Now we get down to actually starting to set the page itself up for SEO. A lot of people involved in Search Engine Optimization will poo-poo the following and try to ignore developing what I am going to cover in this article saying “Search Engines don’t pay attention to these any more.” That is partially correct. The algorithms (analysis process) they are using today are much more sophisticated than they were even five years ago. What this means is that if your <meta> tags or <img> description tags are not relevant to the content on the page they will be ignored.
You see, back in the day (mid to late 1990’s), people tried all sorts of, what would be called “Black Hat SEO” today, tricks to get top rankings. The search engines picked up on this and changed their analysis to eliminate these tricks. If you weren’t on the internet then, just trust me, it was really annoying.
However, so far, this website – yourwebreference.com – currently ranks in the top 15% of the sites quantified by Quantcast and in the top 7% of the sites they track. All I have done is to use the html tags properly (we are XHTML and CSS validated by the W3C.) Well, that and providing good, interesting content.
Meta Tags, <meta> when you look at the code, (specifically the description and keyword tags) are extremely important for search engines and should be devoted to only to a particular page – some overlapping with other pages is ok. For the most part they should be reflective of the page content – not the site. Don’t use inappropriate words to get people to your site.
The description tag should provide a brief relevant description of the page itself – a summary if you will. You should use no more than 100 words. Search engines will truncate your description to meet their requirements.
The keyword tag is used for relevant words that will help people find your site. Use multiple word phrases if you can. You can use up to about 14 “keywords.” More than that may be considered spamming and may give you lower search engine rankings. Unless it is impossible without them, try to avoid using words and phrases that are generic. Use common misspellings (e.g.. Cannon for Canon) as well.
Watch your web logs to see how people are finding your site and adjust your keywords appropriately.
Heading tags indicate relative importance of the text on the page. Use them as much as possible. If you do not like how they appear, you can change them using Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). Most search engines use the heading tags to help determine the ranking of your page. Beware though that you should only use one <h1> tag. They break the content into logical sections.
Content is what it is all about. Try to make your content unique. Don’t use “canned” material unless that is all you have to work with. To keep people coming back, change your content often or keep adding pages.
Make sure that you provide descriptions of your images within the <img> tag. This description should describe the image – briefly. It seems that search engines are starting to give higher ranking to sites that are working toward WAI standards (Web Accessibility.)
Links are the lifeblood of the internet. Give the links titles. This may seem counter-intuitive but it, like the description for the <img> tag above is a step toward WAI. Link tags are denoted by <a>.
Ordered and un-ordered lists are a way of setting important information into a brief but highly readable format. Use them when you can as they set a special look to important information. The tags used are: <ul> (unordered list) for a list using bullets or <ol> (ordered list) for a list using numbers or letters then each item in the list uses <li> for list item.
By way of example consider recipes:
- The ingredients could use an unordered list
- The recipe steps would use an ordered list because you don’t want to put the ingredients in the oven before they are mixed.
If you are developing your own website be sure to learn what information can be used with each tag and use it. If you are letting someone else do your website, tell them to use titles or descriptions for any tag that uses them.
This information is still very basic but will build a solid foundation for future growth of your website.
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