason. If you were Google would you send someone to a site that has a couple of paragraphs of generic marketing-speak? Or would you send them to a site that has ten pages of specific information on a subject? Ten pages wins, every time.
Essential On-Screen SEO Elements
The question is how do I make my site look like it’s full of information? There are ways to do this. Having detailed and specific information on the site is a given. If you don’t have any, get some. Once you have information, these are the things you should do ranked from most important.
1. Domain name
Your domain name tells Google a lot about your site. Avoid the temptation of getting a domain name about a company. Get a domain name that matches the information on the site. Dot coms are best. Dot nets are next, followed by dot orgs, then all the rest. Dashed dot coms are worth having.
2. Web page file names (URL)
These are important to Google. If you name a page about_us.html for example, you are imparting zero information value. Why not choose a file name that matches the information on the page? Google looks for this.
3. Page Titles
A web page title doesn’t appear on the page. It’s in the head tag. Google expects you to have a unique page title that speaks to the information on the page. It’s OK to shoot for a specific search with your page title. Use specifc terms. The more specific the better. If you have specific information about an esoteric subject Google will find you. The more narrow the better.
4. Meta Description Tag
The meta description tag doesn’t show on the screen. It is in the head tag. It is where you tell the search engines what’s on the page. It is usually included in your search results. The meta description tag is like you classified ad and a lot of people will see it. Each page should have a unique accurate meta description tag.
5. H1 Headline
H1 headlines do appear on your web page. Make sure your headline is an H1 tag, not just big type. H1 headlines are important to Google.
6. Body Copy
Four things are important when writing Web copy:
1) Make sure your content is specific. Drop terms, part numbers, cities, and any other specific terms other pages won’t have. The more specific your copy, the better your chances. It works exactly the opposite of what you’d expect.
2) Make sure there’s a lot of it. If you profess to be the world’s authority on a subject, you have to look like it. If you develop ten pages on putters for example, the chances are Google will look at you as an authority on putters.
3) Forget marketing-speak. This isn’t important to anyone but you. If you copy doesn’t tell people something they don’t already know, cut it.
4) Drop your keywords in multiple ways. Don’t just repeat your keyword over and over throughout your copy. That’s called keyword stuffing and Google doesn’t like it. A more powerful technique is to speak to the same subject matter using a variety of different but related terms. Google loves that. Use horse and equestrian – that type of thing. Talk specifically and repeatedly about your subject but do it in a way that doesn’t keyword stuff. Be natural, not mechanical.
Other Important On-Screen SEO Elements
Once you have the essential SEO elements in place, you can move onto these important SEO elements:
1. Linked text
Google looks at the text inside a link. Rather than using click here, use somethimg that includes your search terms.
2. Image File Names
Google can’t see images but they can see file names. They tell a lot about an image from the file name. Don’t name your image picture1.jpg. That makes perfect sense to you but it means nothing to Google. Name you images with your keywords. That way you develop a much more powerful page.
3. Image Alt Tags
Image Alt Tags were used back when the web was too slow to show images. Now they are used to impart information to search engines. It takes time to add alt tags to you images but it worth the effort. Alt tags give you an opportunity to drop keywords in an acceptable way.
4. Bold Text
Google notices when you bold text. It means it’s important. Bold sentences that contain keywords. It will get you noticed.
5. Text at the top and bottom of the web page
I always like to include the keyword at the bottom of the page. It matters.
Notes About Local Geographical Businesses
If you have a business with a local clientele by all means include the city as a keyword. People often add the city to a search. A legal firm for example, only benefits from local prospects. If you have a term like family law, you’ll wan to add the city, like Anaheim. The search is family law Anaheim. Without the city as a keyword on your web page you have zero chance of coming up. Even if you did come up it wouldn’t matter anyway because the prospect is too far away to use your services.
On screen SEO works by getting specific and the more specific the better. Think in terms of keyword phrases when you develop web pages. Add terms to qualify you keywords like adding Anaheim to family law. Family law Anaheim has a good chance of coming up and bringing in real prospects. Famly law alone has no chance of doing either. Qualify your keywords with additional search terms to make them more specific no matter what you subject. The more specific you get, the better you will do. Specific keyword phrases are the key to on-screen SEO.