I think that sometimes, we in the field of search marketing try to make the concept of ranking more difficult than it really is. True – there are hundreds of ways to build a link, an infinite number of keywords, thousands of unique sources to drive traffic along with analytics, design, usability, code structure, conversion testing, etc. However, when it comes to the very specific question of how to rank well for a particular keyword in standard organic results at the engines, you’re really only talking about a few big key components.
#1 – Keyword Usage & Content Relevance
While I don’t believe in keyword density (reference: nonsense), there’s no doubt that using your keywords intelligently and creating a page that is actually relevant to the query and searcher intent is critical to ranking well. My general best practice is to use the primary keyword phrase as follows:
- In the title tag once, and possibly twice (or as a variation) if it makes sense and sounds good (subjective, but necessary)
- Once in the H1 header tag of the page
- At least 3X in the body copy on the page (sometimes a few more times if there’s a lot of text content)
- At least once in bold
- At least once in the alt tag of an image
- Once in the URL
- At least once (sometimes 2X when it makes sense) in the meta description tag
- Generally not in link anchor text on the page itself (this is a bit more complex – see this post for details)
For those who’ve done the nonsense words testing to see how the engines respond, you know that you can certainly get some extra value out of going wild and stuffing the keywords all over the page, but we’ve also seen that once you reach about this level of saturation I’ve described above, you’re getting about 95% of the value you can get, and even the tiniest amount of extra link juice can make a page like this outrank a “super-stuffed” page (usually).
#2 – Raw Link Juice
Some people call this PageRank or link weight or link power – basically it refers to the raw quantity of global link popularity ascribed to the page. You can grow this with internal links (from your own site) and external links (from other sites). A page with a phenomenal amount of global link power, even if the sources aren’t particularly relevant and the keywords are barely used, can still rank remarkably well in Google & Yahoo! (MSN & Ask are both a bit more keyword & subject focused from what we’ve seen).
Link juice operates on the basic principle that was used in the early PageRank formula – that pages on the web have some (low) inherent level of importance and that the link structure of the web could help to point out pages with greater and lesser value. Those pages that were linked to by many thousands of pages were very important and thus, when they linked to other pages, those pages must, by extension, also have great importance.
Carrying this theory back to your own pages, you can see how raw link juice will have a large impact on how the search engines score their rankings. Growing global link popularity requires both link building (so your site has enough link juice) and intelligent internal link structure (to ensure that you’re flowing that juice to the right places).
#3 – Anchor Text Weight
As the search engines evolved in the early 2000′s, they picked up on the usage of anchor text and found that by weighting the keywords and phrases pages used to link, they could get an even better idea of what pages would be about and which were most relevant to particular subjects. The anchor text of links is now a critical part of the ranking equation, and when seen in great quantity, it can overshadow many other ranking factors – you can see plenty of web pages that are weaker in all the other three factors I describe here ranking primarily because they’ve earned (or, oftentimes for commercial terms, bought) many hundreds or thousands of links with the precise anchor text of the phrase they’re targeting.
Note that anchor text comes from both internal and external links, so if you’re trying to optimize, it’s wise to think about how you’re linking to material from your own pages – using generic links or image links may cost you some of the ranking power you’d otherwise earn by having internal links with accurate, relevant anchor text. However, you can go overboard here, so be cautious – and note that 100,000 internal pages linking with anchor text doesn’t provide the same value as 100,000 external links with that text.
#4 – Domain Authority
This is the most complex of the factors I describe in this post. Basically, domain trust refers to a variety of signals about a site that the search engines use to determine legitimacy. Does the domain have a history in the engine? Do lots of people search for and use the domain? Does the domain have high quality links pointing to it from other trustworthy sources? Does the domain link out primarily to other trusted sites? Do analytics and registration information and temporal link growth fit with expected patterns?
To influence this variable positively, all you really need to do is operate your site in a manner consistent with the engines’ guidelines. If you want to earn a lot of trust early on in a domain’s life, get lots of sites that the engines already trust to link to you. And if you’re looking to spoil that trust, link out to bad neighborhoods, use manipulative link growth practices that don’t match up to queries or traffic patterns and play the churn & burn game.
As a wrap up, I’d love to hear your opinions on these four factors and whether you think there should be 5, 3 or 20 instead.
p.s. Remember that this post is my personal opinion only! Sure – I’m basing it on my experience, which is relatively robust, but I don’t doubt that others have there have very different conceptions of what comprises the bulk of the rankings equation, so please use your own judgment.
Back to basics time this Friday, and this time, it’s all about the only meta tag that still has relevance; the meta description tag. Meta descriptions have three primary uses:
- To describe the content of the page accurately and succinctly
- To serve as a short, text “advertisement” to click on your results in the search results
- To display targeted keywords, not for ranking purposes, but to indicate the content to searchers
Great meta descriptions, just like great ads, can be tough to write, but for keyword-targeted pages, particularly in competitive search results, they’re a critical part of driving traffic from the engines through to your pages. Their importance is much greater for search terms where the intent of the searcher is unclear or different searchers might have different motivations.
There’s a few good rules to follow when writing meta descriptions that take advantage of their use in pulling in search traffic:
- Always describe your content honestly – if it’s not as “sexy” as you’d like, spice up your content, don’t bait and switch on searchers or they’ll have a poor brand association.
- Character limits – currently Google displays up to 160 characters, Yahoo! up to 165 and MSN up to 200+ (they’ll go to three vertical lines in some cases). Stick with the smallest – Google – and keep those descriptions at 160 characters (including spaces) or less.
- Write with as much sizzle as you can while staying descriptive – the perfect meta description is like the perfect ad – compelling and informative.
- Just like an ad, you can test meta description performance in the search results, but it takes careful attention. You’ll need to buy the keyword through PPC so you know how many impressions it received over a given timeframe and can track your CTR.
- Unlike an ad, the motivation for natural search click is frequently very different than that of users clicking on the paid results. Don’t assume that a successful PPC ad will transition into a good meta description (or the reverse).
- It’s extremely important to have your keywords in the meta tag – the bolding done by the engines can make a big difference in visibility and CTR.
- You shouldn’t always write a meta description. Although conventional logic would hold that it’s universally wiser to write a good meta description yourself, rather than let the engines scrape your page, this isn’t the case. I use the general rule that if the page is targeting 1-3 heavily-searched terms/phrases, go with a meta description that hits those users performing that search. However, if you’re targeting longer tail traffic, for example with hundreds of articles or blog entries or even a huge product catalog, it can sometimes be wiser to let the engines themselves extract the relevant text. The reason is simple – when engines pull, they always display the keywords (and surrounding phrases) that the user searched for. If you force a meta description, you can detract from the relevance the engines make naturally. In some cases, they’ll overrule your meta description anyway, but it’s not always wise to rely on that.
So, we’ve now completed the triumvirate of on-page basics with title tags, meta descriptions and URLs. If you’ve got some valuable meta description writing techniques, please do share.
Many people in SEO groan at the thought of meta-tags.
After all, meta-tags for ranking is dead for SEO, isn’t it?
In fact, meta-tags have begun a startling revival.
A couple of key points about why you should consider taking meta-tags more seriously:
1. Google duplicate content filters
Google has had real problems this year in determining what may or may not be duplicate content.
Sites with generic, or absence of, meta-description tags, may find themselves going supplemental, or simply not showing properly for their content.
Heck, even well-known sites such as SEOmoz and Threadwatch may have issues here.
Going supplemental is an invitation to traffic loss, so take pre-emptive action by setting up unique meta-description tags on your pages.
2. Clickthrough rates
There’s no point ranking for good keywords if the description under your search engine listing sucks.
Absense of a meta-description at best leaves search engines looking for a random sampling of text that may be relevant.
Why leave it to chance?
Increase your clickthrough rates from listings by actually better controlling the text with the listing by setting up unique meta-descriptions tags for your pages.
And try to ensure you include a marketing hook very quickly in the description tag.
If you are ranking, tell search engine users why your page is so relevant for their query.
Google doesn’t appear to use meta-keywords to rank webpages/sites.
But Yahoo! does.
Yahoo! still commands a respectable 30% of US search traffic, and even where the market share is really small (such as the UK), strong Yahoo! rankings can still prove very cost-effective.
So add some spice for Yahoo! Search by focusing on your meta-keywords tag.
No, I’m not advising you keyword stuff the tag – but at least make the effort to set up keywords in your tag that Yahoo! can process that for ranking purposes.
All too often people can get fixated on the details rather than the bigger picture. Decent meta-tags are a part of that bigger picture.
This is especially when it comes to clickthrough rates. After all, what’s the point of ranking for competitive keywords if you leave clickthroughs to chance?
Search engine users want a quality experience – offer them that by taking care of the details of your site that can help work best in the big picture.
Description tag is another useful meta tag which takes prominent place at your web site’s header. There are SEOs who think that there is no worth using this meta tag, but majority of them still agree that this meta tag helps in optimizing websites for Yahoo and Msn, in this article you’ll learn how to effectively utilize it.
What Is The Meta Description Tag?
It’s an HTML tag use to feed description to search engines, it gives description of webpage to search engines, it is declared after title tag of the webpage under head tag.
Example: <meta name=”description” content=“Your Home Page Description”>
Why Is The Description Tag Important?
Description tag is the very important tag, search engines take webpage description through this tag, though search engines don’t give any importance to this tag in their ranking algorithms but this tag can lead searchers to motivate and visit your website.
Tips To Write Effective Page Description Tag:
- Describe your complete webpage in one single line or in a small paragraph
- Forget about keywords, focus on “call to action” words with respect to page relevancy
- Avoid covering complete website in one paragraph, try to focus on page
- Use unique description tag for each page, since each page has unique content
- Keep your description tag’s limit under 160 to 250 characters, longer sentences won’t give any value but they can be hurdle in deep crawl of your web page
- Avoid using special characters such as ! @ # $ ^ & * ( }[ | ? /
- Avoid all capital letter, try to use sentence case
- Use motivational lines so that your listing will be clicked comparatively better than your competitors
- Don’t misguide search engine visitors, write what is available there at the page
Meta keywords tags are not very effective for major search engines, it is always suggested to have them instead of avoiding, a website should be optimized for all search engines not just for the BIG Three. This particular tag doesn’t require thinking process, one needs to put pre-selected keywords in it, keeping few given guidelines in mind.
What Is The Meta Keywords Tag?
It’s an HTML tag use to feed keywords to search engines, it helps search engines to identity the webpage relevance with respect to supplied keywords, it is declared after description tag of the webpage under head tag.
Example: <meta name=”keywords” content=“Your Keyword1, Your Keyword2”>
Is The Keywords Tag Still Important?
Not exactly, keywords tag has lost its value, search engines get smarter these days, they have set their own criteria to identify web pages with their relevancies, they take each word as “keyword OR phrase” present at webpage and they keep those words in priorities with their densities. There is no harm in utilizing this tag for better results.
How to Hide Keywords from Your Competitors?
If you use this tag, then obviously your competitors are going to know where you are focusing and what are your primary keywords? You should use KEYWORDS in BITS, distribute PHRASES into SINGLE KEYWORD, remove DUPLICATE keywords, keep all keywords UNIQUE.
Old Technique: “seo services, seo trainer, seo training, seo consultant, seo outsourcing, outsourcing services, seo consultancy”
BITS Technique: “seo, trainer, services, training, consultant, outsourcing, consultancy”
Tips To Write Effective Page Description Tag:
- Optimize for relevant keywords
- Use group of relevant keywords on a particular webpage
- Put only those keywords which are focused on webpage
- Don’t put all keywords in this tag
- Don’t repeat keywords in this tag
- Don’t use misspell keywords
- Use keywords with small case letter
- Use BITS technique to write keywords
- Each individual page should be optimize for less than 10 keywords