DIY SEO: Website Optimisation

Welcome to Part 3 of the free do-it-yourself SEO Guide. In this guide we’ll use the keyword research conducted previously to optimise the pages of your website.

In the final stages of the keyword research exercise you mapped keywords to the relevant pages of your site. Now we’ll go over where and how to optimise the pages of your site for it’s keywords.

Contents
On-Page Factors
Page Titles
Description Meta Tag
Keywords Meta Tag
Headings
Content
Image Alt Tags
An Illustrated Example
Site-Wide Factors
Menu & Navigation Links
Consistent Linking
Sitemaps

You’ll need to be able to edit the code of your web pages. If your website is built with a content management system you will need to login to your CMS, hopefully there will be an option to edit the source code – or at the least edit the title tags, copy and image properties.

If your website is built with a html editor like Dreamweaver or Frontpage you will need access to your FTP server to get the most recent version of the pages, and the html editing software. Once you have made the search engineoptimisation changes you will upload the new files, overwritting those on the server.

Now it’s time to get started on the Search Engine Optimisation changes. We’ll start with the elements found within the header section of your website, at the top of the code, within <head> and </head> tags.

Page Titles / Title Tags
What are Page Title Tags?
The page title is the text within the title tags, in your source code they might look like this:

<title>Page Title Text</title>.

You can see the page title for each page displayed at the top of your browser window, like so:

title-browser

Correct use of the title tag is one of  the strongest signals you can send to the search engines. If your title tag is relevant to your page content and you have some decent incoming links with similar keywords in the link text you will be well on your way to top search engine rankings.

Ideally the title should contain at least one of the keywords you have mapped to the particular page. Therefore you should consider placing your most important keyword or two in your title. The title tag will fit around 12 words, however you don’t need to use all 12, sometimes the shorter you can keep it the better, as to not dilute the strength of each keyword.

Do not just list your keywords one after the other in the title tag, try and work the keyword into a short descriptive title for the page. One reason for this is that the title tag is displayed in the search engine results pages, so having a list of keywords may not be very tempting for a user to click on.

title-in-serps

Example of Title and Description in Google Results

Usually only the first 65 characters will be displayed in the search engine results pages, in most search engines the title is the first line of your result, linked in blue text.

If it’s important to you to have your business name in the title tag, it is preferable to have it after the keywords. For example:

<title>Cosmetic Dentists, Perth WA – Dentist Business Name</title>.

Description Meta Tag
What are Description Meta Tags?
As in the image above, the meta description is used by the search engine results as the second and third lines displayed. The meta description will not influence the search engines to rank your page higher, however it is important that you use it well to entice searchers to click through to your website.

Your meta description tag may look like this:

<meta name=”descriptioncontent=”Description of the page, optimised to entice searchers to click”>

Keywords Meta Tag
What are Keyword Meta Tags?
Keyword Meta Tags were a major ranking factor used by search engines many years ago, however due to search engine technology evolving and wide misuse (keyword stuffing, irrelevant keywords) it is debatable whether the contents of the keyword meta tag is still used to any extent as a ranking factor.  A negative of using it is that it reveals which keywords you are targeting to your competitors. Your call on this one, don’t waste much time on it though – and don’t use more than a dozen keywords in the tag.

Your meta keywords tag may look like this:

<meta name=”keywordscontent=”your, keywords,  seperated by commas”>

Headings
What are Headings?
No surprise here, headings are used within website content as headlines and to separate content using sub-headers on the same page. However, using the heading tag may be more beneficial than simply using a larger text size. The key is to use your keywords within the headings.

<h1> is the largest heading tag and thought to give the most benefit. An example of a heading tag is:

<h1>Example Heading Text</h1>

Headings should not be abused, typically you would only use h1 once, for the main headline on the page. You may then use h2 or h3 a number of times as needed.

Content
What is Content?
Content is generally everything on your webpage, in this example though I am talking about the text copy on your page. You may have heard the saying, ‘Content is King’ in regards to web content and search engines, and it’s true – unique, quality content is crucial to your long term search engine ranking success.

Ideally you will have at least 300 words of text content per page. Don’t worry too much about keyword density, just stay on topic and create useful, well written content. It’s as simple as that.

Image Alt Tags
What are Image Alt Tags?
Image alt tags (alt attributions) are used to describe an image, which is useful for people who browse with images turned off in their web browser and for the disabled for increased accessibility. For these reasons it is important not to abuse the image alt tag with just any keyword. However, usually the images on a page will be relevant to the content, so you may be able to work a keyword into the alt tag and still provide a useful description.

Image alt tags look like this:

alt=”image description”

in the context of the complete image code they look like this:

<img src=”your-image-file.jpg” alt=”image description”>

An Illustrated Example
Update: A few days after posting this, I came across this great graphic example of an optimised page, which shows all of the factors listed above.


Image Credit: SEOmoz

Site-wide Optimisation

All of the advice above needs to be applied individually to each page you optimise on your site, but there are also some very important site-wide optimisation factors you can employ.

Menu and Navigation Links

If it makes sense to use your keywords as link text in your menu structure, you will receive some SEO benefit from the exercise. This is especially true if you are replacing jargon link text. As usual don’t force it, make sure it is obvious to the user where the link will take them.

Example: A shoe retailer may be using menu link text to their womens shoes page of ‘womens footwear’ but keyword research reveals that they want to be ranking for ‘womens shoes.’

Another Example: A company uses internal jargon in their menu links, no one is even sure where the links will take them because they don’t know what the jargon means. Usability and Rankings may improve by using plain english, obvious keywords in the links.

Consistent Linking

A lot of websites make the mistake of linking to the absolute path to their homepage in some links, and linking to just the domain name in others. Doing this can dilute the strength of your homepage as the search engines will recognise them as separate URLs.

For example, when linking to your homepage (from within your own site and from external links) it is preferable to always link to http://www.yourdomain.com.au instead of http://www.yourdomain.com.au/index.html.

The main takeaway here is consistency in your linking structure, from the menu links, to sitemaps and external links.

Sitemaps

Sitemaps are an easy way to inform search engines about pages on your site to help get them indexed.

Sitemap Page
In this case I’m talking about a page on your site listing and linking to all of the pages within your site. Make sure you link to the sitemap from your homepage so it gets noticed by the search engines. The point of this sitemap is to help get all of the pages of your site indexed.

XML Sitemaps
XML Sitemaps serve the same purpose as sitemap pages, however you can submit them to the search engines through their webmaster tools programs – you just need to upload one to the root directory of your website.

There are a number of free xml sitemap generators online, two I have used and can recommend are http://www.xml-sitemaps.com and http://www.auditmypc.com/free-sitemap-generator.asp.

I’ll write a separate post on creating an xml sitemap and submitting it to each of the search engines webmaster tools as it is not really on-page optimisation.

Once you have implemented the site-wide optimisation, and optimised each page of your website (or at least the important ones) you are ready to move on to Part 4: Link Building.

2 comments

  1. michael   •  

    Dear David, thanks again for the information, i am having trouble locating the items : headings with the html text, i can see title, meta tags, etc, but not headings, do you mind if i show a page of text?
    thanks
    Michael

  2. David O'Donnell   •     Author

    Hi Michael,
    I’ve sent you a personal email reply going into specifics for your site, but just for the benefit of others here is the summation I closed with:

    …Headings play a pretty small role overall so I wouldn’t spend too much of my time on them. I would focus on making sure you have unique title tags, strong descriptions, and quality content, then getting some good inbound links to your site.

    Hope that helps!

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