By John Calday on September 2, 2010
Are you confused by H tags, meta tags, how many characters should be in the meta description, and wondering what Google really looks at? If you think of your website as a book, and organise it like one, you’ll find that tuning the site and its pages for best search engine optimisation (SEO) becomes easy and intuitive.
Web Page Title: Grab a Reader's Interest
A book title should attract the reader’s attention while telling him or her what the book is about. The title of your website’s home page serves the same function. It should describe concisely what your site is about.
When readers look for a book on a shelf, they glance at the title on the spine. There is limited space for text on that spine.
It’s the same story when it comes to a web page and how its title appears in a search engine results page (SERP). Search engines assign limited space for the page title – about 70 characters, according to Google, the most popular search engine. You must use those 70 characters wisely to make your website stand from your competitors on a page of search engine results.
The title for Patagonia's website clearly communicates the company's name, which it's spent a lot of time and money developing into a recognizable brand. The title also tells you exactly what Patagonia sells, even though it's been truncated to fit the line in search engine results.
US Outdoor Store, which does not enjoy as much brand recognition as Patagonia, has wisely chosen to communicate what it sells in its title. The name of the company is so long that the title would not be able to list as many specific items, had US Outdoor Store chosen to include its own name.
Meta Description: A Book Jacket Summary
The meta description of your website appears in black type below the website's title on a page of search engine results.
While a meta description won’t influence your ranking in search results, it’s helpful to think of it as the summary on the back of a book jacket. The content should compel a searcher to click on your site instead of your competitor’s.
Nau's meta description clearly tells a searcher that its clothing is as much about fashion as about keeping you warm and dry when you're outdoors.
Don’t worry about the length of the meta description. Different search engines have different criteria for meta description length. Google will select the part of your description that is most relevant to any given search query.
Perhaps the most important aspect of a website is how easily it can be navigated. If people can’t find the valuable information on your site quickly and easily, they’ll leave.
To extend the book analogy, your site’s navigation is like a book’s table of contents or index. Few people read a reference book from start to finish. Instead, they look for the information they want, using the table of contents or index. Similarly, you should organise your site’s content so visitors can find what they want with as few clicks as possible.
Consider placing a link on the home page to any important information that’s deeper in your site’s architecture. If you place important pages deeper than two levels from the home page add a link to those pages on the home page. This will allow visitors to find buried pages with just one click from the home page.
Arranging your content logically on your site is good not just for human visitors, but also for search engines. If you’ve structured your site so people can navigate it easily, search engines will also be able to find and index your valuable content. Remember, if content is king, navigation is the jewel in the crown.
Headings Tell Your Reader What to Expect
Book authors use headings and sub-headings -- just like the ones on this page -- to draw attention to important information. People skim a website to find what they want the same way they skim a book, looking for headings that tell them where to find the information they’re seeking.
Using the HTML
tags to create headings and sub-headings helps you communicate to both people and search engines what a web page is about. If you need to emphasise one or two words in the body of a piece, use a bold font. Readers and search engines both pay attention to text you’ve marked as special.
What’s Good for People is Good for Search Engines
Search engines use technology to identify which web pages have content that’s important to people. If you use the same techniques and approach on your website that authors have always used to help their readers, search engines will recognize the importance of your content, too.