There have been plenty of content-related changes in the SEO industry lately, but technical SEO is one area where changes have been slow to come and where the basics are still relevant. Here is a short primer for those who may not be familiar with the technology or may need a quick refresher check-list.
Whether you provide content as a full-time employee, a freelancer, or a site owner, whether you deal with content as a writer, or editor, publisher or blogger, you stand to benefit from knowing the technical basics of website optimization of SEO.
The two areas you need to wrestle in technology are meta tags and roadblocks. Neither one has traditionally been the purview of the writer, editor, or publisher, but they are often overlooked by programmers and designers and often SEO practitioners are more worried about keywords and links and adword buys, so they ignore these, too. Here’s what you need to know.
Meta tags are found in the website source code and other than the title, aren’t visible on the website page itself. To view them, right click on the Chrome page and “view source.” (How to view source code on IE, Firefox, and Opera.)
Every page needs one and it has to be unique. Treat it like a subject line, not like a movie or book title. Keywords should be at the front, company names, if used, should be at the end. The title tags should be a maximum length of 70 characters. If your site is a creative effort like a story or movie page, using the story title makes sense.
Every page should have one and it has to be unique. If you don’t write one, the search engine will create one for you. If the search engine doesn’t like yours it will create one, often from the content on your page. Limit your description tag to 150 characters including spaces and punctuation.
Keywords list tag
There has been a lot of talk recently on the relevance of this tag. Google does not use this tag anymore for rankings and some argue that showing your keywords to competitors is not a great idea. However, Yahoo and Bing still look at your keywords.
Some say you need commas between keywords and you should list all uses of the keyword; I have found success not using commas and using keywords only once, keeping related words together. Probably not worth spending a lot of time on this tag. In most blogs, the keywords list is called “tags” and these are important to add.
Search engines cannot read and do not notice images or graphics, even with words. Thus, to get indexing value from them, you need to add alt tags that include your keywords. This is especially important when a photo or graphic appears at the top of the page or when a site or blog is image heavy.
Be sure to name images and graphics with keywords, not strings of letters or numbers that don’t serve any purpose. “Image001.gif” is wasteful for SEO.
Same thing for video and audio tags – name them with suitable keywords.
Technical Roadblocks that Prevent Search Engines from Indexing Your Site
Roadblocks are the things done on a website that get in the way of productive indexing. Sometimes they are inadvertent; sometimes they result from lazy coding or running out of time to fix them. Often, developers or designers are simply not aware – and that’s where you can save your employer or client some headaches, suggesting a fix.
Excessive coding up front
Content lower on the page
I see this often, too. Look in the source code to see where the actual headlines and body text begin. Place content as high on the page as possible so the search engine sees it right away. You want the first content they read to be your keywords, not the list of navigation, not the ads on the left, not the garbage lines at the top, not the quotes on the right.
Left click and scroll down on your web page to highlight everything. Right click on the highlighted page and click “copy” (or Control + C). Paste into Notepad. That will show you the indexable text and in what order.
Be sure your keywords are as close to the front of your headlines and body text as possible to make the most of them. Don’t force it unnaturally, but definitely don’t hide them. Also, make sure you mention your keywords at the bottom of your text, because search engines index from the top and from the bottom.
Heavy on visuals
Unless your site is an art site, you can’t afford to go too heavy on images or graphics. Certainly, you want some visuals, including images, graphics, and videos. But search engines don’t index them. When you do use visuals, don’t top the page with them and tag them with meta tags (see above). A page with fewer than 250 words won’t index well, and a page with fewer than 500 words may not be providing its readers with much value. There is no magical formula for how many words to publish, but search engines do look for value.
Keywords in File names, domain names, etc.
Use keywords in your file names, domain names, and URLs, including in blogs. Avoid random number/letter combinations in URLs as you often find with content management systems.
If you have the choice of where to host your blog, host it on the server with your website and use the website domain for the blog’s URL. For instance, I have a Word Press business blog hosted on my business website and its URL is http://e-messenger-consulting.com/blog/ which is better for SEO than e-messenger-consulting.wordpress.com. As an alternative, you can host on Word Press and redirect to a private domain URL.
There is no use in having a link that doesn’t work or that stops working. Check your links periodically (there is software to help with this) and when you discover broken links, find the new URL for it, replace it with a new link, or eliminate the link altogether.
Search engines abhor duplicate content, including disguised duplicate content. Google Panda was created to penalize sites for duplicate content (among other low-quality content issues). If you publish duplicate content, get rid of duplicate content and link (or 301 redirect) to one article if possible. If someone else is duplicating your content and refuses to delete it, use canonical tags in your URL to indicate originality. If product copy duplicates for differences in size, color, or other SKU variations, talk to your programmers about options to avoid duplication.
XML site map
An XML site map, especially for a complex website, helps the search engine figure out your content plan and aids indexing. Without one, it’s up to the search engine to figure it out. Search engines all subscribe to a single XML site-map convention and can help you create one that will work for all search engines.
Keep these to a minimum – one is best. Too many confuse the robots. These should just let the indexer know exclusions to indexing your site.
Depending on your role in the organization, many of these may not be within your control. But whatever your role, knowing about these and being able to offer strategic advice should put you in a good position to help build traffic to your content. Being able to provide well written tags when you hand over content is often a valued added service.
This is insane. Excellent write up and compilation mate. The biggest issue I had was tags. I was always wondering how many tags I should use. At times, I was using 15 then I reduced to 10, 8 and now 5.
Oh well, you are correct where Google doesn’t see it anymore. However, it is always great to use the right one just in case (tags).
Well written and shared on Triberr.
Alan Eggleston says
Hi Reginald. I only worry about the most relevant tags, which usually means about five or so. You want to account for keyword strings, so don’t limit someone from finding you just to keep the list artificially low, but don’t waste a lot of time trying to be too inclusive. (I presume by “tags” you mean for a blog in this instance.)
Thank you for laying out this often confusing topic in such an informative and easy to read post!
Alan Eggleston says
Hi Holly. Glad you find it useful.
Robert Ryan says
Hi Alan, a nice and comprehensive look into the SEO fundamentals. I particularly agree with the importance of using all tags possible for images otherwise Google will have no clue what the image is of. One thing I did in the past with an online shop was to categorise the product photos and put them in subfolders with apt keywords to try hammer home to Google what the image was actually an image of.
Alan Eggleston says
Hi Robert, thanks for the comment. That’s a brilliant execution of both product image tags and subfolder names. Not only does it tell Google what the images are but it also establishes content relevancy to the pages and content depth, not unlike a site map. Thanks for sharing! Alan
I am curious to find out what blog system you happen to be utilizing? I’m experiencing some minor security problems with my latest site and I would like to find something more safeguarded. Do you have any solutions?
Klaudia recently posted..Obrona przed komornikiem
Alan Eggleston says
Hi Klaudia. I believe Gazalla uses WordPress for this blog. She can best address that. I use WordPress and Blogspot for my own blogs and haven’t experienced any security problems, and I’ve used Typepad in the past and it has been secure (it’s been a couple of years since I used it, however). Some security level depends on how you set your preferences for certain apps, like how open you are with comments. For instance, if your security problem is with spam you may have to limit them to a certain degree to restrict rampant spam. You may also need to ensure you have the most update version of the blog if it resides on your server, such as with WordPress, which frequently updates. Hope that helps. Alan
Gazalla Gaya says
Alan’s right. I use the self-hosted WordPress as my CMS. I like it a lot. You get various plug-ins that are good for controlling spam such as Askimet. I’ve heard good things about WPFence and BulletProof Security which are security plug-ins for WordPress. All the best and let us know what you go with. I always like to hear back.
Tamer Imran says
Thank you for the wonderful article, which benefited him very much, I only have a specific question:
I am an editor in an Arabic Tech website, and I will have my Arabic website soon, and I would like to know whether the URL better be in Arabic or English?
I’ve heard a conflict of words, someone said to me write it in English because Google has become translated URL and Can understand it, and with English is better for you in terms of visitors, and another tells me not to do so, and said if you want to sit on the throne of Arab sites must make the URL with the same language in which you write ..
Now I’m at a loss. I would like to know the definitive answer and degradable me this matter well, and always happy to communicate with you, Gazalla.
Gazalla Gaya says
Thank you for visiting and liking Alan’s post, Tamer. I guess the question I have for you is that will the content of the entire website be in Arabic? If that’s the case, then attracting world-wide visitors would be useless, because they would not understand the content once they arrive on your site. The other important question is: Who is your target audience? If your target audience consists of mainly people from your region, then you should make it easy for them to remember your url. I’m sure Alan will provide his thoughts to this question. Thanks for visiting and for subscribing.
Tamer Imran says
Thank you for your nice answer Gazalla
On the issue of visitors, we were looking for something from another perspective, which views for adsense, you know, in the Arab region visits to the page 10000 = 10 $!
So many care for content as well as the numbers of visits were not interested in the question of whether the visitor will see a page is can read it or not!
So my first question is still here, about what in this case, the link is written in English? For example:
Or Arabic? For example:
Content, and yes it will be the entire Arabic. Most Arabs are not seen for a URL to memorize it, but for the title of the article, so I would like to know the URL when writing as in the example in Arabic Is it better in terms of search engine optimization and access to rank higher in the search engines or not there is a problem between the two as long as Google translates the link when you search?
Expected to know your opinion of Gazalla and Alan
Alan Eggleston says
Hi Tamer. What a wonderful question – thank you for asking it. I haven’t worked with non-Latin character sets before, but here’s what I understand: You actually have several issues to juggle here. One is SEO. Another is dialect versus Google’s translations. Still another is the technical. You are not alone in trying to deal with these issues and Arabic is not alone in dealing with them as a language. Let me deal with the technical issue first. Not all browsers deal well with non-Latin characters in the web address window (for instance, Chrome doesn’t recognize the Arabic character set). Depending on how many of your readers will use Google Chrome as a browser (or other browsers that don’t deal well with non-Latin-character sets), you may to not use the Arabic character set – at least until the browsers handle it better. From a dialect and translation standpoint, I understand there are multiple dialects of Arabic and probably variations within countries or regions. My question would be, how well does Google translate those to an optimizable language? Right now, using Google Translate for content, it only lists Arabic, which to me is overly broad. So I wonder if in using Arabic characters in the URL you are counting on translations for keywords which you won’t actually be getting. I don’t know the answer to that. From an SEO perspective, you always get the most relevancy value by having a match between your URL and your main keyword or keyword phrase. If the languages between your URL and your meta data and content match, all the better. If your page content is in Arabic characters, then your site would be optimized with Arabic characters in the URL — if Google translates it right. If readers can’t find it or doesn’t make sense because the browser delivers it in Latin characters that doesn’t make sense, that may be a problem. Here’s a page Cre8asite Forums that offers some suggested workarounds (I hope this blog will allow me to list the URL):
Another option might be two language versions: one in Arabic characters and one translated into Latin characters, translated as a language. Not duplicate content per se, but one “native language” and one a translated version with links between the appropriate pages. That’s a lot of work and probably cost, but it might help you get around some of these issues. You could use one Arabic-character URL site and one Latin-character URL site. I’d be interested in anyone else’s thoughts.
Tamer Imran says
I cannot say but a great answer right, Alan, You have shown me many mysterious things. Thank you with my sincere appreciation.
Alan Eggleston says
Wishing you the best with it, Tamer.