If you’re reading this, you probably have a website. If you have a website, chances are you have search engine optimization (SEO) questions — namely, what does it takes to improve your site’s visibility with major search engines? You’re not alone. After all, it can be a confusing, acronym-laden world out there.
SEO is a big topic, but it doesn’t have to keep you up at night. Our team of experts created this handy guide to answer your questions about on-page SEO elements, once and for all. We’re talking about a breakdown of all the important stuff.
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Your title tag (also called the Meta title tag) is just what it sounds like — a quick, at-a-glance summary of what people can expect from your website’s page. You want the contents of your title tag to be spot-on because it displays in three important places: in the browser’s title bar, in the browser’s tab title bar, and as the title of your listing in search engine results.
Your title tag should contain the main keywords for the page, with the primary keyword listed first in the tag. The earlier in the tag your keywords display, the better. All told, keep the maximum length of your keyword tag fewer than 65 characters.
Need help finding the right keywords to target on your page? Use Search Engine Visibility’s keyword generator to pinpoint keywords and check out search trends for your selection.
The description tag (also called the Meta description tag) contains information most search engines display below your website link in the results list. Its main purpose is to provide an accurate description so people know what your site is about. Your description should entice people to select your site from all the sites returned, so make sure the content is both interesting and informative.
Every page in your website needs a unique description tag that contains the keywords for the page. Be sure to keep your descriptions less than 250 characters, and avoid non-alphanumeric characters (stick to letters and numbers).
H1 Header Tag:
Each page of your website should include one (and only one) H1 header tag to tell visitors what the page is about. Your H1 tag should be brief — no longer than a short sentence — and include the page’s most important keywords. Make sure the content for your H1 tag is unique for every page in your website. The text in your H1 tag displays in your page header, but it does not display with your site in search results.
We recommend that your title and H1 tags for the same page differ slightly, but still get the same idea across. Search engines won’t penalize your site’s SEO if they’re exactly the same. It can actually be beneficial if they’re different.
NOTE: If you’re using a content management system such as WordPress®, Joomla!®, or Drupal®, check to see if your title and H1 tags are the same by default and, if so, change that setting.
Even though most popular search engines don’t display the contents of your keywords tag in search results, you can use the tag for informational purposes. Plus, it can’t hurt to include the tag for the few directories or search engines that might use the information.
Your keywords tag should contain a list of keywords and short phrases (separated by commas) that describe what the page is about. It’s best to keep the list to 10 or fewer keywords and phrases, with your phrases containing less than six words.
The content on your website’s pages — the visitor-facing text — plays an important role in search engine optimization. Search engines might use snippets of text from your page if it doesn’t contain a description tag, or in some situations the search engine might display page content that is more relevant to a user’s search. See How Search Engines Use It for an example.
In addition to being well-written and informative, your content should also:
- Use page keywords often
- Be updated frequently (at least once every few weeks)
- Include between 300 and 700 words
- Contain original material that isn’t duplicated across multiple pages
- Avoid long blocks of text (1-4 sentences per paragraph, ideally)
- Favor shorter sentences (10 words or fewer)
- Incorporate both bulleted (unordered) and numbered (ordered) lists, where appropriate
- Also, it’s always a good idea to check your text’s spelling and grammar.
Navigation involves both external links to other websites and internal links to other pages within your site. Making your navigation SEO friendly ensures that search engine spiders will scan all of your pages. If a search engine can’t find a particular page, no matter how optimized the page is, it won’t be listed by search engines.
Always format your anchor tags correctly and try to use keywords in your anchor text when possible.
NOTE: Some search engines display links to additional pages below the first listing. The links are to pages the search engine determines to be most relevant. You cannot guarantee which links display, but adding consistent navigation is a good way to help. In the example below, the search engine results display two relevant pages from the site’s navigation — Contact Us and Register.
A site map is a file that lists all the URLs in your website (for pages, files, images and everything else) that search engines use as a map for crawling your site. Your site map should live in the root or top-level directory for your website’s files, so the URL for it might look something like this: http://marketingsolutionshhi.com/sitemap.xml
You can create your site map using a variety of formats, such as XML, HTML or RSS. Depending on the format you use, you can include a few details (meta data) with each URL, such as the last modified date, the change frequency, or the priority.
Search Engine Visibility creates an XML site map file customized with your selections. For more information, see sitemaps.org.
Keyword density is the percentage for how many keywords exist on a page. For example, if a particular keyword occurs three times on a page with 100 words, that page’s keyword density is 3 percent.
Search engines use keyword density to determine the relevance of a page to a particular keyword search. Ideal keyword density is between 2 and 4 percent. Percentages outside this range can be interpreted by some search engines as spam and adversely affect the search rank.
A robots.txt file tells search engines which pages, directories, or file types in your site to avoid scanning. You really only need a robots.txt file if your site contains stuff you don’t want search engines to index, or if you want to block specific search engines.
Your robots.txt file should live in the root or top-level directory for your website’s files. Because your robots.txt is a public file, take care not to include any private or proprietary information in it.