There is no shortage of call centers working hard to sell SEO (Search Engine Optimization) services. Some of them are small fly-by-night operators, while others work at the venerable Yellow Pages. Sadly, many organizations (and people) succumb to these pitches, and spend significant dollars each month chasing a top ranking. “Sadly”, because much of the SEO work could have been built in from the start, and because much of the ongoing work they could do by themselves at little or no cost.
How Google works: They have an algorithm that takes into account 100+ different factors. These factors are not only secret, but they change as Google works to improve their results – and foil “professional” SEO fakesters. So while nobody knows precisely what the algorithm is, the following recommendations are based on our experience (since 1994) helping our clients use the web to grow their organization.
There are four main areas that you are able to influence: Page factors, Site factors, External web factors, and User factors. This Tipsheet will look at the first – Page factors.
Five ways to make or break your ranking:
1) HTML Construction: The way your site is coded can have a dramatic impact on your site’s ranking.
- The Title tag contains the words that appear within the top Title bar of every browser window. Every page should have a unique Title tag that contains relevant keywords for that page. Most sites have irrelevant – and identical – Title tags.
- What is within each graphic is not indexed by Google, but the “Alternative” text that can be added alongside the graphic – the ALT tag – is. ALT tags that contain words such as pic1, image, or picture, are useless, but surprisingly common.
- The H1 and H2 tags contain the formatting of the headlines and subheads. They are powerful indicators to Google about content, but many sites ignore these tags completely. Instead, they directly format text to be a specific font, size, and style.
2) Linked Filenames: Google will rank a page higher if the text that is on the link has a tighter match with the filename that the link is directed to. For example, click here to read about Randall is less powerful than Learn more about Randall. In the second example, both the hotlinked words AND the underlying link contains the words “about randall”.
3) META Description: This is a 2-3 sentence (~155 characters) description of the content of the page. It will often will be displayed on search engine results pages, and can improve click-through. At one point this tag (and META Keywords) were exceptionally important to determine ranking, but it is no longer being used directly by Google to determine ranking.
4) META Keywords: No longer used by Google at all. It may be helpful to include this tag, but it is better to upgrade the content to be keyword-friendly. “Experts” who counsel the use of META keywords are likely out-of-date with their other advice as well. Using this tag also exposes your keywords to competitors, who cannot otherwise learn about your target keywords. Advice here is to skip META keywords completely.
5) Keyword Density: The better the matches between what the user is searching for, and what your page contains, the better your page ranking will be. That being said, “stuffing” keywords to game the system can penalize your site – or have it removed completely. Google’s general rule is to write for the reader first. Spend time making sure that keywords are embedded naturally throughout your content.
This week’s action plan: Check your own site: are there unique ALT tags on all graphics and unique TITLE tags on each page? If not, add them. And for yourself, make sure that your Social Media profiles also are keyword-rich.
Note: I recorded a detailed review of 43 specific techniques that marketers can use to improve their Search Engine Ranking. It is available here: http://budurl.com/108SEO.
This post has been written by 108’s Senior Advisor and former CEO Randall Craig.