So, you have a website. You are wondering how it’s working? After all, you don’t know a thing about programming and you did have the site done a few years ago. Is it outdated? Did your designer do anything thing with your SEO (Search Engine Optimization)?
The more money you throw at SEO, the better your search engine results should be. (SEO, in particular what I call “External SEO”, is unfortunately almost never a static cost, and you should be very inquisitive if it is.) Maybe you can’t afford to overhaul your dated site right now, but would like to give it a little boost while you plan your new site. With a little knowledge do a bit of your own SEO work or at least make it easier for the person who will be doing the work.
Learning the Basics
Google (and other search engines) index pages, not web sites. Each page needs to be treated (optimized) as an individual. In order for Google to successfully index and rank a web page, four things need to be in sync:
- Keywords (this has been deprecated by Google and is not currently needed)
- Site Description (this helps your viewers understand what the page is about)
- Page Titles
Learn to View Your Source Code
Every webpage is built with some kind of code. This is where your keywords, site descriptions, page titles, and content are hiding. All you need to do is go to one of your webpages and find the “View Source” command.
- Safari: View –> View Source
- Internet Explorer: View –> Source
- Firefox: View –> Page Source
I know, it seems scary – but you only need to look at a few things close to the top. Press on gentle reader…
Page titles are the piece of code that shows up at the top of your browser window and what is used when you bookmark a page.
<title>About Our Purple Widgets: Widget Inc., Atlanta, Georgia</title>
A good page title should:
- be there.
- be unique and descriptive to the page.
- be less than 60 characters long. Longer titles can get cut off by Google when displayed in the search engine.
- have relevant keywords. (Keywords? What’s this now…?)
Keywords are what google looks at to understand what your web page is all about. Keywords and keyword phrases will be very close to the top of your page as well.
<meta name="keywords" content="widgets, purple widgets, Atlanta, Georgia" />
Good keywords and phrases should:
- be there.
- be specific to your page and help identify it.
- number around 5 to 10 on average.
- be relevant. (More on relevancy below)
Your site description is the extended copy that shows up in the search engine underneath the title when you do a search. This extra information helps you decide whether to click the link or not. By default google grabs the first sentence or so of what is on the page, but can be overwritten by placing your own.
<meta name="descriptions" content="Our site produces the best purple widgets Atlanta Georgia.Call us for all of your widget needs. " />
A good site description should:
- be there.
- describe what your page is all about.
- have relevant keywords.
Your content is the part that your visitors can see when they come to your web site. You may have pages about your business, a page about you or your staff, a page with a mission statement, or all of the above.
A great content page should:
- focus on one thing on one page at a time. You don’t want a single page to talk about your company, staff, products, and your contact information. It’s confusing for your viewers and for google.
- be proofed, spell-checked, and written well.
- contain relevant keywords.
Google’s number one goal is to be as accurate as possible when indexing your website and it should be your goal as well.
If you were describing the content of a single page of your website and were only allowed to use 5 words or phrases to describe it, what would you choose? You’d want to use relevant words and not waste them. If you ran an Atlanta-based business that sold purple widgets your keywords might be: widget, purple widget, Atlanta Georgia.
Each page needs important words that stand out as ones that describe that page well. If one page is about the owner “Bob Smith” then a good keyword might be “Bob Smith”. But, if the products page, only talks about purple widgets, don’t use “Bob Smith” because he is only relevant to the “About Our Owner” page.
A note about keyword stuffing…
You might think keyword stuffing (putting lots of keywords) in your meta tags is a great idea, but it isn’t. You might think everyone searches for “yellow widgets” on the internet and it would be a great idea to put that in your keywords even though you don’t sell “yellow widgets”. It would increase your traffic, right? But, getting more hits doesn’t mean you are selling more. Additionally, now you have to compete with everyone selling yellow widgets in the search engines. And finally, google won’t rank your pages as high if is sees you are using a keyword that isn’t in the body of your page. Google thinks “Why is ‘yellow widget’ in the keywords when they don’t mention it in the copy anywhere? I guess this page isn’t really about ‘yellow widgets’ so I’d better not list it as high as an accurate result”
Think about it this way — What if your child’s orange goldfish died while he was at school? School is out in an hour and you need a replacement before Timmy gets off the bus and discovers his pet has been flushed. You drive to the pet store to find an identical orange goldfish. (Maybe I’m not the best parent in the world.) The salesperson hands you a small net to choose your orange gold fish out of one of two tanks. Tank one has about 30 orange gold fish in it. Just the ones you were wanting! Tank two contains 30 orange gold fish, 30 black goldfish, and 30 spotted goldfish. Timmy’s getting on the bus. Which one do you want to dip into?
Make everything match!
Now that you know how to determine the best keywords on each page based on your current content you need to match your title tags, keywords, and site description. Using the guidelines we’ve discussed, use those keywords in each area. Using our “Atlanta Georgia widget” example with our keywords (widget, purple widget, Atlanta Georgia) you might come up with something like this:
- Title: About Our Purple Widgets: Widget Inc., Atlanta, Georgia
- Keywords: widgets, purple widgets, Atlanta, Georgia
- Site Description: Our site produces the best purple widgets Atlanta Georgia. Call us for all of your widget needs.
See how we used the keywords in each area? Concentrate on having all of those tags and having them all match. It will improve your rankings considerably from where you started. Especially if you started with nothing.
Is that all I need to have a great search engine optimized site?
I like to classify SEO into two parts: “External SEO” and “Internal SEO”.
Internal SEO is what happens after google shows up. Can google read your site well? Is the programming done well? Can it find your keywords, title pages, site description? What does Google think your page is about vs. what it is actually about?
External SEO is everything else. This can be research to find the best keywords for your business and checking out your competition. It can be hiring a writer to help implement those same keywords or fine tune what you already have. It could be research to find out new pages you should add to your site or special landing pages to pull in a particular group.
A good SEO person will evaluate your website and your competition. They will make recommendations to increase your exposure and monitor your traffic, link backs, place advertisement, etc. There are many, many parts to good search engine optimization and a great SEO person can do all worlds of awesome for you and your website. External SEO takes time. SEO gurus offer monthly packages for several months in a row so they have time to do the work and you have time to see the results of what they’ve done.
As you can see, much can be done with Search Engine Optimization for Internal and External SEO; I’ve only touched on the subject. Concentrating on the beginner basics discussed in this article can give your site a little boost while you are preparing for an overhaul. It will also give you a better understanding (and make you a smarter shopper) when it is time to have the work done.