When you start thinking about optimizing your webpage’s two of the things to optimize is the title and the meta-data. The title of your page is perhaps the most important thing to optimize. The meta-description is the second most important thing to optimize, and lastly the keywords in the meta-data. This page can be easily navigated to through the following sections:
Page Optimization Not Site Optimization
First of all it is important to recognize that you don’t just optimize your website, you optimize each individual page. Each page that is going to appear in the search engines should be optimized. People who do not understand this miss a very important point in Search Engine Optimization. When a user queries a search engine the results are of individual pages on a site, not just a home page. If you want to increase your pages ability to rise to the top of the SERPS than you need to optimize the pages individually.
It may seem like a small insignificant point but all too many times very prominent websites use the same titles, keywords, and descriptions on every single page that they have. There is not benefit in doing this. What ends up happening is that pages don’t get optimized in the SERPS because the titles, keywords, descriptions, and page content isn’t consistent. If you have a webpage that provides targeted details for say Green slantfaced grasshopper recipes don’t optimize your page for the broad category of cooking recipes.
People interested in your pages content will most times search for your page content, not broader categories. Your target market wants relevant results and if you don’t optimize your webpage for relevant content then they will have to search a lot harder to find it. On page site optimization allows you to reach very specific people interested in very specific information.
Optimize Your Page Titles
Page titles are very important for on page website optimization. Page titles don’t only get read by search engines, indexed, and then recalled in a search query. They also get read by people when they look at the results returned in a search engine. There is so much information out there that people naturally scan headlines to find what they are looking for. Your page title needs to utilize relevant keywords that describe the page content and they also need to be appealing to the searcher.
One of the most common mistakes within on page website optimization is that people use the same title for every single page of their site (worse yet is naming pages “home”, “page1”, “page2” etc.). This not only isn’t helpful for the searcher it most likely isn’t going to be relevant to the search engines either. Do a random search for something that you are interested in. When I searched for barbecued dill pickles I noticed that all of the top results included at least a portion of my key phrase that I entered in the title. Likewise when people search for your content they will only find your site if your page has a relevant title.
Again, relevant keywords are not enough. Relevant keywords are great for speaking to robots; most people are not robots as far as I know. Design your titles for people and make them enticing. Make people want to read more about what you have to say. When you are optimizing for specific keywords/phrases by all means place them in the title but don’t try to fit too much in the title.
Search engine results as they exist today allow for a set number of characters. Some search engines allow you to use 59 characters and others allow you to use up to 64. Determine the number in the search engines through a little bit of research. Do a search and find the longest title that you can either count the characters or allow a document editor like word count them for you. This is simple enough if you run spell check and the details of the title including character length should display when you are done.
Develop an Effective Meta-Description
Within the section of your HTML page you can insert a Meta description. In the search results your meta description can give the searcher basic information about your webpage. When a search engine displays the description of your webpage it doesn’t always display the description that you have in your meta data.
This may be a little confusing so let me break it down in some more detail. When you search for a webpage or information in a search engine the queried ranked pages first show the title and then under the tile is the description. The description that is in the meta-data is generally used if it is relevant to the search.
So if you have a webpage that provides information about puppy chew toys your description should describe the page and the information that is available to the searcher. If the searcher entered “puppy chew toys” in the search field and your meta description talks about cute fuzzy animals it may not show your description. Instead the search engine will read your page and provide (usually in bold) short snippets of your page that match the keywords that the searcher is looking for. In this case it may display words and surrounding words that mention puppy, chew, and toys.
Now that you know that this happens you can provide a relevant description of the content on your page. This will increase the likelihood of searches reading the description that you want them to. If you don’t provide a description in your metadata then the search engine usually pulls data from the top of your webpage.
Webpage descriptions should be concise, targeted, relevant, and enticing. If you use the limited space (usually around 150 characters) to bore people they won’t be interested in clicking on your page listing. Give the searcher something in the description that makes them want to read more.
Optimize Your Meta-Data Keywords/Phrases
This area of on page website optimization is perhaps the least important. In the past keyword meta-data was very important. After all it makes sense for a website to describe the keywords that are relevant to a page. Unscrupulous people have abused the power of the meta keyword section and made it’s importance to the search engines less valuable. However to a limited degree the keywords are still used by some search engines to sort and present information to the searcher.
There is still some value to keyword Meta data. It is an additional way for search engines to gather data and like I mentioned before some search engines still use it to varying degrees. Keyword Meta-data is a way for you to focus on content keywords within the page. Keep in mind that when people search for your webpage they don’t usually search for one word like “pickles” they search in phrases “growing green dill pickles”. There will be a detailed section covering keyword selection in the near future.
Example of Bad Search Engine Optimization
The information that a search engine matches with are found in a few different areas. The critical areas are the title, meta data, headers, bolded/strong text, content, and keywords that are in the content. One way to understand the importance of proper titles and descriptions is to see bad ones. Check out the following title and description example that you could potentially find within a webpage:
Example of Meta-Data
In this example the search words were “Deep Sea Fishing”. If you had a deep sea fishing company those are terms that you might strongly consider optimizing for. How many things would you like to see changed in that title and description? There are many things that can be done to make it more enticing. Here is what the title and description might appear like in a search engine query:
Example of a search query listing
From the example given here are a few major things that should be re evaluated:
- The title is too long and was clipped off at 59 characters (some search engines clip titles off at 64 characters).
- The title is far from enticing, in fact it doesn’t look or feel like a title at all.
- “deepsea” is not necessarily the same thing as “deep sea” to a search engine.
- The description that the search engine used is not the same as the “description” that was attempted. This is because the keywords were not in the description so the search engine found relevant terms in the content.
- The file name for the webpage is “page3.html” optimizing page file names is an important part of optimization. So the page needs to look like deep-sea.html
- The description needs keywords in it.
- Before you move into the individual areas of on site optimization be sure that you understand the basics of XHTML and CSS as well as website page layouts. For your convenience there is a tutorial with external links provided to you.
The bottom line is that when you optimize your page you need to have attention to detail, the details matter a lot. Try to pay attention to the smallest details as you work your way through the SEO topical section.