Incorporating these elements into your Web site will get you noticed
By Joseph Murphy
Building a Web site for your company—whether you do it yourself or outsource the work—can be daunting. But, building the Web site is just the first step. Now the work really begins, because a Web site that does not reach its market does you no good.
To reach the market, you need to do things to your Web site to assure it shows up at the top of a search engine results page (SERP). This preparation is called search engine optimization (SEO). If SEO is done correctly, it will drive traffic to your Web site—and that should lead to revenue.
SEO consists of including a number of different elements into your Web pages:
• Keywords. Keywords are phrases people would use to search for your company, service or products. Place relevant keywords throughout your site, including your Web page titles, content, URLs, and image names.
• Sitemap. Once you have keywords identified and placed, add a sitemap. A sitemap is literally a map of your site. It lists and links to all other pages within your Web site. A sitemap makes it easy for search engine “spiders” to crawl and index your Web site.
• Image ALT tags. These tags, added when you upload images, should be keyword-rich. Alt text is the line of text you see pop up when you place your cursor over an image. It also displays a text representation of the image when the user has images turned off in their browser (this is the intended behavior). It is highly recommended that you utilize this area, since it is required under accessibility laws and is indexed by the search engines.
Search engine spiders can only search text, not text in your images, which is why you need to make the keywords associated with your images as descriptive as possible. Be sure to add captions to all your images and make all visible text around your images as descriptive as possible.
• Search-friendly URLs. If you are selling widgets, a search-friendly URL would be “www.yoursite.com/worlds-best-widgets.asp” (or whatever file extension is appropriate based on programming language used). Don’t give your internal pages cryptic names. Instead of naming your page something like “pagename.asp,” name it “lowcost-widgets.asp” or “blue-widgets.asp.” Always use hyphens to separate the words in your page names, and be frugal in their usage. Use all lower case for file naming, including naming images.
• Page titles. Use a page title for each of your pages, and make sure the text within your title is also within the body of the page. Page title elements are normally three to nine words (60 to 80 characters) maximum in length, with no fluff; they are straight to the point. This is what shows up in most search engine results as a link back to your page.
• Consistent text for your H1 tags. H1 refers to the primary (largest) headings used on pages. The tags tell visitors who click to your page from a search engine results page that they have clicked on the correct link. Search engine spiders also like these tags because they show a relationship between the title of your page and the headline. Don’t use the same titles on all your Web pages; make them relevant to the copy on the Web page.
• Meta description tag. A meta description tag usually consists of 25 to 30 words and uses from 160 to 180 characters total (including spaces). The meta description shows up in many search engine results as a summary of your site, so it’s important to make sure your description tag is relevant to the content of the page.
Directories such as Yahoo and the ODP (Open Directory Project—www.dmoz.com) show the page title and description that you entered (and the editors modified) on their manual submission forms.
• Link-building. Link-building is a very important part of search engine optimization. To get rankings for your targeted terms, keyword-rich anchor tags from similar or authoritative sites are key because search engines place a high value on them. Conduct searches with keywords that you use on your site and contact the Web sites that offer relevant content so you can begin to get those important link backs.
Once you have all of these elements in place, don’t forget to monitor your traffic. If you use a tool such as Google analytics, check where your traffic is coming from and what keywords people are using to find you, and then adjust accordingly.
Joseph Murphy is creative director at Red Balloon Agency (www.redballoonagency.com,) in Jacksonville, FL. His firm focuses onmarketing through interactive tactics, including social media, the Internet, and mobile technology. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
You may not think it is possible, but search engine spiders are smart! So smart, in fact, that there are a number of things you should not do on your Web site, because the search engines will “see” through your attempts to get noticed, and will hold them against you.
• Do not engage in keyword stuffing. Keyword stuffing is overloading the content or meta tags of the Web page with every possible keyword or phrase that relates to the site. Keyword stuffing doesn’t work because when the search engine crawler examines your site, its algorithms can quickly determine if keywords are used an unreasonable number of times.
If your site contains an unnaturally high density of one single keyword, your site will actually drop in the rankings rather than rise.
• Do not over-comment on blogs. Some Web owners visit and comment on hundreds of blogs in order to get links back to their sites.The majority of blog comments won’t do you much good from an SEO perspective because most blogs utilize the no-follow attribute on their comments. This means that search engines will simply ignore your comment link. Thoughtful comments on relevant blogs, however, can certainly get you more exposure from interested visitors clicking through to your site. Just don’t expect them to do much for your rankings.
• Do not start a link exchange. Although a link exchange at first looks like a great way to get links back to your site, search engines are not stupid. Reciprocal links don’t hold nearly as much value as one-way links, because people use them for reasons just like this one. You’ll be lucky if you see any ranking improvement at all by starting a link exchange.
• Do not pay people to link to your site! This tactic is risky, and search engines are able to detect paid links so well that if you don’t know what you are doing, you are likely to do more harm than good for your site. If you get caught buying (or selling) links for SEO purposes, your Web site can get penalized and actually suffer a drop in rankings. If you are willing to spend money to get exposure, try a Google AdWords PPC (pay-per-click) campaign instead.
Social media use and SEO
Twitter has agreed to give specific search engines unlimited access to its data. This means that any time Internet users look for information using a search engine, relevant results may include tweets. What this means to you and your SEO is that your social media presence is directly linked to your SERP (Search Engine Results Page). Now more than ever it is important to include social media as part of your overall marketing strategy.