In our previous blog post about creating a successful brochure web site, we slipped in a few descriptive links to ourselves and our clients. We did this to help tell Google, Bing, Yahoo and other search engines what these sites are about. Doing this is part of an online marketing strategy called Search Engine Optimization and it is something all business websites should consider. .
Search Engine Optimization is a big field, and running a search marketing campaign can take some time (and dollars).
However, there some things you can do (and should do!) to make sure your homepage and website are friendly to search engines. Descriptive link building, like in our previous post, is one of those things. However, before you get to this stage, you should make sure your site is search engine friendly.
Search Engine Friendly Expectations
If you are in an industry or location that isn’t (yet) highly competitive online, then making your website friendly to search engines will likely result in some “out of the blue” traffic on your site fairly early on.
However, even if you are in a business that is highly competitive online these basic steps are absolutely required to be visible. Doing them early will help down the road. You see, the search engines do value longevity (where they think longevity has value).
Making your site easy to understand early on gives the search engines additional data to determine who your site is important to in the future.
In the search world, longevity is related to reputation; and reputation dictates relevance and authority. SEO is a longer term strategy because it takes time to build that reputation.
6 basic search friendly tips
- Give your homepage a descriptive title tag (this is the title that appears at the top of your web browser, and when someone bookmarks your web page; it is also the first thing that the user will see if your site comes up in the search results page). Usually this would be your company name and a few words you think people might use to find your business. Make this title tag different for each of your pages.
- Add a description tag. The description tag is often used as the description that shows with your search result results before someone gets to your site. A good description tag will encourage more people to go to your site when they do find you in the search engine.
- Use text, not a picture of text on your homepage: Quite often a designer might use non-web friendly fonts to get the right look & feel for a company’s brand. Unfortunately these non-web friendly fonts cannot be rendered using regular, search engine readable text. A picture is used instead.
- Use the ALT attribute to provide the descriptive text for any images used. You will not only give more information about the image to the search engine, but you will help users with disabilities who use screen readers.
- Use one (short) sentence in an H1 heading tag to describe your business. Again, it would be great if you used some (key)words that you think visitors may use to find you on a search engine. Use this sentence to reinforce the main topic of the site or page. Make the heading concise but do include keywords from the title tag mentioned in step #1, and at least one other (or more) keywords you think are important to the page. Keep in mind that this heading is a prominent feature of your page. You do want it to be have keywords, but you also need the heading to be compelling to people reading the page.
- Don’t use splashpages. If your first page is just an “intro” or “splashpage” (a page with minimal information – usually used to set the tone of your website, give country/language options, or as an advertisement). Other than generally not being very usable for visitors, splash pages typically don’t offer much for search engines to work with. Since your homepage is usually the easiest page to get indexed by search engines, make sure it has content!
Here are some additional guidelines directly from the three main search engines:
- Google: Google-friendly sites | Google’s SEO Guide
- Yahoo: Yahoo! Search Content Quality Guidelines
- Bing: Guidelines for successful indexing
Now that we’ve discussed how your site can make friends with search engines, we’ll get back to how your site makes friends with your customers – by offering them something new when they return – stay tune to our next blog post “Your homepage – Change it up!”
And of course, feel free to contact us at our Toronto office if you would like help with a search engine friendly evaluation of your website.