Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process for making web content search-engine-friendly. SEO facilitates the search engine bot crawling your pages and makes the nature of your content clear to the search engine algorithm so that it’s recognized as highly relevant and will likely appear high in the search results.
Search engines reward content in the search results for being clear and user-friendly, so optimization is about making content exactly that. Certainly, you should ensure that your webmaster understands SEO, but your web content creators need to understand optimization, too. This means they should understand some of the technical stuff — so that every content creation effort includes optimization (rather than leaving it as an afterthought).
Optimizing Your TEXT BASED Content
Optimization is about making your content understood by the search engine bots. I cover this in detail in my book and you can get this free SEO Best Practices Guide here, so for this article I am going to concentrate more on optimizing images, video and news. However I will quickly cover just a few points about typical page optimization first.
One of the most important elements is the title tag. The page title tag is set off by the tag <title> and it serves a number of purposes. It usually states what the page is about and is viewable to users in a number of places. In the search engine results, and on many social networks, the title appears as the link for the website. It also appears at the top of the browser when you are viewing the page, and if your browser is tabbed, it will be the name of the tab for the page being viewed. Therefore, it’s meaningful to humans as the identifier for your page’s content. It also has a major significance to search engines.
Next, you have the meta description. The meta description typically would be viewed by the user in the search engine results as the descriptor text about the result. For the humans viewing the search results, this description is very important and should make it quite clear what visitors will find when they click to your content (see REI example below). Therefore, you should avoid generic descriptors, like “Welcome to our home page.” A good description concisely states the purpose of the page content and includes your keywords. It is your opportunity to sell the individual on clicking through to your page. Search engines limit the amount of real estate they will give to descriptions and normally have limit of about 150 characters. Anything more than that limit is usually cut off.
The meta keywords tag doesn’t seem to have any impact on helping page rankings. Actually, as late as fall 2010, they’ve been known to hurt rankings if overstuffed with keywords. Some webmasters have been known to paste as many keywords as possible into the tag just to get them in there, and they lazily place the same keyword tags on all pages. They have found out the hard way that this has had a negative impact on their rankings. The lesson is: Optimize the tag but go easy. Err on the side of caution and include only a few truly relevant keywords.
Optimizing IMAGES for Search
Because images get searched quite regularly, the images on your website need to be optimized. Images can appear in the main search results if Google determines that image results are relevant to a particular search. Your image could appear, even when your other content pages don’t.
Because search engines can’t derive full meanings from images, they rely on the context of the page on which the images are found to identify relevance to the query. The search engine uses the words on the page on which the image is located, along with the meta tags for the image, to understand the image’s contextual meaning and its relevance in search.
The metadata for images includes source (i.e. file location and name), alt, and title tags. For best results in search, all of these tags should be used and optimized for your images.
- Alt tags serve as alternate text to describe the image when the image is not available. For text-reading software, alt tags are read aloud so that images can be understood by the listener. A good alt tag is a simple phrase that is keyword-rich and adequately describes the image.
- The image title tag is similar to the alt tag, but it displays on the scroll-over by the mouse. The title will help the visitor to understand the context of the image, and therefore it should describe it accurately and with detail. The title tag should be keyword-rich but it should also give a better sense of the context of the image. The alt and title tags are imbedded within the image source code as follows: <img src=“pepperoni_pizza.jpg” alt=“pepperoni pizza” title=“pepperoni pizza with proper distribution of pepperonis”>.
- Not only should your alt and title tags be keyword-rich, but the filename for your image should also contain the keyword that you’re optimizing.
Optimizing VIDEOS for Search
The Internet video phenomenon has made it much easier for anyone, including marketers, to use video for communication. Video does not have to be professionally produced in a studio to be interesting, enjoyable, or go viral. It only needs to be compelling.
Most video-hosting sites provide an embed code that you can paste into your webpage’s HTML, allowing visitors to play the video from your page. Post the video to YouTube and, when it goes live, grab the embed code and post it to your site. You should also create and optimize branded channels for your business on YouTube, Vimeo and others. This way you can increase your brand recognition and leverage your successful videos to promote your other content.
Here are some tips for optimizing videos:
- Make sure your video title is keyword-rich, but give it some pizzazz. Drab titles that appear to viewers as only keyword-conscious will lead them to believe that the video itself is just marketing propaganda.
- For the video description, make sure it clearly represents the content of the video and contains your keyword phrase. Lead the description with a link to the most relevant page on your website, that way it will ensure that it displays so that users can easily click on it.
- As with images, when posting video to your site, be sure to optimize the description and title tags.
- Optimize the video filename and URL in the same way that you would with images. Make sure they incorporate the keywords you’re targeting.
Optimizing for NEWS for Search
Even if you’re not a journalist proper, you might find that you produce industry-related news all the time, whether it be through your blog or other means, and that you want to be recognized as a new source in your industry. Though it’s a great time to jump into online news, it still takes work to get news content to rank in search, so it’s critical to know of ways to optimize your news-oriented content.
- In order to have your website’s news feed included in Google News, you’ll need to submit your blog or press release sections directly to Google News. They will review your content, and once it’s approved, they will start including your content in their news feed. Google News has specific requirements for adding news sites to their pages.
- To publish news content that ranks with actual news sites, you’ll need each article that you produce to exist on a static URL, meaning that every article you produce will be listed on a separate page, rather than having multiple articles compiled on a single page.
- News articles should be optimized for keywords in the same way that you would optimize other content. The body of the article should have your keywords included but the article should not run the risk of appearing to be keyword-optimized.
- Article headlines should be interesting and grab your readers’ attention. Be sure that you’ve optimized the meta data (title, description, and keywords) for the keywords you want to isolate. By including the keywords that you want to rank for in the title tags, you greatly increase your chances to get ranked for that keyword.
You should include SEO as an integral part of the content development process. It isn’t extra; it’s part and parcel. If your content producers are thinking of SEO as they develop text, images, and video content, it will greatly ease the effort on SEO implementation. Your content isn’t finished and ready to launch until it’s optimized.
Do you have any other tidbits when it comes to optimizing content for the search engines?