SEO Basics – Headings

Having got the page title and description (the invisible bits) out of the way in my earlier post, it’s time to turn our attention to the visible parts of a web page. From both an SEO point of view and from the visitor’s viewpoint the most important elements of the page are the page headline and the paragraph headings.

The headline tells them what the page content is going to be about and the paragraph headings introduce the specific part of the page subject that will be covered in that paragraph. This is just good writing style and this is why the search engines love good headlines and headings. So how do the search engines know which part of the text is the headline and which are paragraph headings? That comes from a piece of magic called HTML.

HTML is the language of the web, web pages are written in HTML code or some variant of it. This code consists of elements called tags which describe how a piece of text or an image should appear on the viewer’s screen. The tags we are interested in today are the heading tags. There are six of these and they take the form <H1>, <H2>, all the way through to <H6>.

When coding for best SEO, most people will use <H1> for the page headline, <H2> for paragraph headings or section headings and the other <H> tags for various other pieces of text requiring emphasis such as captions etc. There should only be one <H1> tag on each page so as not to confuse the search engines as to the topic of the page, other <H> tags can be used as often as necessary.

When optimising a web page, the <H1> tag should contain the key phrase you wish to associate with the page, i.e. the phrase you want to optimise the page for. In order to re-inforce the optimisation of the page further you can use related or similar key phrases as <H2> paragraph or section headings. The collection of keywords so used indicate to the search engines the topic or theme of that page thus making it easier for the search engines to include the page in the result listings when anyone searches for that particular topic.

Ideally the key phrase used in the headline should be the same as that used in the page title that I mentioned last time. In this way the page title and page headline re-inforce one another and give a further boost to the on-page seo.

Next time I shall talk about images and how to use them as part of on-page optimisation. Later I shall go on to talk about off-page optimisation, a much larger subject.

SEO Basics – Page Title

In a recent survey I did into a very competitive market place I found that out of around 6 million search results in Google, barely 5% of the pages listed had a page title. So what! You might say, if you didn’t know what a page title is or how important it can be. Well, think of a library of books – none of which have a title. How would you know what they were about?

The Page Title, which appears in the title tag of a web page is a key part of the cataloging information used to determine the subject or topic of the page. Most search engines use this information to file the page. The other important feature of the page title is that it forms the headline of the page’s entry in the search engine results. Let’s take a look at a typical snapshot of a search engine results page….

google search results

Now take a single result from the list for the search phrase “Be Your Own Boss”

single search result

It looks just like a small classified advertisement, which it is! Its job is to entice the visitor to click through to the webb page it refers to.

The first line of the result comes from the page title (title tag), this one is designed to correspond to the search phrase. It says to the visitor, “Look, this is what you are looking for!”

The second and third lines are often taken from the description tag on the page. This tag helps to categorise the topic of the page in the search results and also forms the body of the classified advertisement in the results page above. By now you will not be surprised to learn that very many web pages also lack a suitable (or even any)  description tag!

So where do we find these tags? Well, they should appear in the html code of the head section of the web page among the meta tags. This part of the page gives a lot of information to browser programs and search engines but is invisible on the actual web page when viewed normally on screen. The page title also shows up in the topmost border of most web browsers.

Ask whoever codes your web pages to ensure that these necessary tags are in place. And don’t make the mistake many beginners make of putting the same title and description on every page of the website. Use a different set for each page appropriate to the topic and content of the page. That way you help the search engines to accurately catalog your pages and you will often be rewarded with a higher position in the search results.

These changes alone will not get you top rankings, but should put you ahead of many competing pages.

Search Engine Optimisation

One of the key areas involved in my work with clients is Search Engine Optimisation often just referred to as SEO.

SEO is the collection of techniques used to ensure that websites can be found in the major Search Engines like Google, Yahoo and now Bing, the new search engine from Miicrosoft.

With millions of websites and billions of pages currently online the likelihood of any single one being found by the right people is many times worse than looking for a needle in a haystack. Search engines make finding websites appropriate to what people are looking for much easier. They use extremely sophisticated databases and search programs to match up search queries with websites that they deem relevant to the searcher. So, if you are a business using a website to market your business, search engines are vital to your survival and success.

Unfortunately, many small businesses seem either unaware of the importance of search engines to their business or they simply don’t know how to ensure that their websites are ‘findable’ by the search engines. In simple terms they need to make their websites Search Engine Friendly!

Over the years many systems have been tried to ‘beat the search engines’, in other words to endevour to get websites a top listing, especially in Google. Many of these have been unsuccessful, and even the successful ones have been short lived as Google and the others have found ways to combat the ‘cheats’!

I take a different approach. The job of the search engines is to give their visitors the best result they can in response to the search questions they type in.  My job as a SEO expert is to help Google, Bing, Yahoo and others to deliver excellent results to their visitors. I do this by ensuring that my clients’ websites provide exactly what the search engines and their visitors are looking for relevant to the products, services and information being searched for. That way there is no likelihood of my clients’ websites ever being penalised for ‘cheating’, unlike the clients of those who are still trying to beat the search engines. On the contrary websites that are properly optimised for the benefit of the visitor, that give them valuable and useful information to meet their needs and that leave an easily followed ‘trail’, help the search engines to lead their visitors right to what they want.

That way we achieve a true win. My clients win by getting their products and services in front of qualified visitors, the visitors win by being able to easily find answers to what they are looking for and the search engines win by returning search results that satisfy their visitors so that they keep using them to find their answers. And I win too from having happy clients and from the satisfaction and pleasure of working with Google and co. to ensure everyone wins.

In my SEO category I will be talking about the more important search engine optimisation techniques.