Most webmasters know at least the basics of search engine optimization. However, there are a lot of smaller factors that come into play with SEO - elements many webmasters overlook when optimizing their sites - that can be used to improve your site’s rankings in the search engine results.
META Tags – Often Dismissed
META information is one of the most often overlooked areas of optimization as most website owner’s have written META information off as no longer important. While elements such as META keywords are largely unused these days by the search engines, there are other pieces of META data that are useful to optimize. The META Description is one such element. Ensure that your META description is concise, rich in keywords, and adequately describes your website. Most search engines will use this description alongside your listing in the rankings. You are missing an opportunity if you make your description too short, and descriptions that are too long will be truncated in the results. While the description may not necessarily help your ranking, it will help get a better click through rate on your search results. As seach engines look more and more towards user metrics, this will be come very important.
Alt and Title Tags
Including an ALT tag with every image is another SEO opportunity that is often overlooked by non-professionals. Search engines look for these niggling details to ensure proper coding, and your site will get a boost in the rankings if the engines find this information. All images should have an ALT tag, no matter how small or inconsequential the graphic is to the site overall. While it is not necessary to include a TITLE with every image, it is encouraged.
You should include a TITLE with every link, however. Links do not have ALT tags, and their TITLE functions similarly. Depending on the search engine, this may or may not improve your standing, but it is considered good coding. Some search engines will look for these tags, while other will not, but all of the search engines check for proper coding. Including these small details can help your SEO, but also helps real visitors. Real visitors who have a pleasant experience on your site are more likely to recommend it to others, increasing traffic and possibly providing a backlink or two to your website.
Avoid saturating the site with keywords, but remember to include them in your ALT and TITLE tags. The information needs to be specific to the element, but also provides yet another opportunity for optimization. Too many keywords is considered “stuffing” and can result in your site being penalized by the engines. Including just enough keywords and search terms so that the site can be more readily found without overloading the engines can be a delicate balancing act, but definitely pays off in the long run. Overall, alt descriptions and title tags should be descriptive, concise, and useful for your readers.
Headings receive more weight than general text, but you must use them properly. There are a number of heading sizes, and each must be used correctly or the search engines may flag your site as spam. H1 headings are only used for page titles and major headings; H2 headings are often used as sub-titles, while H3 and H4 headings are often used for paragraphs. Include keywords and search terms in your headings whenever possible, but remember that this works toward your overall keyword count, so be careful not to overdo it. Using headings correctly can be useful in gaining better rankings.
Good SEO demands constant monitoring and revision. This is one of the main reasons so many companies choose to outsource their search engine marketing (SEM) needs, as opposed to handling them in-house. Good, clean coding, and the correct use of META information, tags, and headings will improve your standing in the search engine rankings, yet many webmasters overlook these opportunities for optimization. Be careful not to abuse these elements or your site runs the risk of being penalized by the search engines, and may be removed from the listings entirely.
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