Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is communicating to search engines the intentions of your website so that your website can be recommended for relevant searches.
When it comes to SEO, it’s all about relevancy. Search engines want to know if the content on your webpage is relevant to the search term entered by the user. Successful websites require ongoing attention, which, as a result, increases your search engine exposure. There is no mysterious search engine formula or advantage. If it sounds too good to be true, it likely is. Short term tricks and gimmicks are not replacements for a long term strategy.
What to Focus on:
Page titles are the first things search engines look at to interpret pages. You can see these at the top of most browser windows, as well as at the top of each search result on search engine result pages.
Include a page title that is around 65 characters or less (512 pixels) and includes a keyword or short keyword phrase that describes the page content. This tool helps you write a title tag that is the right length. Search engines look more favorably on front loaded keywords in page titles, so include the brand or company name last, if it’s needed at all. Depending upon your company or brand, including the brand name in the title may be necessary on the homepage and other top level pages, but might not be needed on interior pages.
- Keep it short. This is not the place to put a page description, but a page title or headline.
- Keep it consistent. Use the same page title structure throughout the entire site.
Example of a good title:
SEO Best Practices | Blog | SiteCrafting, Tacoma, WA
Example of a bad title:
SiteCrafting, Tacoma, WA > Blog | How to successfully implement SEO into your website for the best results
- Avoid vague titles. A visitor should know what they will see when they click on the link with no surprises. Visitors access your website in all kinds of ways, and, in many cases, that is no not through the homepage. So make the page title for every page specific to the content that is on the page. Simply putting your brand name as the page title for every page is ineffective.
Simple and easily readable URLs serve multiple purposes. With today’s mutli-tabbed browsers, users are more likely to see your URLs than they are your Page Titles. Additionally, when seen in the search engine results pages, readable URLs are more likely to get clicked on than nonsensical ones.
Example of a good URL: http://sitecrafting.com/blog/3-rs-web-content
Example of a bad URL: http://sitecrafting.com/blog/news/?y=2013&m=8
When it comes to page content, having a solid hierarchy is important. After a search engine looks at your page titles and URLs, it looks for a page’s H1 tag, which is the headline on the page. This headline gives more information about what is contained within the page content. Search engines also give credit to the H1 tag using a keyword that is also present in the Page Title and Page URL.
- Every page within a website should have an H1 headline and ONLY one.
- Try to incorporate the same single keyword or short keyword phrase into the Page Title, Page URL, H1 tag and body content.
Use the inverted pyramid writing style when writing your content. This “top-loads” the page with the most important information. Search engines give better rankings to pages that include the keyword in the first part of the body content.
Finally, make sure the topic of each page is focused around a single thought that can be condensed into a keyword or short keyword phrase. This enables you to create consistency between the page content, the H1 Tag, the Page Title and the Page URL.
Meta descriptions serve as advertising copy on the search engine results page. Crafting a readable, compelling description using important keywords can improve click-through rates. Search engines also bold keywords in the description when they match search queries. Think of your meta description as marketing copy of what your page is about.
- Keep descriptions to 160 characters or less.
- Keep the description unique to every page and don’t duplicate it on another page.
- Use site-level descriptions on the homepage and page-level descriptions everywhere else.
- Make sure every page has a meta description.
Other Best Practices and Tips
- Don’t put the text that you want search engines to index inside images. For example, if you want your company name or address to be indexed, make sure it is text on the page and not displayed inside a company logo.
- Do use ALT tags for every image. These describe images for people using screen readers, which shows that your site is very accessible and organized to search engines. It also tells search engines more about the content on your page, helping them index your site better.
- Upload images using informative image names. For example, “blue-sky.jpg” instead of “thumb_3657.jpg”.
- Work on your site’s link building. Being linked to from sources of trust bring credibility to your site in the eyes of search engines. Linking to valued external sources from your site also shows you’re are adding to the web community which Google rewards as well.
Download and print our SEO Best Practices Guide.
This article was originally posted in 2014. It has been updated for 2018.