SEO 2015: Onpage Optimisation – Technicalities

Jochen Fuchs

In the previous article I broke down some general concepts to help you structure your content in a way that's easy to grasp for both human visitors and search engines. Once you've done that, you should be in pretty good shape SEO-wise. Some simple, technical tricks will help you increase your competetive advantage even further.

Optimising Link Text

Use clear and descriptive link texts. The link text is the visible part of a link that the user can click on. In HTML it's defined inside the anchor tag. Here's an example:

<a href="">Search on Google</a>

The link text tells the user what to expect when they decide to click the link. At the same time, it gives Google some valuable information about the site you're linking to. Regardless of whether you're linking to external or internal pages, spend some time writing useful link texts that fit you're content. Here's some things you should avoid:

  • Unnecessarily long link texts or linking entire paragraphs
  • Stuffing link texts with keywords
  • Styling links in a way that makes them hard to recocgnise (e.g removing the underline)
  • Too many links in a body of text. Links are meant to help users navigate and give them useful recources. Unless you're Wikipedia, stick with just a handful of links.
  • Having the same link texts for different link targets. Each target should be referred to with a unique link text.

Give images reasonable file names and provide alternative text

Search engines like Google have become very good at understanding text and extracting the content. However, they don't have eyes. Images are just files like any other to search engine bots. They have no way of knowing what the image actually shows, at least at the time of this writing. 

That's why you should go the extra mile and give all your images meaningful filenames and use the ALT attribute.
Google looks at the filename to get a rough idea of what the image shows. But don’t start and give your images crazy long, keyword-stuffed filenames. That would only get you negative attention. Let's say you have a photo of the Empire State Building, a filename like empire-state-building.jpg is appropriate. Something like the-empire-state-building-in-new-york-city-usa-built-1929-paris-hilton.jpg is not.

The alt attribute lets you store an alternative description for an image. It's displayed when the actual image file, for whatever reason, fails to load. That reason doesn't have to be a network error, many people turn off images in their email clients for example. If you use an image as a link to more content or an external site, the alt attribute will serve as link text.

Using the robots.txt file

By default, Google crawls your entire website and indexes every subpage and all content accordingly. In some cases though, you might not want certain pages to show up in search results. If you have certain pages that aren't interesting to users, you’ll do them and search engines a favour by hiding that content. Find a robots.txt generator and more information about them on Google Webmaster Central.

Title Tag

The title tag gives a one-senetence description of what a page is about and helps users and search engines get an idea of what content to expect. Put the <title> tag in the <head> of your HTML document. Every page of your website should have its own, unique title. Contrary to popular opinion, the title tag is not an important factor for search engine rankings at all. Google completely ignores its contents when your site's ranking is calculated. So why would you even invest time and effort into writing good title tags? Because the title tag is the first line of your search result. That's why it's crucial to set the title, and consider carefully what it should say.

Google search result for rukzuk

Google serach result with title and description

Meta Tag Description

The meta description is the small piece of text that shows up right below the title in search results. It should be around 155 to 160 characters long, anything longer than that will be truncated. Just like the title tag, Google doesn't consider the meta description a ranking factor, and it has therefore no effect whatsoever on position in search results. Google only stopped looking at the meta description when keyword stuffing became an issue. So again, while the search engine doesn't care, representing your site correctly in the description is all the more important for users.

Meta Tag Keywords

Just like the meta description or any other meta tag for that matter, meta keywords are completely ignored by Google’s ranking algorithm. Of all popular search engines only Bing even considers the meta keywords for ranking, and even there the possible benefits are small. Unlike title and description, keywords don't show up anywhere apart from your site’s own sourcecode. In the end, it’s up to you to decide wether to spend the time to write keywords or not. If you do though, make sure to stay away from keyword stuffing. While keywords have pretty much no positive impact on your ranking, they can certainly hurt you when search engines find them to be unrelated to your content.

meta tags in HTML

Meta tags in HTML

Keywords on the Page

There are still people who think that repeating certain keyword throughout a page is a good way of telling Google that you offer valuable content for that topic. Guess what, it's not. If anything, filling your site with keywords will have only negative effects on your search engine rankings. While keyword stuffing might have been a valid strategy a few years back, it certainly isn't today.

Think about which keywords you're trying to hit with your website, and use those in your content, but where they naturally fit the context and never with the intention of using them as often as possible.
Let's say you're selling tennis rackets, then “tennis racket” and maybe “children’s tennis racket”, “professional tennis racket” or “beginners’ tennis racket” are appropiate keywords. “Roger Federer” however, isn’t a good keyword, even if it’s a popular search term. Unless you’re selling exclusive training sessions with Roger, this keyword is not going to help your business. Google has very powerful means of calculating the relevance of content for a certain topic, and many keywords won’t help your ranking.

Coming up in our series on search engine optimisation: We take a look at the new, exciting factors that Google and their competitors are already using, or will use in the near future in their ranking algorithms.

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