Yesterday a client who likes to do a lot of his own webmastering asked me how to improve his search engine placement. Up until now, having a lot of great, on-topic content has served him well.
Of course, as with most people, this customer is primarily concerned with Google, and Google over the past few years has changed a lot of their rules – think Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird.
I slept over gobs of ideas before writing a very long e-mail explaining some of the top things I would consider changing about his six (yes 6) websites.
Here’s what I said:
There’s a lot that’s changed over the past 2 years for search engine rules, (especially Google, and who cares about anyone else, right?). But some things basic rules have remained the same and are easy to follow.
These first two items have always been important.
The title tags at the top of each page should be no more than 70 characters. These titles should be worded specifically to identify the page topic (so, never the same from page to page).
<title>Amelia Earhart | female pioneer in aviation lost in the Pacific</title>
This title would be very specific to helping someone researching Amelia Earhart.
Page titles are one of the most important things you can do right and receive good benefit from any search engine. (By the way, it’s also how page bookmarks get titled, what appears in the title of search engine results, and what is shown in the browser tab.)
Also, just below the <title> tag should be the following tag:
<meta name=”description” content=”type your description of the page’s content here” />
Some SEO experts may tell you to insert a similar line for keywords
<meta name=”keywords” content=”keywords or phrases separated by commas here” />.
Don’t bother. The search engines don’t look at the keyword tag. They’re mainly interested in the first 300 words, or so, on your page for relevancy to Title and Description you gave them at the start of your page.
For best bang for the buck, if you were targeting a particular keyword or key phrase, it should appear in your title, description and in the content of your page.
Outbound hyperlinks from your site.
You can literally hurt your site and the site you’re linking to, if you haven’t added this code to the link: rel=”nofollow”
Generally what search engines are trying to avoid is having websites pass the benefit of their high rank to another site through links (intentionally or not). So this code shows the search engine that you are not trying to pass page rank on to the site receiving the link from you.
When to use it? According to searchengineland.com, the following circumstances:
- Paid Links – If someone has paid for the link, use the rel=”nofollow” to avoid being penalized
- Comments – Unmoderated commenting, say on your blog, should be set to nofollow
- User-generated content – like comments, if you allow someone to contribute content to your site without moderation, no follow will keep your site as being seen as “vouching” for links to bad sites
- Widgets or Infographics – if you don’t want to be seen as endorsing the product/service or content.
- Anytime – you don’t wish to be seen as endorsing a site.
At one time it was good to build sites that linked to each other, particularly with the goal of passing traffic back and forth. And, if another site that was a highly-ranked authority on a topic related to your topic linked out to you, that was once beneficial and may still be (see circumstances above). So although, you can link to others from your site, and it certainly benefits the recipient to have visitors come to their site from yours, you should consider whether it makes sense to “appear” to endorse a page. Without the rel=”nofollow” in the link code, you may actually being doing more harm than good.
Now, I know you will next ask, how does this rel=”nofollow” get into my link code? Here is what a link should look like if it is to show it.
<a href=”http://thewebprofessional.com” rel=”nofollow” />The Web Professional, Inc.</a>
Bear in mind, this is only relevant to outbound links (to other sites, not internal links to pages within your own site). In the case of an outbound link, it may show target=”_blank” (and I hope it does, because that opens the link in a new window and keeps your web page open too).
So, what does it look like?
<a href=”http://thewebprofessional.com” target=”_blank” rel=”nofollow” />The Web Professional, Inc.</a>
I’ll just bet if you read this closely you might be wondering, did she use rel=”nofollow” on her link to SearchEngineLand.com? Well, first I do highly endorse them. There’s some great stuff there, but just to be safe, yes, I did “nofollow” that link.
Until next time… questions?