Maintaining a separate page for keyword variations: DON’T!

Here’s a quick PSA (Public Service Announcement):
Having a separate page for each variation of a keyword is EXTREMELY outdated and ineffective. Not only is this practice frowned upon by Google and other search engines, it is also misleading to your clients – and anything that is even a little misleading to users is definitely looked down on by search engines.
Every now and then I’ll find a site that has a page about car repair, car maintenance, and car tune-ups.
If you drive a car, you know that all of those phrases describe basically the same thing. Anything you say about car repair can also said on a car maintenance page. This technique was used commonly by web developers years ago. Today, however, this technique is one of many that was quickly abandoned within the industry.

If you’re worried that the search engines could miss one of the possible variations, keep in mind that the search algorithms used today are more than advanced enough to figure these things out. For example, if a user searches for “car repair” but your page is titled, “car maintenance,” your site is very likely to come up as well. If you do decide to have multiple pages for each keyword variation, you run the risk of taking a lower ranking for any keyword or phrase with leading search engines.

If your current site has a page structure similar to this, fixing it isn’t a complicated process. With a redo of page structure and some 301 redirects, you can have your site fixed and avoid this problem. WordPress has a number of plug-ins that can help with this, or you can contact your web developer and he or she should be able to get the issue squared away.

Key Place to Use Keywords

Getting your website up and running is step one. Step two is getting people there. One of the first things to review and spend some time with on your website is the use of your keywords. There are a couple of key places those keywords should show up on each page.

Page Titles

Page titles are what users will very possibly see first in Google. The blue link that you click on in Google to get to a page is the page title. So many times when I do a Google search for something, I’ll see that the company’s name is in the first words in the title. For some companies, this is fine. For example, one of our clients is Green Bay Doulas. Two of their main keywords are “Green Bay” for where they’re located, and “doulas” for the services they provide. For many businesses, however, their company name doesn’t include one of their keywords. For those businesses, I know it can be tempting to put your company name at the very beginning of the title, but that is a much better place to put your keywords. Once a user gets to your site, there are plenty of other opportunities to let them know what your company name is. First step though is to use your keywords to draw them to your site.

Heading 1 Tags

While the page title may be one of the first things that a user sees that draws them to your site, the Heading 1 tag (H1) on the page is key to getting a good search engine ranking. The H1 tag should inform both users and search engines as to the page’s subject. Search engines generally view this tag as being of higher importance than other HTML elements on a page, and they will use it to help identify keywords of the page. Once the search engines have those keywords identified, you’ll have a much better chance of having your page show up in a search for those keywords.

Page Content

The third key place to use your keywords on each page is in the site content, such as within paragraphs and lists. Having the keywords show up again in the content will, in essence, confirm to search engines that this is the ideal keyword for the given page. However, be sure not to use your keyword too often. If a keyword is used too often, most search engines will assume you are tricking them into a higher ranking. In general, attempting to trick search engines will not work, and is likely to hurt your page ranking. This practice could even result in your site being kicked out of ranking.

Using your keywords in these three key places will help your page get both a better page ranking and a better user click rate. If you haven’t determined your keywords yet, contact Full Scope Creative. We can run a keyword report and go over some possible changes to make on your site in order to get a better page ranking.

Is the Meta Description Still Important?

One of the rules I often tell people about SEO (search engine optimization) is to do things for human users only – NOT for search engines. One of the most important things to do to help a user find your site actually does very little for a search engine perspective. Years ago, search engines such as Google and Yahoo, used to read through a web page’s Meta description. Today, however, search engines pay little to no attention to Meta descriptions. That said, they are still a very important part of any site’s SEO.

So if a search engine pays such little attention to the Meta description, why is it so important? Simple – we humans read it when we do search. When someone does a search on any of the leading search engines, the sentence or short paragraph description of the site is the Meta description. It’s those 150 or so characters that describe what the page is about and give us a quick snapshot of what we’re going to find on that particular page.

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In the above image, the text inside the red boxes is the Meta description. In the second listing, you’ll notice the ellipsis (“…”) at the end. That particular page’s Meta description went over the 150 – 160 character recommendation so anything after that is simply left off.

People like to know immediately what they’re going to be seeing on the page they’re about to click. Due to that, the Meta description is an excellent chance to convince the user that your page is in fact the page they are looking for. No cheesy sales pitch, no Ron Popeil, “But wait, there’s more!” type of gimmicks. Simply explain in approximately 150 – 160 words what the page is about. You don’t really need to worry about using the keywords. Though it will help, the big goal of the Meta description is to convince the user to click the link and visit the page.

While the search engines themselves pay very little attention to the Meta description, they are still a very important part of any SEO program. Optimizing the Meta description for each page will provide a much greater chance of that link being clicked on by the end user. At the end of the day, that is the goal of SEO.

SEO Friendly Links

While it may not have a huge impact on your overall search engine ranking, SEO-friendly links are still important. Whether your links are nice and polished like,  “http://domainname.com/page-name” or dynamically generated like,  “http://domainmae.com/?p=8675309”, search engines and users will be able to read through the page. The benefit, however, of friendly SEO links is that they can be crafted to contain keywords of the given page.

If you have multiple words in mind to use in your SEO friendly links, separate them with a hyphen (-). If the words are hyphen separated, search engines will view each word individuall. If everything is all together, searching engines will only view them “asoneword.”

In WordPress, this is all very easy to do. Toward the top of the page, just under the field for the page name, there is a link named,  “Permalink.” The SEO-friendly part of the link is what comes after the domain name (www.domainname.com/). Just to the right of that is an edit button. Once you click on the Edit button, the last section of the Permalink will become editable and you can change it to any keyword needed for that page.

As with any SEO technique, the goal should always be to help make your site more enjoyable for users as opposed to getting a better SEO ranking. If a user looks at a URL such as http://domainname.com/page-name, they are going to have a much better idea of what that page is going to be about than if it was listed as http://domainmae.com/?p=8675309. This can help users choose to click on your link when they see it in search results.

While they may not have the biggest impact on search engine ranking, optimizing your site to have SEO-friendly links is an important objective that shouldn’t be overlooked. They are a simple and effective way to make your site more user-friendly.

Welcoming guests to your site

From an SEO (search engine optimization) standpoint, there is one spot that a lot of website really miss the mark. Far too often, I visit a website that has a line something like “Welcome to ABC Company.” I already know I’m welcome to the site. If I wasn’t, you would (or should) have it blocked of with a user login. Not only is saying “Welcome” not needed, it could actually be hurting your site in search engine rankings.

On your homepage, the first line of text in the body of the page should be a Heading One element and it should have a keyword or two in it and read like a sentence. Since many times people will be searching based on your keywords and not business name, you don’t need to have that in the heading. For example, if you had a business located in Green Bay that does heating and cooling work, a good use of that heading would be something like “Green Bay’s Heating and Cooling Professionals.

Each page of your site should follow this same techniques with having a Heading One element at the very top of the content and having one or two good keywords in it.. If you are having trouble deciding what keywords to use, look at your analytics and see what keywords people have been using to find that page. Put one or two of them together and have them read like a sentence. The Heading One element really should only be used once on each page, but should be used at least once.

Most leading search engines look to the Heading One on each page to help determine the keywords for that page. Help them out as best you can, and pick out a keyword or two for that page and put them in that Heading One. If you can’t find a keyword, that page maybe shouldn’t exist. And if you have more than two (three at most) keywords to use, you may want to think about setting up additional pages for the later keywords. Your visitors already know they are welcome to come and explore your site, use the Heading One to help with your SEO ranking instead.

Address on Each Page

For many small businesses, they aren’t looking for nationwide exposure. They are instead looking for increased exposure in their hometown or state and surrounding area. To help draw a greater emphasis to your location, it is a good idea to include your street address on every page of your site. Your address will obviously be on your contact page, but it can have a positive impact on local searches if that address is listed on every page. There are two key places to add the address, the header or the footer of the website.

If your business is one where people are coming to your location, say a restaurant or retail location, having the address in the header section of your site is a great idea. For any businesses like that, one of the key pieces of information that people are looking for is the address or contact information. For many of our bar/restaurant/coffee shop clients we list their address right away on the site to provide that information to users and help get those users to their location to make a purchase.

If you aren’t a brick and mortar type of business but are still after a certain local geographical area, it would be better to place the address in the footer section of the site near the copyright information. Users don’t necessarily need this information, but for search engines it can help to show where you are located. This way if someone searches for “Electricians in Green Bay” your site can build a greater relevancy to both “electrician” and “Green Bay.”

If you are primarily working in a certain local geographic area, adding your address to each page can greatly help to associate your business with that location (city/state/region). The type of business you have will tell you where to place your address on the site, in the header or footer section.

Strong Website Headings

On far too many websites, there is a big bold line of text at the top of the page saying something like “Welcome to our website.” That line of text is usually a Heading 1 (H1) tag and there should be one on every page. For sites with H1’s like that they are missing out on a couple of great opportunities.

Those H1 tags are important for both users and search engines alike. When a user reads that heading, it is their first indication for what that page and site are about. For search engines, the H1’s help to define the keywords for that page and help in the engine’s ranking of the page and site.

Instead of filing those headings with a useless line like “Welcome to our site” you should include some good keywords for that page. A heading like “Green Bay’s Leader in Carpet Cleaning” would have a much greater impact on users and the search engines than a generic “Welcome” message.

When you are writing a heading for a web page, it should read and sound like normal conversation and in common language. If it doesn’t sound like something you would say to a friend in person, there is a good chance that neither your users or the search engines will respond very positively to it.

Updating your pages main headings is one of the easiest things you can work on to help improve your search engine ranking and your users interaction and retention. It may take a little time and some research, but the rewards can be bountiful.

Before you spend money on SEO

I get a lot of questions from people, both clients and at various networking events, about what they should be doing to help boost their Google rankings. When I review their website, a lot of times the site is fine and using up to date coding techniques. I often times don’t recommend for them to spend money on SEO, instead, I tell them to spend some time going over their website content.

Google, like many of the leading search engines, have stated many times that what they look for is quality, relevant content that is updated regularly. To provide that quality and relevant content, take a look through your Google Analytics and see what types of keywords users are actually using to find your site and compare that with industry recommended keywords (available by doing a Google search) and find what content or wording works best for your site.

Another extremely important feature to make sure is on your site is an active blog. By having an active blog, you’ll be able to provide your clients, prospective clients, and the search engines with regularly updated quality, relevant content. The blog articles should include some of those keywords or phrases that you discovered while reviewing your analytics and industry recommendations.

When you’re writing your blogs and content for the pages on your site, be sure to use some of those keywords, but don’t overpower the content with them. The content should be conversational, as if it was you talking directly to a client or potential client. The leading search engines are such advanced algorithms that they can tell the difference between conversational content and content that is bloated or stuffed with keywords.

If you’re not confident in your writing skills, there’s no shame in bringing in a copywriter or content strategist. Writing quality content can take time, but it can have one of the greatest impacts on your search engine ranking. If after six months of focusing on quality and relevant content that is regularly generated, then you can look for some additional monthly search engine optimization plans.

Google and Responsive Websites

As you’ve probably heard, Google announced earlier this year that they are going to start including a measure of how responsive or mobile friendly a website is in their rankings. In recent years, smartphone and tablet sales have been outpacing desktop sales.

To see if your website is a responsive and mobile friendly site, one of the quickest ways to test is to go to https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/ and test your site there. If your site doesn’t pass the test, it will give you a couple points that could be causing the issue.

As of right now, they are saying that this will only affect Google rankings on a mobile search (if a user is searching on a smartphone or tablet) but I wouldn’t be surprised if this eventually included desktop rankings as well. If you’d like any help getting your site responsive, please get in touch with us today and we’d be more than happy to go over your available options.

Avoid Keyword Stuffing

When you are writing content for your website or blog, you need to know and use some good keywords. Keyword usage is an example of where less is more. Use the keywords (or phrases) too much and you’ll be keyword stuffing – a good way to get kicked out of Google rankings.There is no set rule carved in stone for how much usage of a keyword constitutes keyword stuffing. However, many experts agree that keywords should be used 2-3 times max per page. If you need to use the keyword a 4th time, look for a variation of the word to use instead.
Read more Avoid Keyword Stuffing