Wednesday, 21 September 2011
A layman's guide to on page SEO and an introduction to page tags Google’s (and all the search engines) existence is down to quickly providing information based on an entered search term. With so many billions of pages to look at, how does it know which pages contain the right information? The answer – it looks at the page tags.
Think about when you were studying – remember those books with multi coloured tabs sticking out the top and sides? They quickly identify key pages.
Page tags are very similar – they identify what that page is supposed to be about.
The first tag examined by Google is the title tag. In Internet Explorer, this is shown the blue bar right at the top of the screen. It is also the first line of the listing in the search results.
However, that alone is not enough for Google as there will no doubt be many more pages in cyber space saying the same thing. The next thing it looks at is the headline or H1 tag. If it too mentions uses the same search term as the title tag, Google starts getting the idea that this page really does contain information related to the search term.
Description tags probably aren’t so important to Google in deciding what a page is about – but they are extremely relevant to the searcher. They need to clearly show that your page is the one they need, so should directly reflect the search term used, and be presented in compelling couple of sentences that will entice the searcher to click through. After all, appearing on page 1 is meaningless if no-one takes the next step and enters your site.
If there are any images on the page, Google needs to see if they too relate to the search term. Unfortunately Google can’t actually see what the images are about – except if you use alt tags which are image identifiers. Again, ensure consistency and use the search term the page is focused on.
So, how can you use this information about tags to your advantage?
Firstly, page tags can be controlled so you can actively help Google present your pages in a search. If you have a website content management system (CMS) this is something you can easily do yourself. If not, then you either need to get a CMS based site, or you will have to get your website provider to do all this for you.
Secondly, now you know that Google presents individual pages in its search results each page ( especially main pages) needs to be focused on a separate key search term, so that each is a potential landing page.. (Identifying which search terms are most relevant is covered off in separate articles). Tags and content should be structured around this on each page.
By way of example, let’s assume that you are focussing a page to attract people looking for “Auckland web design”. The title tag needs to use the same words exactly and at the beginning of the tag. Too often we see title tags such as Home, About us, Contact us. Are these really terms your audience will be searching for? Unlikely!
Next, the headline or H1 tag. The very term “headline” means the most important line of copy on that page, therefore make sure there is only one main headline or H1 tag. More than one confuses Google as to what that page is about. Make sure that it uses the same term that you have used in the title tag. It doesn’t have to be just that term, as long as the headline does include it.
The rest of your copy needs to also refer to the same term, ideally in the first and last paragraph – but a word of warning – don’ts saturate your copy with the search term as it will read horribly to your visitor and Google may think you are trying too hard and penalise you for it. A rough guideline is to use the term no more that 2 times per hundred words.
Focusing each page around separate key search terms and managing the tags and content is known as on page SEO and is the cornerstone of improving search engine generated traffic. Unfortunately, if you are in a highly competitive industry, this alone might not be enough because your competitors will also have done this. What you then need to look at is off page SEO i.e. letting Google know your site not only carries the right information, but it is seen as an important site. The number and quality of links to your site from others is something they look at in determining this, as is the volume of traffic to your site. Off page SEO needs to be covered in a separate article