Join David Booth for an in-depth discussion in this video Optimizing textual page elements, part of SEO Foundations.
- The main goal of a search engine is to guide people to content that is relevant to a certain keyword or phrase that they search for. We can fine tune the relevance of your page for a certain topic through the process of on page optimization. The Explore California website has a page focused on backpacking tours in California. And let's imagine that through our keyword research we decided that we wanted to optimize this page for the phrase backpacking tours in California. Let's walk through how we might optimize the different elements on this page for that particular search term.
The first element we're going to optimize is the URL. The URL is the location of the page we're looking at and you can find it up there in the address bar. You can think of it almost like a file on your computer, and much like the path to any file on your computer, we can follow some simple guidelines that allow us to create a good URL that can be found and understood quickly. The URL length should be as concise as reasonably possible. While at the same time, it should contain some usable information about the page itself. You might find that your website structure uses a system of sub folders and this can be good and that it helps with the site structure.
Perhaps most importantly, you'll want to make sure that the keyword phrase we're targeting is found in the URL. Here, we can pick out the individual words of California, tours and backpack which is certainly helpful. But if we're targeting this page for backpacking tours in California, we can probably tighten that up a little bit. So let's go ahead and change this page name to backpacking-tours-in-california.html Of course you'd actually have to rename this file and integrate it into the navigational structure of your site. But this one is short, it's very descriptive of the page and it matches the keyword phrase that we're targeting.
Also, notice how I'm using hyphens instead of spaces or underscores in the URL to separate the words. This is important and it helps the search engines to understand these words properly. The next element we'll look at is the meta title tag and since it doesn't show up here on the page, we're going to dive into the source code of this particular page. If you're a programmer, you'll probably be right at home here and if you're not, it's still a good idea to keep watching so that you'll be able to talk the talk when it comes to implement these things on your own website.
This page's title tag is pretty generic. And it doesn't really give a search engine any indication that this page is about our target keyword phrase. Let's go ahead and change this to something like backpacking tours in California - explore California. Again, we're keeping it fairly short, it's very descriptive and it's very targeted to the phrase we want to rank for. Notice that we didn't simply use our target phrase by itself or just repeat it over and over. Here, we included the -explore California at the end.
One reason for this is that the meta title tag is also the title that's used on the search engine's results page listing. Not only are we trying to optimize the title so that search engine identify the theme of our page, we're also trying too entice users to click on it when they see it in the search results. In this example, we believe that mentioning the website name might reenforce the context of where this page lives and help convince people to click our results over the rest. But don't make the title too long or detract to much from your target keyword phrase as it will need to be readable.
Too long and it will get cut off by the search engines. Tools like the Moz Title-Tag Preview Tool can help you to visualize and test how your title will look on a search engine results page. Another meta tag we can configure is the meta description. Although optimizing this tag for your keywords won't likely do much to improve your search engine rankings and it's largely ignored by the major search engines in their algorithms, it can improve your search engine result's click-through rate. And this is because this tag is often used as the text that shows up under the title of a listing in the search engine's results page.
You'll want to spend some time writing compelling text that will lead people to click on your site and using keywords in your description will help reassure users that this is exactly what they're looking for. Next, let's take a look at the h1 header tag. This is typically the markup used for the main visible headline of your page and search engines know this. The purpose of using it is to give the reader a clear idea of what the content below is about, much like a newspaper headline does.
This current header tag backpack Cal is not very descriptive or specific to our target keyword phrase. And our programmers have actually added a few different header tags throughout. The first step is to remove all the other h1 tags. With just this one left, let's take a look at what this means to a human visitor. You'd have to read through the text to actually realize that this is the name of an organization. But most people won't stick around long enough to do that and think about how confusing that must be to a search engine. Well, that might be important information to include later in the content.
It's probably a waste of such an important header so let's try to improve this element. Backpacking Tours in California provided by Backpack Cal not only clarifies this message but it also works in our target keyword phrase. There are no defined character limits to headlines but much like in the news world, it's more effective to be concise. Now at this point, if you were a search engine, you've seen a URL, a title and a headline that are all talking explicitly about backpacking tours in California, and you're starting to get a pretty good idea of what this page is about without reading any other text.
But we do have lots of other texts. We have the content itself. And the most important thing about your content is that it needs to be optimized for people first and search engine second. Make sure that you're content is written so that it communicates to your target audience in a way that's really engaging. As far as the search engines go, there's no magic formula for the perfect page. But what you want to remember is that search engines are trying to emulate a human being reading something and then figuring out what it's all about. Search engines are looking not only for your target keyword but also for variations of that keyword.
It just makes sense that in a piece of content about backpacking tours in California, words like backpack, trip, outdoors and vacation will popup here and there. Different word orders are likely to be a part of the narrative and if you were a search engine, you probably wouldn't be surprised if words like tent or map show up as well. Search engines can get very sophisticated trying to map the semantic and thematic relationships between words on a page which is exactly what we as humans do. So ultimately, writing the way you would write for a human is the best way to optimize for these algorithms.
And while there's no hard and fast rules, you might use a general rule of thumb of including your target phrase one to three times in an average piece of text. Of course if your text is longer, you may want to adjust that. Very generally speaking, don't over think it and don't overdo it. One more element to optimize on this page are the images. Let's take a look at this first image. As human beings, we can look at this and quickly figure out that those are some footprints next to the words Backpack Cal. But when a search engine looks at it, all it sees is a bunch of dots and different colors.
It can't tell that they're aligned and colored in such a way to spell out words or pictures. So they rely on a few other signals to understand what those images are. Now of course, some search engines are making tremendous progress in this space but by and large, it's a difficult task for them to achieve. So let's take a look at the code of this Backpack Cal logo. Inside this image tag, you can see a few attributes. The first one is the source. This tells the browser where to find the image so that it can be loaded. The alt text is reserved for a description of the image for those people who have browsers that can't see the image itself.
Both of these elements can be optimized to accurately describe what the image is about and also help support the keyword phrase we're trying to optimize for. Just like we changed the file name of this page in the URL, we can also change the file name of the image. And of course, rename the image file appropriately to use the keyword phrase we're targeting on this page. Something like backpackingtoursinCalifornia.gif. We can then update the alt text to something like Backpacking Tours in California by Backpack Cal to be more descriptive to both the humans that need this description and the search engines that are trying to figure out what the image is all about.
While there are many more items on a page that can be optimized, focusing on your URL, title, description, headers, body text and images will take care of a very big chunk of your on page optimization. Of course, doing this from the very beginning is the ideal situation. But take a look at the existing pages of your site after you've done your keyword research and mapped your pages to your target phrases. You might be surprised at just how much optimization there is for you to do already.
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- What is SEO?
- Understanding how search engines index content
- Researching keywords
- Using SEO tools
- Optimizing pages for keywords
- Optimizing code and site structure
- Building links to your content
- Optimizing nontext components of a webpage
- Analyzing content quality
- Defining your audience, topics, angle, and style
- Promoting your content via social media
- Measuring SEO effectiveness
- Setting up Google+ Local
- Optimizing ecommerce sites for search
- Configuring sites for mobile