By Donovan Baldwin
Search engine optimization is primarily about getting your website tuned up to optimum effectiveness as far as search engines are concerned. However, the intent is to get a good search engine placement so that more humans will be exposed to the “opportunity” to visit your website. If done properly, the steps you take to optimize your website for search engines can also often be used to optimize your site to get website traffÃc. After all, it accomplishes little to get a good ranking by a search engine and yet be passed over by the human viewing the search engine results.
I have often pointed out how choosing the right domain name could be a step towards search engine optimization AND increased website traffÃc prior to website design and site promotion considerations. In this article, I would like to discuss three basic areas that should be considered in planning and designing the website itself:
1. The Title Of The Website
2. The Meta Tags including: The Description Meta Tag, The Keyword Meta Tag and The Revisit Meta Tag.
3. The Content Of The Website
The Title Of The Website Is The Headline
If you think of your website as the best advertisement you can design to tell people about your business or product, then the title is the headline of that advertisement. The title is embedded in the head of the website. Most objects in the head are normally visible only to search engines. However, the title is visible to both search engines and visitors. In fact, the title of the website is normally the first clue a potential visitor has about your website, as it is commonly displayed as the first identifying text someone sees when they get a list of websites from a search engine after entering a search. The title will also normally be seen in the line at the top of the page. Titles should be five to ten words long, 70 to 80 characters.
As with the domain name, the title will be scrutinized by the search engine as to its relevance to the search topic. Part of the ranking awarded by the search engine, part of the placement in the list of returns may be influenced by the wording, or words, of the title. When speaking of domain names, I explain that using key words or phrases, hence the term “keywords”, in the domain name itself could help raise the placement of the website. Continuing this use of keywords into the title can assist this as well. For example, the domain bicycle-parts.xyz, may be enhanced by a title that uses the words “bicycle parts”; “Bob’s bicycle parts and service.” Thinking in terms of a headline, maybe Bob would want a title that reads, “Best bicycle parts delivered to your door.”
The Meta Tags Talk to The Search Engine
Meta tags are snippets of code which are placed within the head. Normally, they only speak to the search engine, but not having the right ones could cost your website its rightful placement and could create a poor impression with potential visitors. While there are several Meta tags which could be of importance, there are two that are extremely valuable, and I am going to recommend one other that, while not necessary, may be of value.
The “Description” Meta Tag Has Messages for Search Engines and Website Visitors Alike
The description will commonly expand on the brief “headline” presented by the title. Not only will the information in this tag be of value in helping a search engine determine placement of your website within search results, but the description contained in this tag is normally shown along with the title when the search engine shows the returns for a search.
Failure to provide a description may not only make it more difficult to obtain good placement within returns, but it is likely that in the absence of a description, the search engine will simply grab the first few words it sees on your page, and that may be what the viewer reads as a description of your website.
It is a good idea to repeat your keywords in the description, but don’t beat it to death. Also, most search engines will only display the first 20 or so words of the description, so don’t get too wordy up front. Say what you have to say and get it over with. The description should not exceed 150-200 characters.
The “Keywords” Tag is Fading in Value, But….
It used to be that search engines wanted YOU to list the important keywords in your website. These days, the programs used by the search engines generally extract the pertinent and relevant keywords from the content of the page itself and ignore the keyword tag completely. Many website designers have gone so far as to drop this tag. I and others leave it in for three basic reasons; we are used to using it, there may be a search engine somewhere that still uses it and why miss out, and in some cases where relevant keywords cannot be picked up from context, the keyword tag may be the coin toss that decides the issue. How valid these arguments are, I have no way of knowing, but it is just as easy to put in a keyword tag as not. Simply list your keywords, separated by commas.
The “Revisit” Tag Says “Ya’ll Come Back, Now, Ya’ll Hear?”
While not specifically a search engine optimization item, the “revisit” tag may help provide more website traffÃc. The “revisit” tag tells a search engine spider to return in so many days to reindex the site. This can be of great importance with a site that updates data regularly, but might only get indexed by the search engines at longer intervals.
I have heard and read that when some search engines revisit a site, the site tends to rise in placement level. I have not been able to find a definitive statement on this, but have noticed a rise in visits to, and salÃ«s from, some of my sites that seems to follow the cycle of reindexing.
Content Is King!
This statement has been around for a while. Though it might be debated and there are certainly exceptions, generally having a website full of valuable content is one of the best ways to make search engines and people happy. The search engines have something to sink their teeth into, and can extract a lot more data from the content than you possibly could tell them in the title and tags. I very often find search engines sending visitors to my sites who have searched on a term I nevÃ«r even thought of as a keyword.
Many people write the content of their website and then try to see where to stuff in the keywords. While this could possibly fool the search engine, odds are it is going to make the writing a little strange, and might help cause the visitor to choose to visit, and do business with, a more professional looking site. The simplest course is to choose the website topic, title, description, and keywords and then write heartfelt copy based on those items.
In fact, one very effective technique in preparing website copy, particularly if you are writing it yourself, is to deal in topics where you are knowledgeable and have a passionate interest. An honest appeal from a true believer can be a lot more effective in many cases than a professionally designed and polished piece of advertising copy. Writing heartfelt copy on a subject also will often allow you to use the keyword or words without over using them or appearing to strain.
One Last Note:
Whether you are dealing with the title, the description, or the content, give thought to alternatives. For example; earlier I concentrated on bicycle parts, but a small group of people might actually be searching for bicycle “accessories”! In fact, I just checked and learned that while over 9,000 searches were done on one search engine for the term “bicycle parts” in the month of October; over 5,000 other searches had been done for the term “bicycle accessories” in the same period. Simply adding one term to the mix could have helped “Bob’s Bicycles” increase their target market by half!
This article is not the final word on search engine optimization. At best, it is merely an overview of areas to be considered by the budding website designer or internet business entrepreneur. As in most things, the art of search engine optimization is an art, and sometimes seems to border on black magic. For self-optimization, nevÃ«r stop learning about this and the other topics related to your goals and dreams.
About The Author
Donovan Baldwin is a Dallas area writer and network marketing professional. He is a graduate of the University of West Florida, a member of Mensa and is retired from the U. S. Army. Learn how to get your own domain name and create an internet business at http://donsdomains.ws.