If you pay attention to Google, one message that remains consistent is to develop websites that add value and web pages that provide a good user experience. Even without search engine visibility to consider, it is still good advice. A great experience on a website ensures that visitors will return again and again.
That said, providing the search engines with pages they can easily crawl and understand is also important. After all, if search engines can’t understand your web pages, they won’t position them properly in search results. This make Search Engine Optimization just as important as user experience because good SEO ensures that users will find your website.
Titles Matter Most
The HTML title is the very first opportunity to inform search engines what the page is about. Good titles use keywords and key phrases that are closely related to the page topic, along with the brand the website represents. It is the HTML title that search engines display along with meta description in their search results.
Consider a product page as an example. The Famous Widget Company manufactures and packages widgets of various colors. A product page for a package of Rainbow Widgets might have an HTML title that looks like this:
Medium Rainbow Widgets – 10 Pieces| Famous Widget Co.
This title clearly identifies the product and includes the company brand. Most search engines display up to 70 characters, and this title is 53 characters long with important keywords and brand identification.
The H1 header is another key component of similar importance as the title. Page visitors see the H1 header as the main title on the page and expect it to closely match what they saw in the search results. The search engines also expect to find a close relationship between the title and H1 tag, because it further defines the page topic.
Like the title, the H1 header should contain keywords. Branding is not necessary, since the brand should be prominently displayed elsewhere on the page.
Meta tags provide information to browsers and search engines, but are not seen directly by a user. They appear in the Head section of the HTML code. Meta tags are yet another opportunity to define the page content and give search engines a reason to show the page to its users.
Not all Meta Tags are useful for SEO, but those that are help search engines index pages and return relevant results to users.
Meta Description: Up to 150 characters that accurately describe the page. The Meta Description is usually shown in the search results along with the HTML title. Use of keywords that appear in the article, the title, and on the page help clarify to users and search engines what appears on the page.
Meta Keywords: Once an important signal to search engines, it has largely become irrelevant. Google announced in 2009 that it no longer considered the keywords meta tag in its ranking algorithm.
Meta Language: Informs search engines the native language of the page content, ie: English, German, etc. Mainly useful when different content pages are written in different languages. The search engines are then able to display the correct page to users in their search results based on the user’s native language.
Images are like eye candy, but it is important to use images properly. They attract readers if they are relevant and provide a break from an endless sea of text. Every image should include a title and a description. The description is used by visually impaired visitors and the search engines have made it clear that image descriptions are used in ranking.
Different images should not have the same description, and all images need one. Less important is the caption, but these can add to user experience and to SEO value.
Size is also important. The bigger the image, the longer it takes to load, and load time is another important search engine ranking factor. Too many images also slow page loading, as every image requires another request and response from the web server, and another download.
In the next segment, we’ll take a look at some other SEO factors you should consider when adding web pages or building a website.
Photo: Magnifying Glass by Allan Tankoman