On the Web: Taking SEO to the Next Level
Too many marketers judge their sites by how they look. What really counts is how they perform. How does your site rank? What kind of quality shoppers (who convert) does it attract? Last month, Larry Kavanagh gave you six ways to get natural search moving. Here are 17 ways to make sure that traffic includes qualified shoppers who will buy.
- Taxonomy Research and Menu Development. Effective search engine optimization (SEO) begins with professional keyword research to create the taxonomy (or menu structure) for your website. Building a taxonomy that benefits both search engine rankings and usability is critical to drawing the right visitors — ones that convert.
- Site Structure. Table structure dictates how search engine spiders read your website — what information they gather, what content holds the most weight and more. So you need that structure to appeal to shoppers and spiders alike. Design it so spiders quickly find the most important content.
- Internal Site Search. This is critical to ?usability and conversion, because most shoppers use it rather than navigation. Failed searches should be reviewed and redirected to the desired pages when shoppers use common misspellings, synonyms, etc. Failed search pages should offer re-search assistance by phone/chat and shopping suggestions like best-sellers, sale items, etc.
- Keyword Density. This is the percentage of a site's total text that's made up of targeted keywords. Search engine formulas for keyword density vary and change, but in general attempt to mimic ?optimum readability. Your content should feature keyword phrases often enough to let readers know they've found the right place, but not so often that your content is unclear or full of irrelevant phrases (called ?"keyword stuffing").
- Keywords in Title Tags. Your title tags ?define each web page; they're of utmost importance to search engines. The primary keyword phrase related to that web page should be present in the ?title tag. Two to three keyword phrases can be used,?depending on their length.
- Keywords in Meta Description Tags. Meta tags are the next most important page element. This text appears as the link description on search engine results pages and should, like your title tags, be specific to the pages' designated keyword phrases. They can contain site navigation or promotional information as well.
- Dynamic URLs. Spiders prefer static URLs, though you'll see many dynamic pages on top positions. URLs of more than 100 characters are difficult for spiders to follow and for humans to scan and quickly orient themselves with. If your site is dynamic, employ a tool to rewrite dynamically generated URLs in a more human- and SEO-friendly format.
- Keywords in URLs. Keywords built directly?into your URLs help your rankings, e.g., ?http://domainname.com/seo-services.html, where "seo-services" is the keyword phrase you're attempting to rank high for.
- Keyword Density in Text. One measure of search engine relevancy is based on how prominently keywords appear within the content of a page. Ideal keyword density is 3 percent to 5 percent. Keyword density assures the content is keyword-rich, and it increases the content and meta tag relevancy ?to spiders.
- Keywords in H1, H2 and H3 Heading Tags. The heading tag is the code used to specify the topic of your page and/or subsections of it — one more place where keywords count. But beware, heading tags need to be relevant; visible page content also must contain the phrases used in the heading tags.
- In-line Text Links. Create text links in the verbiage of your content to give readers an easy way to find the information to which you're referring. These also lend search engine weight to the phrases linked and their target pages.
- Keywords in Alt Text. Spiders don't read images, but they do read their text descriptions in the tag. If you have images on your page, fill in the tags with keywords about them.
- File Size. Try not to exceed 100Kb in page size; however, some subject matter ?requires larger files. Smaller files, of less than 40Kb,?are preferred.
- Hyphens in URLs. A hyphen is the preferred method for indicating a space where there can be no actual space. One or two hyphens are excellent for separating keywords (i.e., pet-smart, pets-mart). Four or more looks bad both to humans and spiders, as it tends to look like spam. Ten or more ?hyphens will certainly get your pages devalued and your keywords ranked lower.
- Fresh Pages. Frequent updates equals frequent spidering, which equals a newer cache. That means search engines love new content — minor updates to existing content don't have the same effect.
- Site Map. It's essential to keeping the site linked well; each page should at least be linked to the site map. Good infrastructure allows spiders to crawl the entire site and ensure all pages are present in their indexes.
- Site Stickiness. This is how long users stay on your site, and it's highly important to conversion. While not associated with SEO per se, an ?interactive, "sticky" site encourages external linking and thus enhances page rank.
SEO is part science, part art. It's a process of continuous improvement that's never done. Knowing what to do and having the tools to do it are necessary starting points for successfully growing your online sales through SEO.
Terry Jukes is president of integrated software solutions provider Ability Commerce (TerryJ@AbilityCommerce.com).