SEO Expert Guide - Page Optimization (part 5/10)
In parts 1 - 4 you learnt how to develop your online business proposition, generate a list of key words and optimize at a site level. You were also introduced to our mythical Doug (who sells antique doors, door handles, knockers, door bells or pulls and fitting services) in Windsor in the UK.
Now it is time to focus on optimizing each individual page. My key message is keep each page brief! You shoul only be covering one key product, service or key piece of information per page. If you find yourself covering more, split the content and create more pages!
Keyword density is a key concept in page optmization and be defined as "The number of times a keyword is used on a web page divided by the total number of words on the page. Expressed as a percentage". Another key term is keyword relevancy, which is defined as "the frequency with which key words that are related to each other appear on the page".
(a) Metadata Optimization
Experts disagree on the importance of metadata. In the good old days, metadata was heavily used by search engines to rank sites. Now, as a result of abuse by webmasters, the main engines largely ignore metadata in ranking sites. However, metadata is still used by search engines to compile site descriptions in search engine results and (for that reason alone) is work investing a little time in!
The META-Description tag is one of the few META tags that can be considered important, as it is used by some search engines as the description to your site. You should keep it to less than 180 characters (so that it is not truncated by the engines) and make sure (i) it reads well, (ii) includes keyords in reasonable density, (iii) attracts browsers to click and (iv) describes the target page accurately (using words repeated in the page title, first heading and first paragraph of the page content). Doug (for his home page) opts for the following:
"Antique doors and door fitting from Doug Chalmers of Middlesex, UK. Old door knockers, door bells and other door hardware in brass and iron, shipped worldwide."
The META-Keyword tag is today almost useless, so I would not spend too much time on it. Simply put your A-list of keywords for each page between the tags (remembering that four of the ten should be common to each page on your site and six specific to the page in question). Use spaces, not commas, to separate keywords. On his door knocker page, Doug opts for:
"antique door brass hardware knocker iron decorative engraved old knobs"
Just about every other tag is pretty useless to be honest. I would avoid altogether the generator, copyright and author tags (they just clutter up your code) and only use the Content-Type, Content-Style-Type and Content-Language tags where your site is not in english.
The only other tags I would consider are the ICRA rating tag (which can draw traffic from a number of new family-friendly search engines) and a geo-locational tag (e.g. ICBM tags). Both these tags could become more widely used in the future, so are worth at least considering.
(b) Title and Heading Optimization
The title tag is not a meta tag but is absolutely vital to search engine optimization. Title tags are (i) displayed in the top of a browser window, (ii) typically used by search engines to generate the link that appears to your page in the result listings, and (iii) used as bookmark titles for your page. For all these reasons, it is vital to get them right.
They should be descriptive and short (ideally under 100 characters) and should make good use of your keywords. Overuse of keywords can be considered abuse by search engines, but this will not happen if you write the title as a breadcrumb trail (which is the approach I recommend). As an example, consider Doug's door knocker page:
"antique-door-knockers.com > Door Hardware > Brass Door Knockers - decorative, engraved old knockers and knobs"
The title summarises the page well, whilst also positioning it within the overall site structure. Hardly anyone uses this sort of approach - which is all the more reason why you should. It is by far the best way to differentiate yourself and climb up the rankings.
Search engines pay attention to heading tags, which is why I am often surprised to find webmasters not using them. Some avoid heading tags because they haven't learnt how to control their appearance, using style sheets or their web authoring software - but this is a lazy and costly mistake! Doug uses the following headers to structure his door knockers page:
Generally, I would avoid going down to sub-sub-headings (heading 3) as search engines will attach less importance to each level down in the nesting and dilute the value of the higher levels. If you find yourself needing heading 3, I suggest splitting the content onto separate pages.
(c) Page Structure Optimization
We talked earlier in the guide about the importance of the top-left of your page. On your home page, this area should be a site map of the whole of the rest of the site. On your money pages, this area should contain your first heading(s) and first paragraph.
Some search engines will only measure keyword density and relevancy over the first few lines, rather than the whole page. As such, pay particular attention to how you start each page. Here is an example from Doug's door knockers page:
Decorative knockers (heading one)
You will notice a few things here. Firstly, the liberal use of internal linking (to home page, category page and product page level). Secondly, the use of B-list key words (like Victorian and Edwardian) and, in particular, related key words (like old, classic and collectible). Thirdly, the bolding of the keyword combination lion knockers (not overdone and perfectly understandable in this paragraph).
The rest of the page should continue in a similar vein (although you can be a bit more relaxed and focus on the more tedious but important details more making a sale, like dimensions, prices, etc.) On money pages, the very bottom of the page should be where you put your formal navigation to the rest of the site.
(d) Page Text Optimization
You may have gathered some of the key points already. Use bold or italics sparingly to strike out key words (but only when justifiably in context). Use your two-and-three word keyword chains we identified in part 3 (keyword analysis). Above all, however, aim for no more than 450-600 words in total on each page (and ideally near the lower end of that range).
Opinions differ on ideal keyword density. Much depends on how competitive your key words are and how many you are targeting seriously. For your top four (and sitewide) key words, I would aim for a density of 20% for each word individually in sector one (where sector one is defined as title + headings + bold text + italicised text + alt text).
The general density for regular page text content (sector two) - should be 2-4% for your page specific (and most important) keywords, 0.8% - 1.5% for your two/three keyword chains and 0.2%-0.5% for related key words (but with plenty of them).
Like Doug, you should use the Spannerworks Keyword Density Analyser to measure the density of your copy and keep on refining it until you are happy with the results.
(e) Page Image Optimization
I mentioned alt text in sector one above. Generally, I would keep images to an absolute minimum in your site (and only to make the site visually appealing). Where you do use images, however, I would make sure that you have descriptive alt text for each image which (i) helps the disabled user to uderstand the image and (ii) is dense with key words. For example, Doug uses the following alt text for an image of a knocker:
Reproduction Regal Lion Head Door Knocker (in polished brass, also available in cast iron)
Note there is no need to say "image of" at the start of your description (in fact this will only tend to annoy disabled users who make use of screenreaders, as their software will tell them it is an image before reading to them the alt text).
Next we turn our attention to the promotion of your site...
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David Viney (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the author of the Intranet Portal Guide; 31 pages of advice, tools and downloads covering the period before, during and after an Intranet Portal implementation.
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