Build the Site and They Will Come
Only 7% of people look beyond the first 3 pages of search results. If your company isn’t there you’ve lost 93% of your target market – people who were actively searching for your type of business.
Even if you make the top 3 pages, the companies higher up will get the first shot, so your website has to work hard to be seen. This is the business of search engine optimisation, or SEO.
SEO involves a wide range of strategies to ensure a website is ranked highly whenever search terms related to its content are used by surfers. Truly comprehensive SEO is time-consuming and sophisticated but there are many straightforward strategies you can implement to give your site a boost. In this entry we’ll look at all the things you need to do behind the actual site content.
What’s in a Name?
An awful lot when it comes to SEO! The most basic starting point is your URL (web address). Many companies simply use their business name, but if that doesn’t include a clear indication of what your company does you’ve missed an opportunity. Search engines look at your URL for clues about your site content. Include keywords and you’ve already earned points that will propel you up the results pages. What’s more, you also provide customers with clearer signals that your site is likely to give them what they want.
So, if you sell lighting and your business is called Let There Be Light, then lettherebelight.com is not only difficult to read but conveys no relevant message about your business. In fact you’ll be more likely to receive visits from religious fundamentalists than customers wanting a standard lamp. On the other hand, quality-lighting.com conveys a clear, keyword-sensitive message.
It’s worth noting that if we’d gone for let-there-be-light.com above, what was gained in clarity would be lost in search rankings. Multiple hyphens set off spam alarms for search engines (buy-cheap-designer-shoes-now.com) so should be kept to a minimum.
Apart from inbound links, your site’s title tags are the most important element for search engines. These appear as the heading in search results and there are key rules for getting them right:
- Use no more than 65 characters (including spaces). Longer than this and it will be truncated. Any title that appears with an ellipsis (…) shows that material has been cut off and wasted.
- Write a different title for each page on your site. Search engines hate duplications – apart from which each page’s title should be optimised with keywords for the content of that page.
- The first word is the most important – make it a keyword. Ideally 2-3 keywords should be in each title.
- Use dividers, such as dashes, colons and the pipe ( | – press shift backslash). These can make your title easier to read and allow you to fit more in.
This follows the title in search results and provides more detail about your site. The algorithms used by search engines are constantly changing but at present meta descriptions are not a factor used to determine site ranking. However, you should always write them using keywords because:
1) This situation could change so it pays to have the meta description working for SEO.
2) Robots may not be looking for keywords, but people are! They entered the search terms that found your site, so make sure they can see them in your description. Plus the search terms they used will be highlighted in the results, drawing attention to your site.
Once again, there are clear rules for successful meta descriptions:
- Use no more than 150 characters (including spaces). Each search engine has different display limits and these are often changing but if you stick to 150 then your description will not be truncated in any of them.
- Make sure the description accurately reflects the content of the page. If it doesn’t the search engine is likely to cobble together keyword snippets from the page instead and you will lose control of the message. That said, if the content of the page is very broad it can be a good idea to omit the description, leaving the search engine to construct the most appropriate response from the particular keywords that have found your site.
- Write to sell! This is your chance to promote your site so every word must be working to generate the call to action – clicking through to your site. Great sales copy is a must.
- Use your keywords. Did I mention that already? Well it’s worth stating again!
These are only seen by the robots, but at the top of each page’s code is a tag for keywords. Currently, Google ignores these so they bring no benefit to a search there. However, Yahoo! is still believed to use meta keywords and many people still search on Yahoo! so it would be unwise not to use this resource.
- Your keywords must correspond with the keywords used within the page.
- Don’t repeat the same keyword. You can use it as part of several keyword phrases but no more than 4.
- Don’t use variants of the same word next to one another (e.g. plurals or different tenses)
- Place the most important keywords at the start and use no more than 12 words/phrases. 10 is the ideal number.
If you follow these rules your site’s hidden data will be strongly optimised, but there’s still work to do on the pages themselves so be sure to check back for further SEO techniques.