Dave Hultin / September 24th, 2019
It seems a day rarely goes by without our team here at Marketing Ideas For Printers fielding Search Engine Optimization (SEO) questions from our customers and prospects.
I recently found myself answering one of those questions with one of our newest customers and found myself remembering the advice of Sal, the SEO Expert.
Sal offered good advice almost two years ago, and it’s still relevant today. So, I thought it time to reintroduce you to Sal’s tips and expand on Sal’s recommendation to approach your website’s SEO strategy the same way you approach a book.
When you enter a bookstore, whether the physical or virtual version, what do you notice first?
Of course, it’s the book covers, and the same is true with search engines. That’s because the title is what appears in your website’s home page tab or window bar, and it’s the equivalent of a book’s title.
Books are known by their titles, so it’s essential to ask yourself:
Then, make sure the answer to those questions reflects in your website’s title.
Your title should capture all of the critical information, but also know when enough is enough. As Sal mentioned the last time we visited this topic, people will gloss over long book titles, and search engines will also potentially view those really long website titles as having questionable value. (Tip: Best practices suggest that 60 characters for your website’s title is an excellent upper limit.)
The next stop in the book for many people is inside the dust cover.
For your website, the equivalent of a dust cover is the front page. Publishers want to include the high-impact information in the dust cover, and you’ll want to add the high-impact reasons for visiting your website on the front page.
Just as the book title is important, chapter titles are relevant, too. A book is divided up into chapters, and those chapter titles bring organization to the book.
Do you have logical groupings within your website content? Those logical groupings are like chapters in a book, and search engines will follow your lead on those groupings. If your website’s title is Acme Printing in Fargo, ND, then the logical groupings might include:
And of course, each chapter can be broken down in further logical groupings too. On your website, the titles of the pages in those groupings might look like:
As you scan through the chapter titles in a book, you’re looking for the essential information so you can reference it when needed. That’s how the search engines will be looking at the “chapters” of your website. If you have a website with well-organized titles, you’ll have better results from the search engines because of that organization.
A good book is meaningless without all the necessary and meaningful words to fill the chapters.
As you start to absorb the content of the book in each chapter, keep that clean structure working for you. So far we’ve talked about your website’s page titles, both for the home page (the book title) and the interior pages (logical groupings of chapters). Now, shift your focus to the pages themselves. On the printed pages of a book, excellent organization continues with headings that increase and decrease in size to reflect the levels of importance.
Your website pages will behave similarly. Use different sizes of headings (conveniently referred to as “heading tags” in web page code) to reflect the increase and decrease of importance in the sections on your web page.
Most of the time, when reading a book, any images and illustrations will make sense when you see them. But sometimes they need a little help, and that’s where captions come in. A good, well-written caption will quickly remove any doubt about what you’re looking at.
Us humans still have a significant advantage here. Computers and web crawlers can stare at an image all day and not have a clue about what they’re looking at.
For a search engine, a good, well-written caption comes in the form of an alt tag.
To us humans, those alt tags are (often) invisible. To a search engine, though, those alt tags are usually the only thing that can help identify an image. Use alt tags to describe an image, just like a book uses captions. Once again, the search engines will thank you!
From a search engine’s perspective, websiteaddress.com (no www in the front) is a duplicate of www.websiteaddress.com.
If you think of this scenario like visiting a physical bookstore, it’d be like seeing additional books with titles that look almost identical to the book title you just picked up. If that happened to you, which book would trust as the original?
It would be rare for us humans to have an experience like that, but something similar happens to search engines all the time, and they hate it! Search engines dislike these types of duplicates so much that they’ll penalize all the copies they find.
Important: If your website address is www.websiteaddress.com, make sure all potential copies of www.websiteaddress.com are pointing to the original.
Make sure the party responsible for your website treats them as one website. To test this, you could go to websiteaddress.com (no www in the front) and see if the address changes to www.websiteaddress.com (the version with the www in front). If it doesn’t, then you’ve got both an original and a copy, and you’ve got a problem. There are geeky ways to make sure the search engines are always directed to the original, but that geekiness is beyond the scope of this article.
Similarly, you’ll also want to make sure you’re presenting the secured version of your website.
The owner of the bookstore is in favor of ethical visitors and frowns on shoplifters. Search engines will see your website the same way. If your website is trustworthy (that is, protected by a security certificate), the search engines will look favorably on your website. If it looks like a place that shoplifters could gather, you’ll lose credibility in the eyes of the search engine robots.
Take a look at the very start of your website domain, the part that starts with http. Does that part of the address include the letter “s,” like this: https://? That’s an important “s,” and the only way it shows up is if your website is protected with a security (SSL) certificate. If a security certificate doesn’t protect your site, the search engines won’t like it, and it’ll affect your search ranking.
This and other SEO information offered by Marketing Ideas For Printers will be helpful for any website and is freely offered as a helpful resource for you.