Read anything about Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and it will demand the use of them. But what exactly are keywords? In Inc.com’s article 5 Secrets to Selecting Highly-Effective SEO Keywords, keywords are described as “what we type in when we are searching for products, services, and answers on the search engines…”
Wow, it’s that simple!? Yes and no. Here’s the tricky part: how to use them to where they actually speak the same language as a search engine. There are multiple ways to accomplish this. In the article “Are Keywords Relevant to SEO in 2015?”, Search Engine Watch mentions some important things to keep in mind when it comes to deciding where those keywords need to go on a website:
To this end, the placement of your keywords matters far more than their frequency. Posting “auto repair shop” once in the title tag of your site and once in the header matters far more than stuffing it five times into the body copy. Google breaks your site down into key areas, with meta information and headers taking top priority, body copy taking secondary priority, and side bars and footers taking the last priority.
Continuing on, here are some more details as to how to make a website more SEO-friendly:
This is the title included in the HTML part of the web page, found on the top of the browser window. From a website…
And here is what you see in a search engine result (such as Google)…
Example of the title in the HTML:
- Unique relevant keywords
- Limit to 55 characters (512 pixels)
The Meta Tag Description
This is the text preview that shows up when a website is listed in a search engine…
Example of meta data in the HTML:
- Use keywords
- Call for action
- Keep under 155 characters
Similar to an outline in formatting, headings are the titles for each relevant section. In HTML, these are the H1, H2, and H3 tags.
W3schools.com, summarizes it perfectly as to why headings matter:
Search engines use your headings to index the structure and content of your web pages.
Users skim your pages by its headings. It is important to use headings to show the document structure.
h1 headings should be main headings, followed by h2 headings, then the less important h3, and so on.
- Only include 1 H1 Tag on each page and add the remaining H2, H3, H4 (…and so on) tags as needed.
- Headings should include keywords
- Headings should stay to the point and attention grabbing
Alt Tags and Relevant Naming
This applies to images, video, and links. For example, img4.jpg is neither descriptive nor helpful when it comes to making it identifiable piece of information.
All images and video must also include the “alt” Tag. Why? This provides an alternative option for when images do not load properly and also allows screen readers to inform the user of the image they cannot see.
<img src=”bears.gif” alt=”Hugging Bears”>
Usability and SEO can be intertwined at times. While links are how users visit websites, search engines are often the means of getting to that website. But when it comes to keeping the visitor on your website, that part is largely influenced by you. Here is a very helpful set of advice made by one person in their article, 10 SEO Tips for Food Bloggers:
Make External Links Open in New Window.
This is more of just a usability tip, not so much SEO. But sooooo many bloggers don’t do that. For example, if I mention any external website in my blog post, I always make it open in new window by clicking on the link button and checking off the box above. Why? because you don’t want to lose your readers. Of course some will come back but some won’t. And finally, it’s a pure convenience.
Oh and while on this subject of linking, keep in mind that while a user is navigating a website, the amount of active traveling around via clicking should be kept within reason also. Excessive linking (via clicking) can become irritating to the user and it can frustrate them because they may feel like they are not getting where they need to be as expected. According to WikiWeb, “A well-known rule in SEO is that no page on your site should be more than 3 clicks away from the homepage.”
Schema microdata is a way of helping search engine crawlers recognize what types of information is being used. For example, if using schema in html to label some specific data on a cooking website, a search engine can use that schema to recognize which parts of are listed as recipe ingredients and which are not. For this reason, schema is quite similar to the description meta tag in the sense it helps the search engine know what needs to be interpreting as search-worthy.
In the photo above, itemprop contains the schema pointing out which image on the web page is for the cherry pie recipe. Then, when this particular recipe is found in the search results, it not only shows a title and a description, but also displays an attractive picture also.
And so by using schema, “Clear, concise rich snippets can result in higher click-through rates, as users can quickly and easily determine whether the content on your site is what they’re looking for.” (Source: How to Use Schema Markup for SEO: Making Your Site Easier to Find for Stupid Machines)
Schema can be used to define a wide variety of ideas and concepts: things like names, addresses, authors, and even dates are some other common ones just to name a few. While the schema website itself provides a very detailed set of Getting Started documentation, I find the most popular types of useful schema are the Creative Work ones. Either way, it really depends on what type of website content you have in order to determine which schemas are best to use.
Use this online tool to test your Schema markup: Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool.
Giving URLs meaningful names is always a good practice. Here is an example of a fictitious, not-so-good url:
This is not SEO-friendly! All links should have meaningful names, like this:
Incidentally, WordPress is already well aware of just how important this practice is. On each newly created page or blog post, WordPress will automatically name the URL (the “slug”) after each specific headings/title provided.
URL Writing Tips:
- Only use letters or dashes. No underscores!
- “Sub-domains can rank better than sub directories.” – Should I Change My URLs for SEO?
- Make URLs short. Shoot for around 3-6 words, under 100 characters.
- Do not link to “website”, “link”, and above all, avoid “click here”
- “Avoid URLs as the link anchor” (Dos and Don’ts – Bad Link Building And Useful Alternatives – Moz.com)
- Links should have meaningful text and not just direct to a general domain
Google itself is becoming very smart and SEO is becoming something where if you have something to say, just go ahead and say it and it will be found by search engines. Below is an excerpt from Search Engine Watch’s article, “Are Keywords Relevant to SEO in 2015?”
Google Looks for Meaning, Not for Specific Words
This feature perfectly illustrates why keyword specificity is dying. When Google scans your site for information, it no longer pulls out the keyword phrases it thinks are relevant and pairs them to user queries. Instead, there’s an intermediary step. Google interprets the data on your website, and begins to form its own conclusions about what your site and your business really deliver. If that seems a little spooky to you, you aren’t alone — Google is becoming exceptionally sophisticated.
As an example, according to Google’s own research, deriving meaning from the synonyms of keywords accounts for up to 70 percent of searches. That means it doesn’t matter that you used the phrase “auto repair shop” exactly several times throughout your website. You could use “auto repair shop,” “car repair specialists,” and “vehicle repair facility” on different pages, and Google could theoretically put you in the exact same category. Therefore, it’s far more important to optimize your site for a specific meaning rather than a specific phrase, and you can likely forget about keywords altogether in an effort to post relevant content and naturally build yourself as an authority in a given space.
What this means for SEO is that the importance of quality content writing is huge in itself! Effective content is therefore truly the core of everything that makes a website worthwhile to visit. Users have to have a good experience, because without it interest will not be formed, and without interest, search engines find no interest either in following or recognizing the search trail.
Web Writing Tips:
- Quality over quantity
- Uniqueness of material
- Stay relevant
- Use attractive and attention grabbing language
- Stay up-to-date
When I first heard about “duplicate content” I wondered if it was about redundancy on a web site. Instead, it is conceptually more similar to what can happen when the same stuff from one website appears on many other pages in an abusive way. A search engine like Google can potentially find it and cause that site to be removed from their searches. Duplicate content issues sound a lot like plagiarism in real life with actual consequences.
Related to this subject, “web scraping” is something that strikes me as as similar to somebody taking something and claiming “it came from the Internet”. This type of distributing can be something somebody found and shared- not necessarily claiming as their own. Undeniably, the Internet is full of that- people finding other people saying anything, and sharing that found material anywhere.
People who are making websites shouldn’t be trying to plagiarize or steal other people’s content, so this shouldn’t be a concern for those who really care to be original anyway. For more information, Kissmetrics has an excellent article that does a good job explaining duplicate content in greater detail, how to handle abuse and also how to avoid duplicate problems:
Programming and SEO
However, what still does matter is when programming code interferes with the way a search engine recognizes what the user is dealing with. For example, what if every single piece of data is dynamically created? There is nothing left for search engines to crawl and certainly no footprints of what was even clicked on or viewed if actual web pages are not being loaded.
Putting everything together, the Meta Tag Analyzer is a useful online tool as well. It acts like a validator to check meta data.
Also, being aware of the Google Webmaster Guidelines is also a must-know in ensuring Google can find and understand your pages.
There are certainly a lot of ways to make a website SEO-friendly, right? A word of warning: these rules are still changing. Keywords used to be stuffed everywhere and now that is considered not a big deal. Some “older” SEO articles can be found recommending things like using the name attribute in a link tag…but don’t try that now! It is no longer supported in the newest HTML5 of 2014. Even Google itself changes their mind as to what is SEO material: one can read about this thing called Google Authorship being all the rage in 2011. But then in 2014, this hot new feature is declared as completely dead.
The only thing one can definitely say is that the web is changing drastically for each year that goes by as to how SEO gets across. Ultimately however, the whole point of SEO continues to be all about having passion and drive about something and finding the means of bringing that to others.