10 minutes to understand search engine optimization – and double your site visitors
Many blogs and websites lose thousands of potential visitors because their owners do not understand how people search, or the way search engine ranking works. Yet search engine optimization (SEO) is not a dark secret art, only to be undertaken by paid consultants.
The things you should be doing as a matter of course, on every page of your blog or website, are so simple…
The <title> tag
This is part of your page header coding and appears at the extreme top of your browser-window user interface (ie. above the File, Edit, View… toolbar, or in the tabs on Chrome) and in search engine results. You have about 60 characters to use. Don’t waste them.
Don’t allow your site creation software to include your site name in every page title (or make the title automatically). This is a waste of good keyword space. A page title should not look like:
<title>Marie's Kitchen Blog | Cupcakes</title>
but something like:
<title>Recipes, cooking tips, icing guide to make delicious cupcakes</title>
The <meta description> tag
Your <meta description> should amplify the title and explain in an enticing way what the page is about. You have about 160 characters to ‘sell’ it during a quick glance by a potential visitor. So every word should count. Be honest and clear without oversell. This description may be used by Google and other search engines in their displayed search results (or they may instead take part of the page’s first paragraph as their description instead). However a meta description is always displayed by Facebook when you (or someone else) share that page onto a Facebook personal or fan page.
For the benefit of Facebook, make sure your page contains a graphic that Facebook will display next to a page share. Clickthrus are higher when a graphic is present. If your page does not have an accompanying graphic, learn how to set up a ‘meta og image’ tag in your page header that Facebook will use if no page image is present. Test Facebook sharing till you know this is working right. If you use WordPress for a blog or website (there are zillions of good reasons for choosing WordPress), there are plugins such as Facebook Meta Tags Plugin that will help you.
If your page is Christian material written for outsiders, it should avoid off-putting jargon words or a preachy tone, in either title tag, meta description, or indeed the page itself.
Search engines take special account of the wording of your first <h1> headline and the text in the first paragraph or two, because they assume these best reflect what the page is about. Tr to make these texts perhaps richer in carefully chosen keywords than good English might require. Don’t use a quirky or single-word headline that only make sense to a reader when they have read the whole page. Not only is that a waste of keywords, but the headline is used by Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites as their description for your page when people share it, and the headline wording must be able to stand alone meaningfully.
Google also regards incoming links to your page from Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest (and all other sites) as ‘popularity votes’ to help them calculate your page ranking in search results. Make it easy for people to share every page of your site on social networking sites, by offering one-click buttons for Facebook, Twitter, G+, Pinterest, etc.
Churches and non-profits with a physical street address should always display it in a footer ‘include’ text at the end of every page, with the full street address, postal code, region/state and country. This enables Google local search to find your site if it matches the geographical requirements of a searcher.
Never, ever, pay some so-called SEO expert to buy backlinks to your site. Google will penalize you for this.
Below, Maile Ohye, a member of Google’s Webmaster Central Team, explains some SEO principles. Don’t be put off by her initial comments on redirects, the main simple stuff follows this.
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