Not all SEO strategies are right for every website, but every site should take advantage of basic keyword SEO. The foundation of SEO, keyword SEO helps search engines in their central mission: establishing the relevance of your content to the terms users search.
Incorporating keywords (or more precisely, keyword phrases) into your content is both the easiest and most important thing you can do to bring traffic to your website. Take full advantage of that, by being thorough. Remember all the best HTML tags to populate with keywords, with the mnemonic device “THIMBLE.”
“T” is for Title
The “T” in “THIMBLE” is for your page’s title tag. Like the title of a magazine article, the title of a web page is an important clue to the content it features, so search engines pay it special attention. It’s generally agreed that this is the single most important place to include your keyword phrase.
Your page’s title is also the text users spot when they scan search engine results, and the default text in their browser’s bookmark and history listings. As you use keywords in your page title for SEO, also make sure the title is meaningful and appealing to readers.
Some SEO experts recommend you mention your keyword phrase right at (or near) the start of the title. It’s thought that the more prominent position the term occupies, the more relevant search engines deem the content.
In any case, keep your title under 60 characters (including spaces), to avoid it being truncated when it appears in search engine results. You can save characters by cutting out all extraneous words (“and” and “the” for example). Instead, separate thoughts with a dash or a vertical bar (|) . You may even want to leave out your company name, since it’s likely already in your page’s web address, which also appears in search results.
Remember, the title of your page doesn’t have to read exactly like the headline of the content on the page. Consistency is important (so visitors who click your title in search engine results aren’t confused when they land on your page), but you can be brief with your page’s title and more expressive with the headline of the content.
Finally, you should also consider presenting your title in title case, so that it’s easy to scan and stands out on the results page.
“H” is for Headers
A common mistake among some webmasters is to just use boldface or other font formatting to create headings and subheadings in content, instead of capitalizing on the SEO power of HTML header tags.
Headers, like titles, are an important clue to the substance of the content, so search engines look to them to establish relevance. Be sure to use your keyword phrase in the H1 header, and remember that H2 through H6 also carry weight in SEO.
“I” is for Images
Images on a page go a long way toward establishing its relevance to a search term. However, search engines can’t “see,” they can only “read.” They have no clue how relevant your images are until you make it clear to them in the HTML tags.
Look for opportunities to feature your keyword phrase in image “alt” tags and captions.
Keep in mind, you’re communicating first with human beings, not the search engines. The main purpose of the alt tag is to make the content of images clear for people who can’t see them: those with vision problems (who may be using “text-to-speech” screen readers) or those whose computer systems are set up so that images aren’t automatically displayed.
An ideal image alt tag makes the content of the image clear in a way that also contributes to keyword SEO.
SEO gurus also recommend that you use keyword phrases when naming your images. Name your images with keywords separated by hyphens.
“M” is for Meta Description
Your meta description is the brief text you want to appear with your title and URL in search engine results. It’s about 160 characters of sweet opportunity to entice people to click to your web page.
Search engines don’t take your meta description into account when ranking your page for relevance, but placing your keyword phrase there offers an important SEO benefit. It helps ensure that your meta description &mdash carefully crafted to entice users to click to your page — actually appears in results listings.
Understand that search engines don’t always choose your meta description as the text that accompanies your page listing in search results. Without your keyword phrase in the meta description, the search engine might choose any random passage from your page’s text that features the phrase, instead of your well-crafted, click-beckoning meta description.
Meta descriptions are truncated with ellipses in search results if they’re longer than about 160 characters (including spaces). Since this is your opportunity to entice, don’t skimp on the words. As users scan results, a single-line meta description gets lost among all the multi-line ones.
Indeed, going beyond the 160 characters and having your description truncated can be a good thing. Try the old sales letter writer’s “cliffhanger” trick. Sales letter writers advise always ending a page in mid-sentence, which impels readers to view the next page to find out more. Having your meta description truncated in the middle of an important promise (eg. “You also get a FREE. . . ”), or at some other interesting point, can entice readers to click to your page to find out more.
Some SEO experts also advise writing your meta description in title case, so that it stands out in search results.
“B” is for Body
Be sure to include your keyword phrase once or twice in your body text, the “meat” of your page. Don’t get hung up on “keyword density;” simply writing naturally is best. Remember that you’re writing first and foremost to communicate credibly and cogently with visitors to your site — not just to rank well in search engine results.
Don’t be guilty of “keyword stuffing”: adding extra instances of your keyword phrase in the hope that search engines will regard your page as more relevant because the search term is thick in the copy.
Even if it worked for SEO, cheesy keyword-stuffed body copy turns off visitors, defeating the point of ranking well in search engines.
Search engines may even penalize pages that are guilty of keyword stuffing, lowering the page’s rank in results. A good rule of thumb is if it sounds clumsy, you’ve gone too far. If it reads naturally, you’re fine.
“L” is for Links
Search engines look at the anchor text in links (that is, the clickable text) to establish what the destination page is about and its relevance to a given search term. Use this to your advantage when creating links from pages in your site to their sister pages.
Instead of creating a link with the generic anchor text “click here,” for example, try to include the keyword phrase that’s important to the destination page.
Build your links for human visitors first of course, not search engines. . . .But where you can, convey the subject of pages with keywords in links to them.
“E” is for. . .
. . . your web address. (Okay, the mnemonic “thimble” doesn’t quite fit. Perhaps think of it as your “e-dress?”)
In any case, your page’s address should include your keyword phrase, with each word separated by hyphens.
Not only do the words in the web address convey the relevance of your page, but, like your title tag, the URL appears in search engine results with the search term highlighted, inviting clicks.
Bear in mind, thorough SEO is less about cramming keyword phrases into each and every tag than it is about being aware of the full range of opportunities to include it. Craft your page for human readers first, but remember all the places your keyword phrase might serve you, with “THIMBLE.”
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