Search engines grow smarter each day, and their algorithms become more complex. However, they will never be able to see a page like humans can, so it’s our job to provide the necessary elements to explain to the search engines what our content involves on each page. If we do our jobs well, the search engines give our pages a high Page Rank and deem our content credible enough to populate at the top of their results pages. So in the spirit of back-to-school season, here’s a cheat sheet of SEO tips and best practices for those of you who have been on summer holiday!
Building an Optimized Page is as Easy as 1, 2, 3…
1. Be Smart About Choosing Keywords
Not sure which keywords or keyword phrase you should target even after playing with Google’s Keyword Planner or Trends tool? Put those words into search engines to see what you can learn from the keyword search results. Note any relevant suggestions from the search engine, and add them to the list of future content you want to create.
2. Determine the Page Goal
Do you want your visitors to contact customer service, watch a video, make a purchase or sign up for an account? Such options should match with the calls to action you use within the content of your page(s). Make sure that no page has too many different calls to action, or you will confuse the visitor and possibly suffer low engagement and high bounce rates.
3. Build the Page
Keep in mind the following number-related tips for creating on-page and behind-the-scene elements to cater to the search engines and help you increase your organic traffic:
Metadata Best Practices for SEO
70 = the maximum number of characters for a page’s title tag
Search engines usually truncate your title tag in the top of the browser tab. Currently Google typically shows 50–60 characters within the search results. If the title tag is too long, the engines show an ellipsis (“…”) at the end, so remember to place the important keywords closer to the beginning of the title tag to play it safe. The search engines will crawl all the text on the page regardless, but this method ensures that visitors understand the content that exists on your page to compel them to click to your website. Never use the same title tag on different pages within your site; each page must be unique.
Tip: Title tags make the first impression of your brand in the search engine results, so put your best foot forward and display a positive, compelling message if possible.
115 = the sweet-spot length for an optimized URL
If your site is very folder-driven with deep content, make sure your URL is no longer than 2,048 characters; otherwise visitors won’t be able to render material on older Internet Explorer browsers. Try to use no more than two subdirectories for your content, and remember to leverage keyword-rich phrases that provide SEO value within the page’s URL.
Tip: Consistency is key for the search engines to deem your site a credible source, so all of your URLs should share the same case with all of the words, beginning with either a lowercase or an uppercase letter.
160 = the maximum number of characters for a page’s meta description
The meta description provides a summary of the content that exists on the page and appears below the title tag in the search engine results pages. Include your targeted, keyword-rich phrases for relevancy so the search engines can recognize the same terms within the title tags, URL and meta descriptions. Like the title tags, no duplicated descriptions should occur on your site; each page should offer specific and unique content.
Tip: Begin your meta description with words like “discover,” “learn,” “understand,” etc., to compel readers to seek your page and engage with your website.
On-Page Best Practices for SEO
3 = the average number of seconds most consumers wait for a website to load on their desktops
If the file size of your images is too large, it may slow down your website’s load time, which will not only increase the number of bounces your pages receive (resulting in less traffic staying on your site), but also reduce your page rank because search engines review load time as a factor within their ranking algorithm.
Tip: By using the option to “save for web” in Photoshop or Illustrator, you will produce a good quality, but smaller sized file image. You generally want your file sizes no larger than 70kb. Jpgs look best on the web since gifs and pngs must reduce image quality in order to stay at a reduced file size.
250 = the fewest words you should use on a content page to serve as a credible source for search engines
Your main focus when writing copy is to make the user take action, which involves selecting a topic that resonates with visitors, then including terms that draw organic traffic. Once they organically land on your site, they’ll want to stay and read your compelling content, but if it’s too short you’ll leave the visitors wanting more. Remember: The job of a search engine is to provide the very best content for each search query. Do you think small blurbs of content would do the best job to meet the needs of their searching audience? Definitely not. More info on this topic is available in our Google Cares About Your Content piece.
Tip: Keep in mind that H tags (H1, H2, H3, etc.) do not count as content when tallying the final word count.
1 / 250 = the recommended ratio for internal linking on a page is one link for every 250 words
Keeping this ratio rule in mind will help reduce the chances of overdoing it with internal links on your own site to new or highly relevant evergreen content. Having too many links will not only make your page appear less credible to the search engines, but it will also distract a visitor and provide a poor user experience while reviewing the content on your page. If your page has more content, I also encourage you to include an external link (when relevant) within the text. Search engines will see your site as a more credible website because you, too, are trying to provide the best content for web users.
Tip: To avoid confusing search engines, when creating hyperlinks the anchor text should also be the ranking keyword phrase for the page you’re directing traffic to, not the keyword phrase chosen for the current page. The right anchor text will help drive page rank to your deeper pages and inform search engines that you are migrating traffic to that page to learn about the terms used as your anchor text. For external links, use the terms that will help visitors know where they’re going since they’ll be leaving your site.
Despite the level of creative, compelling content your website provides, without the critical elements necessary to optimize material for the search engines, your content will not be reachable organically by those you hope to target. Search engine optimization is a complex, never-ending process, dependent upon tactics requiring execution so that you rank well with search engines.
While this article merely skims the surface, I hope it provides you with some quick tips to maintain your status on the search engine honor role! The great news is that we’re here to help, so feel free to comment within this post or contact us with any questions.