Hi Jill,

I opened my store through Yahoo but just found out that they don't do anything to get the store listed on anything except Yahoo Shopping. So, I'm on my own.

I did a search engine readiness check on my store yesterday and scored in the fair range. The areas where I was poor, I don't know how to fix -- maybe you could help? To people who know computer lingo, these are probably going to really sound dumb, but here goes.

1. META DESCRIPTION TAG: It said that no Meta description tag was found on my site for any of the 3 key word phrases. What is a meta description tag?

2. IMAGE ALT TAGS: It says my keywords do not appear in any image alt tag. What are image alt tags and do you have any idea how I could get text to appear in them in my Yahoo store?

3. LINKS: My supplier has said to use links. I have looked at informative articles and cannot figure out what exactly these are and how to be sure my store has them. One article says specifically to "use embedded text links so visitors (and search engines) never have to leave the active window. Search engine crawlers bounce to pages from links. Include keywords in links to improve your search engine rankings..."

Anything you could do to help would be appreciated. I'm learning but very slowly.

Thank you.

Merry Lou Gumm

++Jill's Response++

Since I have a ton of recent subscribers who are very new to search engine marketing, it's a good time to answer these basic questions.

First, since your site is a Yahoo Store, it needs to be managed through their proprietary content management system. This means that you may have to do things a little bit differently than someone who is not tied to such a system. Doesn't mean it can't be done, you just have to get used to how to do it through your store interface. It's been ages since I optimized a Yahoo Store, so I can't give you the specific directions you might need in that respect.

Second, any automated search engine readiness check must be taken with a grain of salt. Most of them can only tell you rudimentary things like whether you have certain tags on your page. They really can't tell you whether your site is actually optimized to rank highly in the search engines, nor whether it's poised to make you some money.

With that in mind, a Meta description tag is the bit of HTML code that you can use to describe each page of your site. Its purpose is to tell the search engines what your page is all about in one or two sentences. In the golden-oldie 90's, the description that you placed in this tag would also show up in the search engine results pages under the clickable link to your site. Because of this, I've always recommended writing this tag so that it's a good marketing statement. When it shows up in the search results, it should entice people to click on your link.

These days, most of the major search engines have given up on relying on Webmasters to tell the truth about their pages in hidden tags such as the Meta description; therefore, it's rarely used anymore. Instead, Google started the trend of showing a "snippet" of words from the visible content of your page which matches the searcher's keywords. That said, if a page comes up in the results and the exact phrase searched for is contained in the Meta description tag, Google *will* often display it. Because of this, it's a good idea to make sure that your main two or three keyword phrases are woven into your description.

It's really not critical to use this tag any more, but it certainly doesn't hurt, and in some cases it can help. Since it doesn't take very long to write, you should definitely try to write unique description tags for each page of your site. Keep them short and sweet and highly relevant to the info on the page.

As to image alt tags, they are really not tags at all. The correct terminology is "image alt attribute." This is because the "alt" part is actually just an attribute of the image tag. (Alt stands for alternative text.) Alt attributes are supposed to be used to describe an image (for non-clickable images), and/or to describe the page one would land on if the image is clickable.

A few issues ago http://www.highrankings.com/issue076.htm#seo (see #2) I discussed how alts relate to SEO, so I won't repeat it again now.

If you're not using the alt attribute within your image tags, it's most definitely not the end of the world; however, if all the links to your inner pages are graphical, it would be a good idea to add alts to them.

Your last question was about links. Links are just those blue and purplish (often underlined) words that you click on to move around a site, and the Web in general. Technically, they are called hyperlinks. Do you have them and do you need them? If your site is more than one page, then you already have them. Links can be clickable graphics as noted above, or plain text. It's always a good idea to make sure your links describe exactly what a person will find at the other end after they click. Interestingly enough, this can often be accomplished by using a page's all-encompassing keyword phrase in the links that point to it.

In other words, if you have a page that sells wooden toy soldiers it certainly makes sense to have all the links that point to that page say "wooden toy soldiers." This way your site visitors know that they're gonna probably find wooden toy soldiers at the other end. Well, guess what? The search engines also understand that links generally work that way too, making this a nice little technique for helping your rankings as well as your visitors.
December 16, 2003

CEO and founder of High Rankings®, Jill Whalen has been performing search engine optimization since 1995 and is the host of the free High Rankings Advisor search engine marketing newsletter, author of "The Nitty-gritty of Writing for the Search Engines" and founder/administrator of the popular High Rankings Search Engine Optimization Forum. In 2006, Jill co-founded SEMNE, a local search engine marketing networking organization for people and companies in New England.

High Rankings is an internationally recognized search engine optimization firm located in Framingham, MA specializing in search engine optimization, SEO consultations, in-house training, site audit reports, search marketing seminars and workshops. High Rankings has a 100% success rate for substantially improving client rankings and targeted traffic.

Jill speaks at national and international conferences and has been writing about SEO and search marketing since 2000. She's been quoted in such publications as The Wall Street Journal, U.S. News & World Report and The Washington Post. Her articles have appeared in numerous print magazines and online websites including CIO Magazine, CMS Focus, The Internet Marketing Report, ClickZ, WorkZ, Inc.com, Entrepreneur, Lycos Small Business, WebProNews, SiteProNews and others. Jill has also appeared on many online and offline radio programs such as Entrepreneur Magazine's E-Biz Radio Show, SearchEngineRadio and the eMarketing Talkshow.

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