Intermediate Search Engine Optimization Tactics
Intermediate Search Engine Optimization Tactics
[This is the second in a three-part series about Search Engine Optimization. Read Part One here]
In our first installment on search engine optimization (SEO) we covered introductory methods of enhancing a website’s presence in SERPs. Here we’ll go more in-depth on previously discussed strategies and explore more advanced tactics to enhance optimization even further.
Permalinks and URLs
Content management systems (CMS) like WordPress are website creation tools that build websites in an SEO friendly way. By creating permalinks (permanent URLs) they add keywords to the site’s title. We’ll refer again to a mythical small business named Sarah’s Cupcakes. Let’s say Sarah’s website is SarahsCupcakes.com and she writes a blog post titled “Red Velvet Cupcake Recipe.” Instead of a garbled mix of letters and numbers, WordPress will create a more readable URL for that page.
Example: Instead of the URL SarahsCupcakes.com/231ghek7/578.htm the permalink would read SarahsCupcakes.com/red-velvet-cupcake-recipe. This technique helps crawlers determine that the page is about a recipe for red velvet cupcakes. Even if Sarah gave the page a more cryptic title, WordPress allows her to modify the URL to display whatever she chooses (more descriptive is usually better).
Meta data is critical information used by search engines to display pages in SERPs. It consists of . . .
1. The Meta Title which is the webpage’s title. Google will display up to 60 characters in a title before truncating the rest.
2. The Meta Description appears below the meta title and further describes what the page is about. Meta descriptions are allowed up to 160 characters.
3. Meta Tags are keywords that further describe the page. At one time they may have been important for SEO, but Google’s Matt Cutts has stated that their algorithms no longer use them. The meta tags are not relevant to SEO, but can be helpful when navigating within the site.
Clean metadata is more pleasing to the eye and improves the likelihood that a user will click on a link to your website’s page. WordPress offers plugins like All In One SEO or Yoast’s WordPress SEO that simplify the process of adding metadata.
White Hat vs. Black Hat
In a way, SEO is a game and like any game, there are rules. Play by the rules and you’re rewarded, try to cheat and be penalized. Google recognizes some strategies as acceptable and others as below the belt. White hat tactics are considered best practices, and that’s what any good SEO professional should focus on. Black hat tactics are dishonest, sneaky ways of trying to improve SEO. They should be avoided at all costs.
Black Hat Tactics to avoid:
- Keyword stuffing. Don’t overload your webpages with keywords – it typically makes pages less desirable to read and search engines don’t like it. Focus on quality copy instead.
- Don’t engage in rampant link building. There are plenty of unscrupulous entities who will offer to host a link to your site in return for payment. They then create websites full of random links in order to boost rankings. This is spam and Google recognizes it as such.
- Invisible text. Some web designers will hide white text on a white background in order to cram more keywords into a web page while still preserving the overall appearance. As a form of keyword stuffing, it has the same ill effects.
Google recognizes websites that employ black hat SEO tactics and will penalize them by removing them from web rankings altogether. Not long ago, major rap music lyrics website Rap Genius was removed from Google’s search results because of shady SEO tactics. Google pays close attention and changes the rules periodically to stay ahead of the game. Reputable PR and SEO firms employ white hat tactics that result in long lasting gains, instead of risky black hat maneuvers.
Most websites (especially those with lots of pages) have a site map which is a page with a list of links to all the pages on the site. A site map is very search engine friendly and there are plugins that will create one for you (including the aforementioned SEO plugins).
Marketers are always evaluating their efforts and adjusting as needed to improve their ROI. Google Analytics, in conjunction with Google Webmaster Tools are tools that track website visits and can help determine whether SEO efforts have been successful or not. There are many ways to install Google Analytics and WordPress offers plenty of plugins that simplify the process. Additionally, SEO is just one of many reasons to use Analytics – it’s a critical tool for any website.
Social bookmarking is an SEO tactic where links to your website are posted and “bookmarked” on other sites, increasing your site’s perceived influence. Stick to high quality social bookmark sites and avoid low quality sites that Google will determine to be spam. Links to your site are only effective if they come from a reputable source and bad links can have a negative effect.
In the search engine optimization field, strategies and techniques are always changing. Use good judgment and carefully evaluate new methodologies before incorporating them into your SEO strategy.
Stay tuned for part three on SEO, where we sit down with Ric Dragon, CEO and founder of DragonSearch Marketing.