Lesson 111: SEO Basics

Estimated Length: 15min | Difficulty: Intermediate

In this lesson we will be learning about SEO Basics. SEO is short for Seach Engine Optimization. SEO is the process of affecting the visibility of a website or web page in a search engine's unpaid results - which can also be referred to as "natural" or "organic" results.

The different types of SEO properties we will go over today include Page Titles, Description Meta Tags, URL Structure, Site Navigation, Anchor Text, Image Optimization, Heading Tags, robot.txt, and nofollow.

SEO Basics

Page Titles

The title tag tells both the users and search engines what the topic of a certain page is. The <title> tag is placed within the <head> tag of the HTML document.

It is very important to create a unique title for each page of your website, it helps the user know which page of the site they are on and what to expect on that page.

Example:

<head>

<title>Janes Jewelry</title>

</head>

Description meta tags

Description meta tags give a short summary about the page. These summaries can be a few sentences or a short paragraph, unlike page titles which are usually just a few words.

Meta tags are also placed inside the <head> tag at the top of your HTML document. Search engines can use the information in your description meta tag as a summary for your site.

Example:

<meta name="description="content="Janes Jewelry is an online jewelry and accessories shop specializing in unique, vintage, and repurposed pieces.">

URL Structure

In terms of SEO, a websites URL structure should be:

- Straightforward: No confusing redirects on the website.

- Meaningful: URL names should have keywords in them, not a jumble of numbers and punctuation marks.

- Emphasis on the most important URLs: SEO-wise, not all URLs on a site are of equal importance. Some even should be concealed from the search engines. Also, it is important to check that the pages that should be accessibe to the search engines are.

What is a URL?

A URL is a human-readable text that is designed to replace the numbers that computers use to communicate with servers. They also identify the file structure on the given website.

URLs should: Use hyphens to separate words when necessary for readability. Do not use underscores, spaces, or any other characters to separate words. They should never be longer than 2,048 characters; otherwise Internet Explorer will not be able to load the page. They should also avoid the use of parameters.

Example:

Bad or "Ugly" URL:

www.janesjewelry.com/?p=578544/a9jvl4032k5lx79z.html

Example:

Good or "Pretty" URL:

www.janesjewelry.com/shop/necklaces.html

Site Navigation

Certain types of site navigation and site structure may hold back or completely prevent search engines from getting your website's content. As search engine spiders crawl the internet, they rely on the structural design of hyperlinks to find new documents and revisit those that may have changed.

Complex links and deep site structures, with little distinctive content and too many graphics can serve as "bumps", and information that cannot be accessed by spiderable links may work as "walls."

Possible "Speed Bumps" for Crawlers:

-URLs with more than two dynamic parameters

-Pages with over 100 unique links to other pages

-Pages with more than 3 clicks away from the home page

-Pages using a "Session ID" or Cookie during navigation

Pages with "frames" can hold back the site crawling and confuse spiders about which pages to rank in the results.

Possible "Walls" for Crawlers:

- Pages requiring a drop down menu (HTML) to access them

- Image map navigation structure

- Pages accessible only via a select form and submit button

- Documents accessible only via a search box

- Documents blocked purposefully (via a robots meta tag or robots.txt)

- Pages requiring a login

- Pages that re-direct before showing content

The best way to ensure that your sites content is completely accessible by spiders is to have a direct, static HTML link to every page you want the search engine to index and rank in the results. If a page cannot be directly accessed from the website's homepage (the page where most spiders start their crawling), it is less likely to be indexed by the search engine.

Example:

Good Site Navigation:

Janes Jewelry(Home) > Shop > Necklaces

Anchor Text

Anchor Text is the visible, clickable text that hyperlinks display when linking to another document or location on the web. In modern browsers, it is often blue and underlined.

Search engines use this text to help determine the subject matter of the linked-to document. If many sites think that a particular page is relevant for a given set of terms, that page can manage to rank well even if the terms never appear in the text itself.

Image Optimization

For image SEO, it can be helpful to think of image optimization as being something like optimizing a tiny webpage within your page. Things like url structure, anchor text, and descriptive tagging are all factors for optimizing images for search engines, just like a regular webpage.

Tips for Optimizing your images:

1. Find the right images: Finding the right image is very important. Great images can make the article or page even more interesting and bring more attention to your page. Some great websites to find images are flickr.com, stock.xchng, and iStockPhoto.

2. Use the keyword(s) in the filename: Just like keywords in post urls are important for pages, the same is true for images. Using keyword-rich words in your image filename is important in helping search engines determine relevancy.

3. Create descriptive alt text: Alt text or tags are another way that search engines help determine what your image is about. Unlike regular web content, search engines can't determine the text content of an image. As a result, serach engines need to rely on captions around the image, alt text, file names, and other surrounding text. Adding descriptive text in the alt tag helps the search engines determine what the content of the image is.

Heading tags

Heading tags (<h1> - <h6>) are used to show the heirarchial structure of the page, with <h1> being the largest and most important heading and <h6> being the smallest and least important heading. Using headings can help users tell what text is important and it also helps them scan the page faster and easier to find the information they want. Avoid using too many headings, as it can be confusing to the user about which content is the most important.

Header tags from an SEO point of view:

-Relevancy: Seach engine spiders check the relevancy of the header tag wtih the content associated with it

-Keyword Consistency: Search engine spiders also check the keyword consistency between the header tags and other parts of the page.

-The Importance of the h1 tag: The h1 is the most important tag for more reasons than just the fact that is is "number 1". Every page needs to have an h1 tag. Search spiders use the h1 tag information to understand what is on the page, just like the <title> tag does.

-Enriched User Experience: Heading tags give the user a clear understanding of what the page content is about.

Use of robot.txt

The Robots Exclusion Protocol (REP), or robots.txt is a text file webmasters create to instruct web robots (Search engine robots) how to crawl and index pages on the website. You can also use robot.txt to block certain parts of your website from web crawlers.

Nofollow for links

Nofollow is a value that can be assigned to the rel attribute of an <a> tag to instruct search engines that the hyperlink should not influence the ranking of the link's target in the search engines index.These are especially helpful when users comment with links to a spam website. You can save your website reputation by blocking these spam websites.

Example:

<a href= "http://www.spamsite.com/" rel="nofollow">Blocked Page</a>