In my post a week ago I discussed how to build an effective website that promotes your products and services. In this post I want to zoom in even further to look at the elements required to creating an effective web page.

Even if you hire web developers to build or manage your website, it's important for you as well to have a basic understanding of the various elements necessary to build a successful web-page. Ignorance of these things may be bliss until you realize you have spent hundreds or even thousands of dollars on a beautiful website that is in no way search engine friendly.

Having a basic understanding of the construct of your web pages allows you to ensure that the marketers will be able to work with what's been developed without asking for a redesign of the entire site. To successfully optimize your pages for search engine rankings many key elements that must be properly implemented.

Title Tag

Websites don't operate like a book or a brochure, where pages simply flow from one to the next. Every web page on your site is considered a unique document and it needs to be able to stand alone, as well as part of the collective whole. To help establish each page's "identity" (for lack of a better word,) each web page should be given its own unique purpose. The page's title tag is used to identify that purpose.

The title of each web page is found in the <title> tag between the opening and closing <head> tags. For the most part the title is unseen to the visitor except in the top bar of your web browser or in the search results.

<head>
<title>E-Marketing Intelligence - Up to date search engine marketing information from the Internet marketing experts.</title>
</head>

Your title needs to accurately reflect the content of the page. Keep it short, approx 8-12 words, and include the primary relevant keywords. Since this appears as the clickable text in the search results you also want to make it compelling. You're competing for attention here so make it good.

The title tag of each page should be unique. Don't use on-size-fits-all title tags, throwing them all dozens of site pages at a time. Take the time to craft one specifically for each page.

Meta Description

The Meta Description tag is a way to provide the search engines a summary of the page's content. Completely unseen to the human visitor, it can sometimes be displayed as the descriptive text below the clickable title in the search results.

In your code, the Meta Description is placed between the <head> tags below the title.

<head>
<title></title>
<meta name="description" content="(EMP) E-Marketing Performance, E-Marketing information and search engine marketing resources: Featuring up to date search engine marketing and optimization information covering a variety of topics relevant to the search marketing and Internet promotion industries. Search marketing information to render your competition powerless." />
</head >

Your Meta Description should be between 20-50 words in length. It factors in very little in terms of search engine rankings. Your primary benefit is as the description text in the search results, so again, use keywords but make it compelling. It's still a good idea to use unique descriptions on your pages, especially if you are targeting specific keywords. If your page doesn't have a specific keyword focus then it's OK to leave off the description completely.

Meta Keywords

The Meta Keyword tag has so little relevance that it's barely even worth mentioning here. Typically it appears below the Meta Description, but again, it can be left off entirely and nobody would be the wiser, not even the search engines.

<head>
<title></title>
<meta name="description" content="" />
<meta name="keywords" content="e-marketing intelligence, Internet marketing information, search marketing resources, search marketing industry news" />
</head>

Heading Tags

Heading tags are generally used as paragraph headings for your body content. It's a short headline placed in <hx> tags (<h1>, <h2>, . . . <h6>.) On the page they are excellent for providing visual separation of content, making pages easier to skim.

<body>
<h2>Heading tags are really neat-o</h2>
</body>

Headings should be used as you would outline a term paper. Each page should only have one H1 tag. Your main sections of the page should use H2 tags, and then sub-sections can use any lower numb heading tags as needed.

You can also use your H2 as a sub-headline below the H1, in which case your main sections would be H3 with sub-sections using lower heading numbers as needed.

Body Content

The visible text of each web page is the single most important element for marketing and ranking purposes, with the exception of the <title> tag. Most body content is located between the <body> tags and usually placed in <p> (paragraph) tags.

<body>
<h2></h2>
<p>Your main body content sells your product or services</p>
</body>

It's important that the textual content be in HTML form and not embedded within images or flash. Search engines are getting better at reading images and flash, but nothing beats text used in the proper paragraph format.

Use your keywords within the textual content but don't muck it up by trying to stuff them in everywhere you can. Text should be written in natural language, clear of grammatical and spelling errors.

Images

Images can be used to convey many important concepts and visual cues to the visitor while also giving your site a more professional or elegant look. It's important to use images properly but within moderation, consistent with the needs of your target audience. As mentioned earlier, text in images is typically invisible to the search engines, so use text within an image only if it is unimportant to the search engine optimization and ranking process.

In the HTML code, images are placed using the <img tag and designating the location of the source (src) file.

<img src="/images/logo_main.jpg" />

When using images, be sure that each is used appropriately to enhance the concepts conveyed on the page it is on, is clean, and works to help "sell" your product or service.

Alt Attributes

Within each image you can add "alternative" text which appears when visitors have their images turned off. Alt text can be found in the "alt" attribute of the image tag and is a great way to describe or name the image for those that can't see it.

<img src="/images/logo_main.jpg" width="401" height="130" alt="EMP E-Marketing Performance, Search Marketing Information to Render Your Competition Powerless!" border="0" />

You want to be sure to use alt text conservatively and properly for each image. Don't use alt text just to stuff additional keywords into your page, but only to properly describe what the image visually conveys to the viewer.

While there is a lot of other code needed to build a web page effectively, these are the key elements used when optimizing your pages or just making them search engine friendly. Throwing your keywords into one or all of these tags won't suddenly get you top rankings, but when used properly they provide both the search engines and your visitors better cues to the content and value of each page.


July 30, 2009





Stoney deGeyter is the President of Pole Position Marketing, a leading search engine optimization and marketing firm helping businesses grow since 1998. Stoney is a frequent speaker at website marketing conferences and has published hundreds of helpful SEO, SEM and small business articles.

If you'd like Stoney deGeyter to speak at your conference, seminar, workshop or provide in-house training to your team, contact him via his site or by phone at 866-685-3374.

Stoney pioneered the concept of Destination Search Engine Marketing which is the driving philosophy of how Pole Position Marketing helps clients expand their online presence and grow their businesses. Stoney is Associate Editor at Search Engine Guide and has written several SEO and SEM e-books including E-Marketing Performance; The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!; Keyword Research and Selection, Destination Search Engine Marketing, and more.

Stoney has five wonderful children and spends his free time reviewing restaurants and other things to do in Canton, Ohio.





Comments(22)

Great and really informative article as usual.

There are a lot of companies that don't understand these key elements and therefore don't use them. For any company to succeed on search engines, all of these tags need to be used, but used properly so they don't look spammy. In my job I've learnt to use these tags effectively so they are search engine friendly and still make sense to the users.

I look forward to reading your next article!

Finally, a summary of SEO that is straightforward and easy to read. Thank you (as I hurry off to edit my page titles)

This post is a helpful one for all those who are interested and putting so much effort in making their sites more and more good.

These are guidlines that sometimes we often take for granted and this is a great help.

Thanks for sharing this with us.

Beg to differ on the importance of keywords. Google doesn't have keyword research tools for no reason. Saying keywords are of no significance is a way for lazy SEO's to cut back on the work they do for clients. Nobody knows for sure what the algorithms consist of. Better to do proper keyword research if you're taking money from a client for SEO.

Bob, where did I say keywords are unimportant? The Keyword Meta tag is near useless, but nowhere did I imply keywords were.

Thank you for quick overview of key information. As an SEO consultant I am finding that reducing the description length to fit mobile phone or twitter searches of 140 Characters works better for actually having the seach engines pick up the description you wrote rather than content on page.

@Bob Phillips:

Bingo, Bob. Meta keywords may have a chequered history, but we can't write them off as valueless.

Even if they're assessed for negative value, that's still value in the eyes of an algo.

Bad juju when we try to second-guess any SE's take on keywords.

Very nice, to the point for on page seo.

I read recentl;y that on page for competitve terms may only account for 5-10% of the ranking. (Aaron Wall's site.) The surprise was that domain authority was as much as 25% of on page for non long tails. I cant figure our what DA really is...and ive searched a LOT. Domain registartion is specced as a 10-15%, so it is a seperate calc. THoughts?

Just advised a buddy on his company's website. They were not using the title tags the way you described. Rather, they put their company's name and a slogan. Nice post!

This is something that a lot of people should know about, especially those who wants to start business on the internet...we receive lots of offers through our emails from people or company that says can build traffics to our website, but they don't give us information on how we should do with our website in order to have visitors and traffics. Thanks for the great post you have here Stoney!

semenax

Very nice, to the point for on page seo.

I read recentl;y that on page for competitve terms may only account for 5-10% of the ranking. (Aaron Wall's site.) The surprise was that domain authority was as much as 25% of on page for non long tails. I cant figure our what DA really is...and ive searched a LOT. Domain registartion is specced as a 10-15%, so it is a seperate calc. THoughts?

Great article to help individuals & small businesses with the basics of SEO, and also as a timely refresher for everyone else who has experience in optimizing web pages.

One question though. Over on www.HubSpot.com, the recommendation is no more than 70 characters (not words & including spaces) for for Title, no more than 150 characters for Meta description, and no more than 10 key phrases. Does it make a difference between characters and words, as long as it is not too long? Because search engines (I checked Google & Yahoo!) only show up to about 150 characters for the description while the number of words shown depends on the length of the words making up the sentence.

@ Patricea - Don't get too boged down by specifics. These are general guidelines. Nothing is a magic pill, if you go over, no biggie. You primarily want to be aware of what shows (or rather, what doesn't show) in the search results.

@ Bennie - I never suggested keyword research, or keywords were not important. Only the keyword meta tag. I still add it to a lot of pages, but it's value is so minimal it's not worth the time it takes to discuss.

@ Scott - Domain Authority is more of a site-wide issue. How long the site has been around, how many links point to it, how many other high-domain authority sites link to it, if it's been tagged as a spaming site, etc.

Excellent explanation, but I'd just like to add to the debate about the keyword metatags. I understood that Google validated the keywords in the metatags against the content of the page to ensure that they were genuinely relevant to the content and marked it down if the keywords weren't reflected in the content. Does anyone else have a view on this?

@ Janet - but what does that mean to validate it? My guess that is more of a spam filter validation than one for ranking boost.

Regarding tags you forgot to mention that the img alt tag only provides a caption on IE, but for Firefox and browsers that more closely follow the W3C recommendations you need to include the title= tag too. In fact, if you just use the title tag, IE will still display the caption correctly.

Excellent reminder and great for beginners to SEO. Thanks for posting this. Law of Attraction

Overall a very good article. One item that I differ slightly on is the overall number of words in the Title. My rule is usually six or less in order to not dilute the value of each by having too many.

Thanks for the reminders on how to use basic tags for on page SEO.
One question: is the name of the meta tags case sensitive? I have all in capitals and the seo for firefox plugin (x-ray button) only seems to find empty tags although they are filled.
Thanks in advance for a quick reply.

it is not case sensitive for the search engines. Uppercase, lowercase, whatever, it doesn't matter.

What is your opinion regarding keywords in the image subdirectory and image file names?
e.g. Your company is ABC and sell a product, so images/abc-product-logo/abc-product-logo.jpg or at the very least use the company name e.g. images/abc-logo/abc-logo.jpg.

After all, consider the results of a search on Google images for ABC logo and you named your logo image file logo.jpg.


I think those things help with getting your images to show up on image optimization. Not sure how much benefit it has in normal SEO but it certainly wouldn't hurt.

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