Sunday, April 20, 2008
1. Title Tags
The single most important “on page?factor affecting search engine rankings is the title tag. This is a snippet of code in the header section of a web document. The title of a web page is given great weight by the search engines, and for lesser competitive keyphrases a good title tag alone may be enough to catapult a page to the top of the engines.
One common mistake made is that a website is created from a template in which all of the title tag information is the same from page to page. This can not only get your pages thrown into the supplemental results, it is an example of extremely poor individual page optimization.
Individual page optimization basically means that each page of your site should be individually optimized for the contents and target keyphrase of that page. Chances are that you desire to attract visitors using a variety of keyphrases. If you use the same title tag throughout your site, you are missing out on a wonderful opportunity to do this.
The title tag of each page should be individually optimized for the keyphrases that you are targeting for that page. Repetition should be avoided. For ecommerce websites, each product page should contain a unique title tag reflecting the specific product featured on that page.
For example, let’s say you sell a large inventory of widgets of various types and sizes. The title tag of your home page should probably contain the word “widgets? Then, each individual product page should contain more information in the title tag pertaining to the specific product, such as “Large Red Widget ?Model ABC123? or something similar. This allows users searching for specific model numbers, or manufacturer names, or even more general terms like “large red widget?to land on a page specifically relevant to their search engine query.
If you are not including key phrase rich content on each page of your website, you again face a risk of having your pages thrown into the supplementals, or having your pages outright rank poorly for your target key phrases. Be sure to include at least one instance of the key phrase you are targeting for that page in the body text of the page.
A rule of thumb I use is to first go through and select the key phrases you are targeting for each page. Then, optimize the title tags accordingly to reflect this. After that, write rich, unique content for each page, and be sure to include at least one instance of the title tag content in the body text.
A common mistake in this area is to write generic page content, and simply replace the target key phrase on each page. This type of methodology adds no real value to individual pages of your site and is almost certainly going to result in your pages get thrown into the supplementals on grounds of duplicative content. It is not enough, therefore, to have generic content which is the same on each page, with a mere substitution of the target key phrase.
For example, a real estate agency wants to be at the top of the engines for searches in all 50 states. They create generic content such as:
“We are your [state name] real estate experts. Browse our [state name] real estate listings to find your perfect [state name] home…”
The firm then creates 50 individual state pages, with the exact same content and only the state name changed. This will not work. Each page needs to have unique, rich content, and so in the example above, we would need to create 50 original pages of content rather than using a simple “find and replace?methodology.
An ecommerce site should write rich descriptions for each of their products. A common mistake I see in such sites is that individual product pages contain little or no written content aside from the product name and a picture. Be sure to write at least a paragraph on the features and benefits of each product in the product description field.
Your competition is blogging, so it’s time you jump on the bandwagon. There are a number of reasons to blog that directly relate to search engine considerations. Google and other engines generally prefer sites with fresh content over stale sites. This means that ranking well involves the regular creation of rich content, and typically this is done via a company weblog.
Blog articles should be useful and informative and should not be considered necessarily self promotional. Using the real estate example above, the agency should write general interest articles on buying and selling homes, how to select a realtor, and the like. It should avoid writing articles touting the benefits of the firm itself ?blog articles should not be press releases (although it is okay to repost the occasional press release in the company blog). The reason for this is that general interest articles (such as the one you are reading right now) are much more attractive link bait (see next section) than are articles on how wonderful your company is.
Additionally, once you have started blogging, you are opening yourself up to link bait and social media opportunities as described below.
4. Link Bait
Generally speaking, the more links you have to rich content on your site, the better off you are going to be in the engines. The creation of a blog is a wonderful way to attract links. Other ideas for link bait include video, images, sound clips, press releases and the like. Contests, quizzes, product reviews, top 10 lists (or in the case of this article, a top 5 list), and how to articles fare very well. Also, the provision of useful tools can be a great way to attract links.
In the example of the real estate agency, a tool likely to attract links would be a free mortgage calculator. Offering such a tool on your website can attract the attention of other sites in the form of links, increasing your reputation and pagerank, which has a direct impact on higher search engine rankings.
Be sure to create link bait on a regular basis through the regular creation of content, of whatever form you choose.
Now that you have created all this wonderful link bait in the form of blogs, videos, tools, and the like, you need to make sure to get the word out about it so that people know it is there. Social media has already become one of the most powerful ways to spread the word. Social media is loosely defined as any sort of user driven content. Famous examples include MySpace, Facebook, YouTube, Yahoo Answers, Wikipedia, and the like.
Social bookmarking sites such as Digg and StumbleUpon are wonderful ways to get the word out about your content. If you have a number of images (such as product images in an ecommerce site), image sharing sites such as Flickr are useful. Contests and quizzes are great fodder for social networking sites such as MySpace, Facebook, and Yahoo360. Video content can be promoted through YouTube, MetaCafe, AOLVideo, and similar sites.
The point is, the more you promote your wonderful link bait, the more people will find out about it and link to it. Put your content to work for you!
About the Author
Matt Foster is the CEO of ArteWorks SEO, an internationally recognized search engine optimization firm. For more information, please visit www.arteworks.biz.