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ow do you create the perfect web page? Does such a thing even exist? Since Mary Poppins was “Practically perfect in every way”, that’s the goal we should set for every web page we write. Luckily for us, from a search engine perspective, there are many simple things we can do in order to make our web pages “Practically perfect”. We’re going to look briefly at:
- Page titles
- Description meta-tags
- H1 headlines
- Writing content
- Optimising your filename. What’s in a name? We all like to be called by our name, rather than been thought of just as a number don’t we? In the online world of SEO, Google and the other search engines appreciate it if you can name your files descriptively. This makes it easier for search engines to understand what your page is about and this helps them to serve up the most relevant web pages in response to user search terms. Instead of leaving the meaningless name that may have been generated by your content management system (CMS) such as “abcde12345.php”, you should rename your page using a meaningful description such as “opening-times.php”. If you need to use multiple words, ensure you separate the words with hyphens, not underscores. Structuring your pages so that each one only covers one basic subject matter will also help you to choose a specific name that is appropriate to the content on the page.
- Optimising your page title. Just as the title of a book will often give you a good idea of its content, so the title of your web page should accurately help search engines understand what information it contains. The page title is often used online in three distinct ways and is seen as one of the most important SEO elements of a web page. First it will often be used to populate the browser tab of your users machine. Second, search engines will often display the page title in search results. Third, many social media sites make use of the page title when a link to the page is included in a post. The optimum length for a page title is between 50 and 60 characters, including spaces. You’ll see that for this page I’ve chosen the title “SEO – creating the perfect web page | Advantage Web Designs | Scarborough”. I’ve just used the pipe characters as separators to make it easier for users to read and understand it. Each page within your website should have a unique page title, just as the content of each page should be unique.
- Optimising the description meta-tag. Meta descriptions are HTML attributes that provide a brief summary of the contents of your web page. They are often used by search engines to provide a preview snippet when returning results in response to a users search query. While these are not important from a search engine ranking perspective, they are critical in appealing to users to click through to your website, rather than your competitors. Think of this as your opportunity to advertise your content to potential customers. Make it as appealing as you can and ensure you accurately describe the contents of the page so that users know whether your page is what they are looking for. The optimum length for the description is between 150 and 160 characters, including spaces. As with your page title, ensure that for each web page you have a unique description.
- Optimising your use of header tags. The most important header tag on your web page is the <H1> tag. The H1 header tag should contain some of the keywords you’ve identified for your web page and accurately match its content. Do not try to artificially stuff your H1 tags with lists of keywords though, they should always remain user-friendly and make pleasant reading. Ideally, you should only ever have a single H1 tag on each page and they should be unique across your site. Search spiders look at the words you’ve included in your H1 tags in order to understand what your web page is about. Ensure your H1 tag contains a short summary of the content that follows. Remember too, that the H1 tag will often be the first thing that your potential customers see on your web page. Make it engaging and reassure your visitor they will be rewarded by reading on. To get some ideas, take a look at the headlines in your newspaper today.
- Optimising your images. Images have two key SEO components, a name and the alt attribute. Just as we’ve discussed the importance of your web page having a descriptive filename, your images need to have one too. Don’t name your images “img001.jpg” and “img002.jpg”. Give them a meaningful name such as scarborough-beach.jpg or scarborough-harbour.jpg so that the search engines know what the picture is about. When using multiple words in the filename, ensure you separate them with hyphens. The alt attribute is part of the HTML “img” tag. This should contain a brief description of the picture such as “Scarborough beach on a hot summers day”. Not only does this help improve your SEO, it is a legal requirement in order to comply with the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA). Screen readers used by the visually impaired need the “alt” attribute in order to help your visitor use your website. Take note that some CMS leave the alt attribute blank by default, so you need to ensure you complete this.
- Writing great content. The content within your web page is the single most important factor within SEO. Your written content should contain a good balance of keywords, put together in a way that sounds natural and informative. Ensure you write with your potential customers in mind, not the search engines. Remember that however much you try to optimise your web page, you cannot turn a boring, badly written article into a top ranking search result. Not unless it’s the only article that has been written on the subject! Search engines take note of how long visitors stay on your page. If your visitors lose interest in your article very quickly and leave your page, then search engines may demote your page in favour of others that hold visitors interest longer. Write a good article that people like and feel is valuable and they will share it, adding credibility to its content and improving its ranking with the search engines.
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