ICYMI: SEO, Lies, and Video Tape (part 4 of 5)

(this originally appeared on my Blogspot site, and continues from part 1 and part 2 and part 3)

In the first first post of this series, I pointed out that SEO companies sell features that can be done easily by most people, thus avoiding cost. As a reminder, those 4 simple, easy-to-accomplish techniques are:

  • Having a descriptive domain name
  • Creating and submitting a sitemap
  • Descriptive titles and meaningful content
  • Getting other websites to link to you

In this post I want to explore the third bullet-point:

Descriptive titles and meaningful content

When a search engine looks at your site (and especially the new stuff on your site), it’s reading words. I know that sounds dumb when you read it in print, but you have to keep it in mind. And just like you learned in 5th grade English about Newspaper styles, the title is given the highest importance, then the subtitle, then the first sentence, then the paragraph.

So, if your title says “the Rubiyat of Omar Kayam” and the first paragraph is a long series of jokes about Olivia Newton John’s “Xanadu” album, the search engine is going to have a hard time placing your post with search results for “how to potty training kittens” – which you got around to mentioning around paragraph 4.

So while it sounds boring, following a standard news article style format is a great way to help you rank higher on search results.

Finally, if your website runs on blog or CMS software (rather than static web pages), consider changing from permalinks that are numeric (http://www.mysite.com/index.php?postid=115) to something more descriptive

One more thing for bloggers: Canonical URL tags. Your website actually has several URL’s including www.mysite.com, http://mysite.com, mysite.com/index.html, and a few others. Typing any of them would get you to the home page. And search engines treat each one as a separate website, which means your page ranking could get divvied up among the potential options. To avoid this, you enable canonical tags – depending on the system you are using there are various plugins or template options, so that everything on your site is ALWAYS formatted the same.

But all of that is just formatting tricks. the other part of this bullet point is much harder: creating meaningful content. There’s no single tip I can give you to do that. You know your audience (or you should, and shame on you if you have no idea who it is your are trying speak to!), you know what they want to hear about, and you know how much (or how little) they can tolerate reading in a sitting. Should you break up your articles into smaller “nibbles” and have them post on successive days? Or should you create one long masterpiece that has everything all in one place? Do you talk about the thermodynamics of microwave hairdryers or the latest fashion trends found in “Civil War Re-Creationist Magazine”? Only you can know that.

What I _can_ tell you is that, if your audience finds your posts meaningful they will not only keep coming back for more, they will repeat what they’ve read in tweets, facebook posts, Google+ articles and more.

And that feeds into my next post…

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