There are pages and pages of content out there about how to build a great website. In the end, however, all these tips must bow to the overarching reality of content production: you can have the best content on the Internet, but that means nothing if no one can find it. Therefore, producing content without a coherent search engine optimization (SEO) strategy is a lot like buying a lot of lumber, but failing to get plans for building a house.
Unfortunately, SEO can be a bit confusing. Some strategies that were once fair game are now considered black hat SEO, while some additional X factors have been introduced by social media and viral content. In this article, we’ll cover some basic, timeless SEO tactics that every search engine loves.
An Accurate, Interesting Title
You should always put some time into how you title the content on each page of your website. The title is the first thing most search engines will hit when they crawl the source code of a Web page. More importantly, an accurate title also tells Internet users what they’re going to get when they click on the link.
A Word on Extreme Titles
An accurate title can still be interesting – even sensational in the right situations. For example, a title like “Tax Strategies For Married Couples” may be absolutely accurate for a particular article, but “Tax Tips For Newlyweds” maintains accuracy and makes it noticeably more clickable. However, something like “Bedroom Secrets From Just Married Accountants” likely violates the editorial integrity of the content and becomes the worst type of linkbait. (That is, unless you are actually writing about the sex lives of married accountants, in which case you have bigger problems than SEO.)
Similarly, while “Tax Tip Tax Strategies For Tax Filing Married Taxpayers” is a title stuffed with juicy keywords for Google, it’s such a mouthful that users are less likely to click on it.
Finding the Right Balance on Title Tweaking
Putting more time into your title than your content is a greasy way to get a click, but this tactic will eventually get you dinged by readers and search engines alike. That said, it is all right to put some time into coming up with a great title that has the potential to become linkbait – that is, the good kind that takes users to solid content they may have otherwise missed.
One of the more bizarre misconceptions to come out of search engines’ increasing vigilance against SEO gaming is that metadata doesn’t matter anymore. The popular notion seems to be that Google has evolved to the point where its bots have become literary critics, scoring every site after a thorough read. This is not true. Nor is it true that metadata doesn’t matter. Metadata still matters – just not as much as it used to.
How Metadata Fills in Information Gaps
Having metadata is like having a complete resume with your address, name, phone number and the date at the top. These details don’t add much to the contents of your resume (“Oh look, he’s got three sevens in his number! Hire that fellow!”), but a resume without these details is next to useless in getting you the job.
Complete metadata means:
- Writing a Unique Page Description
When building out a site without a content management system, it is likely that pages will be copied and then filled in with new content. However, when you template like this, you end up having generic descriptions on each page – “this is a webpage on my site” – or no description at all.
- Choosing Accurate Keywords
Because keyword stuffing is still common, keywords have a much lower SEO value than they used to. Instead of thinking of every possible search combination and adding it in to your metadata, pick a few specific keyword chains. For example, “keywords, good keywords, key word, keyword, great keywords, best keywords, etc.” is better summed up as “choose good keywords, creating good keywords, pick best keywords.” Going back to the resume analogy, you want your name in there once or twice, but it is a waste of time to put it in 10 or 15 times.
- Attributing Images and Links
Filling out alt attributes and entering a brief description for your links and images tells users and search engines what they are looking at. Search engines can’t see images, just linked files, so 011.jpg means way less than “graph showing the page view spike after optimizing for search engines.”
In this context, we are talking about navigating within a single page – although having a logical site setup is also important for SEO. An easy-to-navigate page will have:
Headers that highlight topics within the content Ordered or unordered lists where appropriate Appropriate uses of emphasis (bold, italics, quotations)
Of course, there is also a need for breaking the content into logical units. This includes basic tasks such as separating sentences into paragraphs, but it goes beyond that into knowing when part of a piece of content needs to be separated into its own page and connected to other related pages as a link.
These SEO strategies will help build the SEO in your pages while also making them easier for users to read. One of the best ways to build SEO that we haven’t covered is backlinks. Getting links to your site from other, reputable sites is a great way to build up that page rank. The honest way to get those backlinks is to produce good content – and apply the SEO tactics above – so that people will read it, enjoy it, share it and link to it. There is really no shortcut for that kind of SEO.