Recently, Google changed the layout of its search listings and our clients have been asking us what this means for SEO. So, here, with a little help from the Mad Hatter, is Receptional’s up-to-date guide to optimising your webpages.* If you’re familiar with Lewis Carroll’s 1865 novel, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, you’ll know that:
The Mad Hatter Is Definitely Rather Loony
This phrase – or mnemonic – is going to help us remember how to optimize our pages. Each of the letters in green stands for the steps you need to take to optimise a web page.
That list gives you everything you need to know about how to optimize (SEO) a page for the search engines.
So, let’s go through each point in turn.
1. T is for Title tag
The title tag is one of the most important factors for ranking highly in the search engines because it tells Google what your page is about.
You can see the title tag in Google’s listings. Here is the title tag for the Presents for Men website:
And, your browser may show the page title, too. You can see one here for the ‘Presents for Men’ homepage:
You add the title to the page in your website’s content management system. Or, if you’re old-school and code your pages by hand, you might write your title like this in the HTML code:
<title>How to Optimise a Web Page | 7 tips</title>
Let’s work through some dos and don’ts for including a title on your webpage.
Writing titles: do’s and don’ts
There’s little point in getting listed if you don’t get clicks. So try to think of your title as a headline. Make it attractive to your audience. The text will appear in the search results, so you should write a title that encourages readers to click through to your site.
Your prospects are scanning the results, looking very quickly to find a match for their keyword. So make sure your offer is straight to the point!
When creating your title, focus on a primary and a secondary keyword for your page.
Put your primary keyword at the beginning: and your secondary keyword at the end, but in a different way like this.
If your titles are longer than 8-10 words then scanning becomes more difficult and your page may be overlooked.
Google recently redesigned its pages of listings. It used to be possible to fit 69 characters into the title. That’s no longer the case.
Nowadays, Google cuts off the title when it runs out of space on the page, which is usually around 57 characters. But, as some characters take up more space than others, it’s best to check to see how the listing appears once it’s published. If you’re using lots of CAPITALS, or wide letters, it’s worth cutting back on the number of characters you include.
As a rule of thumb aim for 6-8 words and no more than 57 characters. Any longer and Google will simply chop off the end.
Make sure your title tag is relevant to the content of your page. So, if your content is about wooden spoons, don’t have a title tag that mentions Paris Hilton!
Every page on your site should have a unique title tag. Use the same title more than once and Google may see your pages as duplicate content, which means your pages are less likely to rank well in Google’s results!
For punctuation I recommend you use the pipe (|) symbol or dash (-)
Here are some examples of title tags:
Research your keywords
Let’s look at a real-life example. Let’s imagine that one of Receptional’s clients has just written the first post for a new health-based blog.
Our client suggested the title: “Start detoxing NOW … it’s easier than you think”. A quick read through it, suggests it could benefit from some search engine optimisation (SEO). Here’s the first section of the article – we’re going to research some keywords to see if we can improve the headline, then the rest of the copy:
We’ve written down some detox variations – here’s how they appear in Google’s Keyword Planner:
And these are the most popular keywords in the detox niche:
Detox diet is the most searched for variation, followed by detox plan, and so on.
I’ll rewrite the title tag to put the primary keyword up front and take advantage of the traffic for the word detox.
I’ve selected detox diet as the primary keyword and detoxification as the secondary keyword. If you’re working in a particularly competitive market, you might want to choose a long-tail keywords which gets less competition (but maybe higher conversions?).
Notice I haven’t gone for a loose title like this:
This would be optimizing for start your body and we’re trying to get ranked for detox diet and detoxification.
If you’d like more information about keyword research – check out this article about the different keyword types.
Google will often use your meta description tag when giving a summary of your site on its results page.
Again, when writing a meta description, your aim is to get readers to click through to your site.
You should include your primary keywords in the description, working in one or two secondary keywords if you can. The description tag must make sense to a reader, reinforce the title tag and, above all, give readers a good reason to click through to your site.
Length should be 25-30 words and fewer than 156 characters including spaces.
You can see an example here:
As with the title tag, it’s usually put your primary keyword near the front.
Heading tags are used to create headlines and sub-headings on your pages.
Your potential visitors won’t see headings in the search engine results. They will only see them when they visit your site.
The H1 tag is used for your main headline, and you should use one H1 heading tag for each page. No more or you’ll confuse Google.
Here is an example from Mediahawk’s blog (Mediahawk provides call tracking software for marketers):
Use your primary keyword in your H1 tag if you can, but don’t use it if it makes your copy dull. I recommend you write great headlines that make people want to read the rest of your story. Then try and work in your primary and secondary keywords. If you can’t, don’t worry: you don’t want to force keywords into your copy.
For our detox post, this H1 tag is just fine.
H2 and H3 headings
H2 and H3 are used for subheadings; and you should try to include your secondary keyword in at least one of your sub-headings. But, again, don’t stuff in keywords, work them in naturally!
Many people don’t optimize their images: and this is a missed opportunity.
We know from the SEO site audits that Receptional run for clients that hardly anyone bothers to optimise their images. So, optimizing images can a great way of getting ahead of the competition.
You should include keywords in the file’s name and in its alt text.
‘Alt text’ means alternative text. It’s simply text that is shown if a visitor cannot view the image, for example if they’re using a screen reader due to a visual impairment.
Make sure your file names are keyword-rich and diverse. It’s a great opportunity to include some long-tail keyword terms.
Notice that both the file name and the alt text are keyword rich.
Your alt tag should be no more than 70-80 characters and should be a literal description of the image.
Another useful tip is to create a caption beneath the image. You can gently work in your target keywords, and it looks completely natural.
You’ll help your SEO if you sprinkle your primary keyword and several variations throughout your text. This lets Google know your page is relevant, and you’re likely to pick up long-tail traffic, even if you’re not yet top of the search results for your target keyword.
The key is diversity! The more on topic language you use, the more likely Google thinks you know what you are talking about and will regard you as an authority.
Here’s an example of where it went horribly wrong:
What are your site’s visitors going to think when they see that? Oops. Most visitors will click away, they’ll go somewhere else. Google knows this too and will devalue your site. So, when you’re creating copy, make sure you’re writing for humans.
Google rewards you when your content is relevant to the search.
Ask yourself, “if someone searched for this keyword and came to my page, would they find it relevant to their search? Would they stick around?”
Google monitors how long visitors stick around for, so if you can honestly answer “yes” then you’re doing a great job! And Google will reward you.
A rough rule of thumb is that a blog post needs to be at least 400 words: and longer posts can work even better – as long as the quality remains high throughout.
Even if you don’t rank well for your target keyword, you’ll probably start attracting traffic from long-tail keywords, combinations of your target keywords that we can’t even think of, but which searchers will use.
Google knows you’re reputable when other people link to you from relevant and reputable websites.
But the first thing is to look reputable yourself!
Which means make sure you have quality content that adds value for your readers.
Quality content means a higher chance of getting decent links, which is the most important step in SEO; even more important than everything we’ve already discussed.
Google and other search engines will see a link from another website to your page as a vote by that website for you. So it’s important that your online marketing includes some link building activity.
Google also looks at how you link to your own pages. You’ll help your readers and Google if you include relevant keywords into the anchor text of the link. It’s some of the best and easiest SEO you can do!
So don’t link to your page with the text “click here”. Instead, use linking text which contains the keywords you want to rank for.
Let’s say I wanted to link to the Morgan Pryce website. By using the linking text commercial property agency it’s clear, dear reader, to both you and Google what type of business they are!
What did you learn?
This brings us to the end of the tutorial. I hope you’ve found it useful.
Let’s go back to the Mad Hatter … and recap on what we’ve covered so far:
If there’s one final tip I can give you it’s this: Don’t stress about SEO. Lightly implement this method and then forget about SEO. Focus on delivering value to your readers and promoting your great content. Too much focus on SEO means you’re less likely to connect with your readers.
* I first published this guide as a screencast for Wordtracker, based upon an original by Wordtracker’s founder, Mike Mindel and the brilliant SEO consultant Mark Nunney. Many thanks to them for their initial work.
Once you’ve optimised your pages, the next step towards better rankings is to build links. Receptional are expert link builders – get in touch to find out how we can help promote your site.