Today, Google is the most popular search engine. But years ago, there were many search engines competing for consumers, so how did Google win the search engine war? The short answer is that they were simply better at connecting users with more pertinent results. They focused on the end user and this is the foundation of how they still operate today. But specifically how do search engines find the information from your web page and figure out how to rank you among those who are looking for your site? Google, and other search engines, use a process called “spidering” because it crawls over the web and indexes information that it finds and puts it in a database. This allows the search engine to provide users with the specific information they are looking for quickly. And as you may have guessed, there are specific ways to optimize your website so that search engines can easily find the relevant information that they need in order to properly index your site. Read on to learn more about spidering and the amazing fundamentals of search engine optimization.
If you’ve been following my blogs, you know that search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of affecting the visibility of a website. Increasing organic ranking results come from a combination of both on-site and off-site tactics. On-site optimization pertains to what you can do on the actual website pages and off-site tactics pertain to external factors, such as attracting inbound links. An internet “bot” enables spidering to happen and it is basically a piece of software that crawls over the billions of web pages at a much faster rate than what is possible by a human. This bot goes by many names including, web crawler, web spider, web scutter, automatic indexer, and Google calls theirs “Googlebot.” In addition to crawling along your site, these spiders also follow links from one page to the next, so this is one of the reasons why relevant links to your site are so critical to gaining higher organic results.
While there are a number of off-site tactics you can do to attract inbound links, this blog is focused on on-site (or on-page) optimization best practices. Getting down a precise, targeted list of keywords is the first step in conquering on-site SEO. These words are very important because they tell the spiders what your site is all about. To begin, brainstorm a list of keywords that your consumer might type in to find you. So if you sell shoes, you may want to write down terms like sneakers, high heels, pumps, boots, etc. Once you have this list, its time to hone in on the ones that will most likely drive the right type of traffic to your site. These words should be relevant to your business, frequently searched terms, and not overused by your competition. Then you are ready to use Google’s AdWords Keyword Planner to do some basic analysis and implement your final choices into the tactics below.
Please note that you will need to have access to the code or use a content management system (CMS), such as WordPress, in order to execute the following.
Each page on the web has an official title, which is located in the HTML code. This often will show up at the top of a browser and is arguably the single most important element that greatly impacts your on-site SEO. Search engines pay a lot of attention to titles because they often summarize the page. It tells both search engines and users how relevant your site is for a particular topic. This is also referred to as a meta title. See example below of the location of a title.
A meta description is the summary or snippet of information that appears below the link of a search result. The objective is to entice viewers to click on your link, so it should be descriptive and use relevant keywords. Without an optimized meta description, search engines will simply pull text from your content, so it is important to clearly write your own description that summarizes what you want to say and to attract the right audience. See example below of how this may look when it shows up on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP).
Keep your URL, or web address, structure organized and easy to read. Words are much more beneficial when it comes to a web spider reading your information over just numbers. For instance, if you are searching for information about shoes, a URL with the structure of www.example.com/shoes is easier for your search engine to read than a number like www.example.com/87372. And use a hyphen if it helps with the clarity of the URL, such as www.example.com/red-shoes (vs. redshoes). If it is easy for a human to read, then it will be easy for the Googlebot to read.
H TAG (OR HEADING TAG)
There are six heading tags, and H1, which is used as the main heading of a web page, is the most important. These tags are part of HTML code and they have brackets around either side of your title. They are displayed in code as such: <h1>Web Page Title</h1>. On the website, this code translates to the largest size font. While H1’s influence has diminished over time, it is still an important factor. Always use an H1 tag at the top of your page and if you have a lot of copy or a long blog (that is 1,500 words or longer), use sub-category headers (between H2 and H6) so it is easier for the people who visit your site to read the information. And, of course, use the keywords where appropriate in these headers.
Using images within your website is a smart idea because it makes your site more appealing and helps support your points. In addition, when you place a picture, be sure to describe it in the label, and in the alt text. Alt text allows a person who is impaired, such as a person who is blind, to be able to listen to a description so they know what the picture is all about. Another benefit is, since search engines cannot really “view” images like humans, by adding a specific title and alt text description, it tells the spiders the content of the image. If you have a picture of red shoes, label it red-shoes.jpg and also use a similar description in the alt text of this image.
Often times, people think that the only links that count are those from other websites. Even though these links are important, linking between the pages of your site is a necessity. This makes it easy for visitors to navigate around and find your content on the site. Plus, it ensures your site gets properly spidered so that the search engine finds all your pages in conjunction with your relevant keywords.
While there are many tactics, these are among the most important ones so that Google, and other search engines, will properly spider your site. If you continually create new high quality content, attract relevant links through off-site tactics and implement the on-site efforts described above, you will be on your way to mastering the amazing fundamentals of Search Engine Optimization.
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Want to learn more about search engine optimization? Check out the following resources, where I obtained some of the above information: What is SEO / Search Engine Optimization?, #TBT: Why Google Won the Search Engine War, Most Important Technical On-Page SEO Elements, How to Write an Effective Meta Description, In 2014, How Important Is an H1 Tag for SEO? and Using Keyword Planner To Get Keyword Ideas and Traffic Estimates.