Google Penny Bank

by Spencer Belkofer May 6th, 2011 

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Optimizing aspects of your page for the search engines is a lot like putting change in the penny bank. A quarter, nickel, dime, or penny isn’t going to make you rich by any means. But think about how much money you would have if you saved every bit of change you had over a year. It would be quite a bit, right?  Similarly, simply making a change or two to help with on-page optimization does not equate to strong organic rankings. But, if you make sure to follow the best practices on every page of your site, you will reap significant rewards over time.

***Disclaimer*** These are general rules of thumb. Universal truths in SEO are few and far between. 

Proper Title Tag

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Make sure the title tag you are using includes the main keywords you are trying to rank for. Your page title should be limited to 70 characters, although there’s a strong argument for exceeding this in certain cases. While some people have a tendency to put every keyword they can imagine in the title tag, this is generally not a good idea. Besides, you should only be targeting one primary keyword (and derivatives of that keyword) per page in the first place. It should also be noted that there has been quite a bit of research indicating that the more words or characters used in a title tag, the more it dilutes the power of that title tag. In other words, keep it short and to the point. And don’t try to stuff the title tag full of keywords.

Content

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There a couple rules most people follow regarding content and on-page optimization. First, try to include the keyword in the first sentence, of the first paragraph. Second, don’t feel the need to put the keyword in the content a million times like this. The search engines are remarkably intelligent, and if anything, keyword stuffing raises a red flag. Instead, use an LSI tool (or a thesaurus) to replace repeated use of your keyword with synonyms or other phrases that make the content appear more relevant to the search engines.  Also, I generally try to make my content at least 500 words (and sometimes much longer). Think about it from a search engine’s perspective. If a site has more content on it, it’s often a fair assumption that it provides a comprehensive discussion of the topic as hand. 

Internal Linking

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Proper internal linking allows you to correlate specific pages with specific subjects and keywords. Let’s say you have a website about coffee. It’s usually a good idea to try to rank subpages for related terms rather than trying to rank your home page for every single term you want to rank for. If you want want to rank for “espresso”, create a page about espresso and link most (or all) of your other pages containing the words espresso to the page about about espresso. Likewise, if you want to rank for “cappuccino”, create a page that discusses cappuccino and link the word “cappuccino” to that page across your site.

It’s worth noting that there is such as thing as an over optimization penalty. So don’t go put words in content just to link them to the phrases you want to rank for. As with most things regarding SEO, try to be (or at least make it look) as natural as possible.

Alt Tags

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Everyone loves pictures so make sure to include them in your blog or site. However, make use of these images for SEO  value by providing alt tags that match that page’s targeted keyword.

But remember, the alt text still needs to describe the image. The best approach is to pretend that someone will be viewing your page with a text browser, so they’ll see the alt tags, not the images themselves.

Furthermore, it’s a good idea to name the file with your keyword. For example, if the page was about “coffee beans”, then name the first image “coffeebeans.jpg”, the second image “coffeetbeans2.jpg”, and so on.  

H1 Tags

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The H1 tag should also include the keyword phrase you are targeting. This is just another indicator telling the search engine what the page is about. A lot of people make the mistake of putting more than one H1 tag on a page. Don’t do this. It can confuse the search engines and dilute whatever power the H1 tag may have. (Be particularly careful with WordPress sites. They are notorious for creating multiple H1 tags.)

Meta Descriptions

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While meta descriptions may have used to influence rankings, it’s my belief they have little impact on search engine rankings. That being said, this article is intended to discuss things you can do to increase your site’s ranking. Writing proper meta descriptions can have a strong impact on your organic CTR, so make sure to take you time writing them.  When writing meta-descriptions, think of them as an opportunity to entice searchers to click on your site…a “salesy” snippet if you will. So, while meta descriptions may not have a direct impact on your rankings, they can effect your traffic. Remember that only 250 characters are displayed in the search engine results. Yoast’s SEO for WordPress tool does an excellent job of letting you preview what your meta description will look like in the SERPs, so give it a shot if you’re using WordPress.


Meta Keywords

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Anyone who’s spent time working on a site or blog realizes that your time is truly an investment. Not this that this is a novel concept, but spending time to optimize your meta keywords is a monumental waist of time. Some would argue that some search engines, aka Yahoo, give meta-keywords some algorithmic weight. But with Bings acquisition of Yahoo, this is no longer the case. Others argue that using keywords tells your competitors what keywords your trying to rank for, but anybody who has some idea of how to perform competitive analysis will tell you that you can figure out what keywords a page is targeting in about 30 seconds, without the use of meta keywords. So, unless you want to waste your time (and money), don’t spend time working on meta keywords. This time can be used much better doing almost any other SEO activity.

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On-page optimization isn’t going to dramatically boost your site in the SERPs, but it can prevent you form ranking #3 versus #1. SEO is numbers game. The more things you do right, the higher chances your site has of getting good rankings. However, often times the things that you can do to help your sites rankings are external, i.e. links. Don’t be like the kid who breaks his penny bank open every month to buy a new baseball card. Be like this guy who cashed in over $13,000 in pennies.

Spencer Belkofer

Spencer Belkofer is the owner of Lumin, an internet marketing firm in Alabama. When not working to grow his business, Spencer researches and writes about all things related to online marketing.

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