The first step in any search engine optimization (SEO) effort is to make sure that your website is ready for Google, Bing, and Yahoo to “crawl” and find information. The programs that search engines employ to find information on the web are bots (not humans), which means they are programmed to find specific information in specific places online; if your website doesn’t have the right information and keywords in the right places, the search engine bots will skip over it, which lowers your ability to show up in organic results.
First: Meta Data
The first step in any on-site optimization process is to optimize the meta data on every page of the site. Three key pieces of meta data are:
- Page titles
- H1 headers
Page titles and descriptions are the back-end information on the site, and don’t appear anywhere on the page, but they are critical in the process of getting Google and other search engines to recognize your site and the products and services you provide. Optimizing these two things involves creating page titles and descriptions that are descriptive and accurate, and including keywords and phrases as long as it sounds natural in the content (we’re definitely not into keyword stuffing, and search engines aren’t fans of that either). While these are not necessarily public-facing fields, the information we put in page titles and descriptions can show up in search engine results, so we want it to be quality, readable content.
H1 headers are another aspect of meta data, but these do appear on the pages of your website. The key is to make sure that in the back-end coding for your site, they are properly identified as H1 headers. We may also recommend making some changes to the wording in headers on your site to make it more search-engine-friendly, and may also include keywords and phrases here, as long as it sounds natural.
Second: Additional On-Site Optimization
Once your meta data is optimized, we’ll review your site for a few other things that make it user-friendly for search engines, including:
- Alt descriptions
- Content length and quality
- Keyword density
Alt descriptions are the text that search engines see in place of an image on your website (since they’re not humans, they can’t see the image; alt text tells the bot what that image is showing). Since it’s additional text on the back end of your site, it provides another opportunity to include keywords, phrases, and information about the products and services you offer. Content is also an important part of site optimization. Search engines like Google want to know that you have good content that is going to provide value to people searching, so we always recommend content length of at least 300 words per page (but we won’t discourage content that is longer, since longer content signals greater depth and information on a topic to a search engine). There may be some pages where aesthetics dictate having less content and a cleaner look with more white space, but those pages would be the exception, not the rule. It’s also important to have unique content on every page; duplicate content that shows up in multiple places on your website tells a search engine that the site doesn’t provide much value to your audience and may hurt your SEO efforts. Keyword density, or the number of times your keyword or phrase appears in the content on a specific page, is the final piece of our on-site optimization puzzle. The exact number of times that a keyword or phrase appears depends on the length of the content. So, for example, in a page with 500 words we would try to include your keyword or phrase about two times. The caveat here is that we also want it to sound natural, so we will never force keywords into a page just for the sake of having them in there.
The ultimate goal with on-site optimization is to show search engines that your website is the correct “answer” to the question that a person is asking when they search. It’s the foundation to any SEO strategy, so it’s the first thing our team will focus on with any new SEO campaign. Once your website is optimized, we’ll move to the next step of off-site optimization and link-building.
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