Basic SEO Tips for Websites

by Keri Honea on February 24, 2011

Last week, Brittany treated you all to Basic HTML Tips for Blogging, and surely by now, you’ve helped perfect your blog’s appearance using these little HTML tricks. So now that your blog looks how you want it to, and you’ve filled it with content, it’s time to optimize your site for search engines and bring in new traffic from searchers. Why do you want to optimize for search engines? Doing so will increase your rankings in the search engine results, thereby giving you more visibility and attracting more traffic to your site.

Here are some basic tips and tricks anyone can do to help your site’s overall search engine optimization, or SEO.

Meta Tags

You may have come across this term before while building your website or blog. If you haven’t, meta tags are basically HTML tags that do not appear on your site itself, but are identifiers for search engines when pulling up search results. For example, if your blog is about the latest baby clothing trends, you’ll most likely have “baby clothing” and “baby clothing trends” in your meta tags, which will alert Google and Bing in searches to pull up your blog in the results if someone searches for “baby clothing” or “baby clothing trends.”


 Meta Tags
Examples of meta tags found in the source code

Outside of tracking meta tags (Google Webmaster Tools, Bing Webmaster, Alexa, etc.), there are three main types of meta tags: HTML Title, Meta Description, and Meta Keywords. Basic search engine optimization primarily focuses on fine tuning these tags toward specific keywords you would like most to bring your site into search results.

HTML Title

Your HTML Title is not the same thing as your website title, although they could read the same. The HTML Title should contain your primary keywords–the overall topic of your site that are also words searchers will use in search engines to search for your site–whereas the name of your site doesn’t have to.

For example, the site for Jason’s Deli is named Jason’s Deli, but the HTML Title is “Restaurant and Deli | Catering | Delivery | Online Ordering | Jason’s Deli”. Jason’s Deli is obviously trying to target “restaurant,” “deli,” and “catering” in the search engines so that if someone searches for one of these words, Jason’s Deli will show up in the search results. As you can see with the image below, they were successful in this endeavor.


Deli Google Search Result
Jason’s Deli ranks #2 in Google Search for “deli”

This isn’t to say that your HTML Title can’t be the same as the title of your site. Jason’s Deli could have used their company name since “deli” is one of their keywords, but they did a combination of their name and other target keywords. Note that McAlister’s Deli chose to only use their name in the HTML Title. As long as the name of your site contains your target keywords, it’s fine to use.

Another general rule is to keep your HTML Title down to 60 characters. This is because search engines only display 60 characters, and some search engines will lower your placement in search results if the the Title tag is too long. Also, if one of your target keywords is at the end of a long Title, it will be cut off completely and won’t trigger a placement in results at all.

Advanced HTML Title tips for search engine optimization:

  • Place your most important keywords in the beginning of the Title.
  • Give every page on your site (including individual blog posts) a unique HTML Title with the page/post’s unique keywords. (If you are using WordPress, there are some great plugins you can use that will do this for you!)

Meta Description

Just like it sounds, the Meta Description describes what your site is about. It’s generally brief and to the point, and it should grab the attention of searchers as it will only show up in search engine search results. Therefore, the Meta Description should also contain your target keywords so that search engines will have an additional trigger to your Title that your site is relevant to this search.

Using the Jason’s Deli example above, the Meta Description is “Jason’s Deli: Restaurant and Deli with Catering and Delivery. Order Online! Voted to Healthiest Restaurants in US.” Note how the keyword “deli” appears twice without sounding awkward or keyword heavy.

Advanced Meta Description tips for search engine optimization:

  • Keep your Descriptions down to 160 characters.
  • Place your most important keywords toward the beginning.
  • Don’t oversaturate your Description with your keywords. Your Description will 1) be dinged by search engines and 2) sound awful, which can deviate searchers from visiting your site.
  • Give every page on your site (including individual blog posts) a unique Descriptions with the page/post’s unique keywords.

Meta Keywords

Meta Keywords are designations of your target keywords for a page/post that additionally call out to search engines for attention. Unlike the HTML Title and Meta Description, the Meta Keywords will never show up online outside of viewing a site’s page source. There is a huge ongoing debate about whether search engines even consider keywords in search results ranks and page ranks anymore, but it never hurts to include them. If nothing else, they will help you focus on your target keywords for each page/post.

Jason's Deli Meta Tags

Jason's Deli Meta Keywords as found in the site's page source

Advanced tips for search engine optimization:

  • Create ONLY six keywords for each page/post.
  • Do not duplicate keywords throughout pages/posts.
  • Unless you are a large conglomerate like Jason’s Deli, keep your keywords down to two-to-three word phrases instead of individual words. That way, you won’t try to compete for keywords that are too general, and you can focus on specifics such as niches or localization.
  • Give every page on your site (including individual blog posts) unique Keywords with the page/post’s unique keywords.

Keywords in Content

Now that you have your unique keywords for your pages and posts, be sure to mix them in with your written content! Without keywords in your page content, the search engines will not understand why that page is relevant to a particular search. Meta Tags may grab a search engine’s attention, but without keyword-rich content, the search engine will bypass you for another site (like a competitor).

The trick though is to do so without oversaturating your content and making it sound like search engine robots vomited keywords on your page. Why? For one, search engines don’t like it. For two, visitors don’t like it. Have you ever read a site that was obviously written for one specific keyword? It was hard to read, wasn’t it? Almost unbearable? Have someone else look over the content and make sure it isn’t too keyword heavy. Reading out loud helps too.

Now I’m sure many of you are wondering where you go to fill in all of this keyword information. The answer is not a simple one, because it all depends on what you have used to build your site. For example, WordPress has numerous SEO plugins you can install to easily implement these SEO-tricks. Joomla has several plugins as well, and SquareSpace has a SEO feature built-in. If you aren’t coding your site yourself, ask your web administrator where to go to fill in your Meta data information.

If you are building your own site and aren’t sure where to go, leave a comment below and we’ll help you find it. As always, if you need extra assistance with your site’s search engine optimization needs, or you want to go beyond the basics for improving your search engine rankings, do not hesitate to contact us for a quote and consultation.

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