If you want traffic from search engines, you know that you need to optimize your page for your target keywords. But where on the page should you place your keywords?
Imagine your target keywords are seeds: will you throw them in the air and hope they grow wherever they fall, or will you place them precisely where they’ll get the most sunlight (and capture the most attention)?
When you look at the big picture, popular search engines like Google have been so successful because they are able to determine the most relevant websites for the keywords queried, while penalizing sites using spammy tactics. This has led to a more satisfactory search experience for users, and a more challenging experience for web marketers and developers.
Forget The Keyword Tag and Keyword Stuffing
For example, the once-meaningful keyword meta tag has been relegated to the “obsolete” corner for its heavy abuse by SEOs hoping to gain an edge by keyword stuffing. The same can be said for description tags and pages bursting at the seams with repeated keywords. The goal of search engines is to deliver the most relevant content to their users, and that should be your goal as well. Rather than trying to trick search engines into ranking your site higher, which often works against your rankings, focus on delivering more appropriate keywords in well-placed areas of your site code. Here are five important areas to focus keywords on:
The title tag, which shows up as the title in search results and on the browser window, is the most important place to place your keywords. There are several ingredients that should go into a well-optimized title tag:
- A title tag should be about 65-70 characters or less, so use each character well. Choose several keywords that correspond with the content on the page, but don’t overload the title with a nonsensical combination of words—remember, it still has to be appealing for a user to click on it in the search results.
- Put your most important keyword(s) at the beginning of the title tag.
- Customize the title tag on each page to help avoid duplicate content filters. Consider this an opportunity to get more keywords in—just make sure the title accurately corresponds with the content.
Don’t overlook this fundamental element of each web page. While it helps users make sense of what they will find on the page, it does the same for search engine bots. Use the URL to include keywords from the page, making sure to keep it concise and readable. Users find links with readable, descriptive terms more trustworthy, so there’s no reason not to name your directory files and folders logically with keywords.
Use caution (and the correct redirects) when changing the URLs of existing pages.
SEOs have considered
h1 important for years. With the advent of HTML5 and its new semantics, mass confusion has ensued about whether search engines will understand the new structure. Whereas before websites were generally discouraged from using multiple
h1 tags, the new semantic markup encourages
h1 tags at the head of multiple
As it turns out, search engines won’t be penalizing you for using multiple
h1 tags, and apparently never have. Google engineer Matt Cutts said in a 2009 video, “Use (the
h1 tag) where it makes sense and more sparingly, but you can have it multiple times.” That doesn’t mean the tag should be abused, however—there are still safeguards in place to penalize sites using spammy tactics, such as using
h1 tags for large amounts of body text. To learn more about this topic, check out What Potential Impact Can HTML5 Have on SEO?
Of course, it would only make sense that your body text should contain keywords. If your site is legitimate and you’re targeting the right audience, it should be easy to naturally weave keywords into the copy. But how many keywords are needed to affect SEO?
SEOmoz recommends that writers aim for for 2-3 keywords on a typical page, and 4-5 on pages with more copy. If more keywords appear naturally as it is written, it won’t hurt anything, but don’t add more for the sake of SEO; anything above those limits won’t affect rankings much, if at all. In a nutshell, relevance and quality reign supreme over keyword density, so make sure the keywords flow well with the text and don’t sacrifice quality for more keywords.
Image Name and Alt Attribute
Images are sometimes the forgotten child of SEO, but they too can bring valuable search traffic—even some traffic that regular text can’t reach. How many times have you searched for an image and ended up on the website that hosts the image? People often search for images alone, so it’s worth your time to optimize yours with keywords.
First, make sure the images are given logical, readable names—with keywords, if appropriate. For example,
cupcake.jpg is better than
img-00012.jpg. Next, don’t skimp on your
alt tags; they are required for better usability in case your image can’t be seen, and they tell search engines what the image is. My advice is to write whatever you would want a user to know if the image didn’t load, ideally using some keywords.
Finally, ensure the image is in the right context—this is perhaps the most important feature that search engines look for. In short, place the keyword-optimized image close to keyword-optimized paragraph and header tags, and you’re on your way to turning up in an image search.