By Beth Borrego / Published August 2020
Editor’s Note: Part I was published in the July 2020 issue.
Getting your website indexed into the search engines so that your potential customers can easily find it is another challenge that all businesses have. Let’s look at how the basic structural elements of your site can help to drive users to your page. Even if you do not plan to build the site yourself, it’s important to understand these elements so that you can communicate clearly with your webmaster and make certain that all of the important elements are covered.
First, every page has both a title and a description. The title of the page should briefly describe the page and give your company name. There are many websites created that have simply titled the home page “home,” and then the business owners do not understand why their page rank is low. The title appears across the top of the browser window when the page is actively being displayed. The title is considered and weighed by the search engines during indexing. Each page on the website should have a unique title that corresponds to that particular page. When it comes to the appropriate length of title tags, the benchmark is to use 60 characters or less. This is what is acceptable by Google and has become a best practice among webmasters.
The description of the page should be concise and offer users who are searching a little more information as they scan the results list, deciding which page to click and read. The description tag should be between 50 and 160 characters in length as a standard to go by.
When users skim search results after performing a query, they read the descriptions to determine which of the results looks the most attractive on the list. Users reading a results list may even avoid pages with poorly written descriptions, believing the site is not relevant to their search when in fact the avoided site might be exactly what they were looking for. For this reason, it is very important that each page have its own clear and concise description that is specific to the content on that page. Do not use the same title and description for all of the pages on your website; it will only limit the possibility of being found. Titles and descriptions of the correct length containing relevant key word content are critical to good SEO (search engine optimization). Make sure that the most relevant key words are included in your description and your title on each page. A word of caution: make sure that you use a variety of keywords on your pages containing different subject matter. Do not use the same main key words on each page of your site. The search engines will not like that and neither will the users who land on a page that doesn’t contain what they want.
It is also important to create the page filenames using key words since the search engines index those, too, and they are considered during page ranking. Don’t use names like page1.html or page2.html. Instead, create names that are relevant to the page content, such as commercial-building-washing-chicago.html for example. Using key words in the filename for your Web pages also helps your site to be found by users.
Once you have assigned the pages their filenames, do not rename them if your site has begun to develop good page rank. Since your page’s file name is comprised of key words, changing it can negatively affect page rank, causing the dreaded 404 error. Users may find the page error within their search results list, clicking the listed page only to find it is no longer available. The page will look normal to them in the results list. If someone is building your site for you and they’re unfamiliar with your business, it is best to consult with them throughout the process of naming pages and so on.
Each page on your website should have a headline tag, known as an h1 or an h2 tag. The search engines look at the description of the headline tags to help determine weighted relevance to the subject matter on that page. Headline tags are quick and easy to add, so don’t leave them out of your page layout. Remember to use your most important keywords about that page in the headline and keep your headline tag short and concise.
Each page should have several paragraphs of useful, on-point information for your visitors to read. The information should be pertinent to the specific page they are reading and should address questions they may have about products or services being promoted on that page. This information is placed inside of paragraph tags in the body of the page and is the meat and potatoes of the organic text we have been talking about. To rank well in the search engines based on organic text searching, you must write content. It’s that simple.
There was a time when meta tags were critically important to building a well-ranked website. Today, there is much debate among website professionals as to the importance and effectiveness of meta tags. Many Web professionals agree that it doesn’t hurt to have the meta tags in the code, and since it might be of benefit, then there is simply no reason to exclude it. Meta tags are not visible to the user, but they are read by the spiders sent out to gather data for inclusion in the search engines. Meta tags contain key words or small groups of key words, separated by commas, known as meta data. The content length should be about 150 to 160 characters. Photos also contain tags that allow for a brief description of the photo to be entered. It might not affect rank in any noteworthy way, but it doesn’t hurt to add it.
Once your site is complete, the search engines will need to crawl it for inclusion in their index so that users surfing the internet will find it. This means you will need to submit the site to the search engines for inclusion. Aim for the bigger, more popular engines such as Google, Microsoft’s Bing, and Yahoo, which are the most commonly used. You are not likely to get traffic that is relevant by placing your site in search engines for countries overseas, for example, although you are certainly welcome to try.
All of the topics we have covered so far are components of SEO. Your title, description, headline, body text, and other tags all play an important role in determining page rank, which is the primary goal of SEO.
In addition to being found via organic text search results, you may wish to add your site to various directories online that allow businesses to list their company information and URL. Some sites are free, while others have a nominal fee associated with them. It’s a good idea to spend some time looking for places to list your company online. You might also want to network with other companies, competitive or not, in your area and see if any of them are interested in exchanging links with you. Some businesses have a page on their website where they place links to other businesses that they recommend. Link exchanges can be beneficial to both parties, especially if the other company has good page rank. One word of caution, though, is that you are not just linking to another company’s website but also to another company’s reputation. Never place a link for your company’s website on a page owned by a company with a poor reputation.
Let’s look at how links work. A link from one domain to another is outbound from the source domain and inbound to the target domain. Inbound links are also commonly known as backlinks. Links to your site from other domains are viewed by the search engine as important and can positively affect your page rank.
Outbound links, also known as hyperlinks, point to data or pages a user can follow. As mentioned earlier, an example of an anchor hyperlink would be a page on your website where you have created a link in your organic text directing the reader to another page on your site. If you have links on your website to sites outside of your own, those would be outbound links from your site, but inbound links or backlinks for the site you have linked to. These links navigate the readers away from your site and send them elsewhere. Be very careful not to place outbound links at the beginning of the page or you may lose your readers too soon.
Google AdWords is a pay-per-click program offered by Google, basically allowing business owners to buy page rank. Paying websites are listed at the top of each results page above those listed in the organic text search results. Advertisers typically bid on keyword phrases relevant to their target market. Targeting can also be narrowed down geographically. If your organic search site rank is poor, this kind of program may help bring business to your site while you are working to improve SEO and your organic search ranking. However, if your site is well ranked and places on page one or the top of page two for all of your most relevant key word searches, it might not be necessary to do so.
Having a website is a bit like tending a garden. It grows and changes, and if you don’t maintain it, it can get away from you and end up as a mess of weeds. As technology changes, make sure your site remains compatible with all of the most popular browsers, tablets, and smartphones so that it displays without hiccups or errors. Remember, it takes very little for a user to become frustrated and go looking for another website. Current optimization is key!
Make certain your website address is printed on your company business cards, brochures, and postcards and is also included in any advertising campaigns you run. It should also be on your truck signage. In print ads, you might use a hook like “Visit our website for special offers” or “to learn more, visit our website.” The point is, your website is your electronic brochure; and in this day and age, it goes wherever people take their laptops, tablets, or smartphones, so make sure they know where to go and can easily find your business.