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Susan DeMatei
 
October 1, 2013 | Analytics, Website Design | Susan DeMatei

SEO AND CARS – THREE THINGS THAT DRIVE YOUR SEARCH RESULTS

I’ve been doing a fair amount of SEO project lately and the more I learn, the more I realize there is to learn.

SEO is Search Engine Optimization. It is the practice of setting up your website so that Google (or Bing or Yahoo) can read it.

[Google-confused] Realizing that a computer is different than a human being is half the battle. As a human, you see a gorgeous picture of your winery and it’s logo on a fall day. As a computer, you see the image title, which isn’t helpful if it’s “header_dark_image.jpg”. A basic rule is that you need to supply texts, and tags, and image names so that a computer searching your site can get an idea of what content is there, and then provide that guidance to someone searching for it on Google (or Bing or Yahoo.)

But how, and what do you focus on?

This is hard to answer when you consider a website is like a car. If you were building one for performance, what is more important – the steering wheel or the wheels? Both. The hard part is that the entire site works together to provide a customer experience – and that is what the search engines are looking for.

But if you were to break it into three things to focus on, here’s a list:

On-site Content

Search engines, first and foremost, look for good content. What makes good content? Images that aren’t broken and given informative alt tags for one. A good length of text on each page for another. This many be counter-intuitive as many people are told not to scroll and use graphics, but balance this with SEO in mind. In 2013, Google announced they are looking at more text-heavy pages, now called “mega articles” and not multiple pages on the same content. So don’t be too stingy with your copy.

Here is a checklist:

  • Are all images hosted on the site, and given an alt tag with an informative name?
  • Are all titles clear in the HTML with H1 tags so the search engine can get an idea of the title of the page?
  • Is text clearly legible (not included in a graphic as a jpg?)

Site Structure

Navigation is so important on a site. Too often we focus on pretty graphics and obsess over copy revisions, and the page names are not intuitive to the surfer, or the search engines. Think of your navigation as filing cabinets, and your pages as folders. Each cabinet should be clearly named with the content that is within it, and the folders sub-contents of that overall category. Search engines want to see a site map, as well as a well-organized architecture that shows that any user can get to any content quicly. It is better to have a concrete structure, than a long list of confusing links.

Off Site Factors

Google also announced in 2013 that it is placing a heavier emphasis on off-site (read: Social Media) behaviors. Basically Google wants to know if you’re a good internet citizen. Do you post, cross post, link, respond, like, tweet and favorite others’ photos, blogs and posts? If you do, Google sees it and rewards you with page rankings. Never before has having a blog or linking back and forth from your Facebook page been so important.

And not to state the obvious, but Google does, in fact, own a Social Media outlet, called Google+. So guess what Social Media outlet they want to see you posting on to get the most rewards for your efforts?

So I’m sorry to tell you there is no silver bullet when it comes to Google search results. Long gone are the days when you can put in some META tags and game the system. The internet has gotten smarter and you know have to have good content, a well organized site, and be a good corporate citizen to be rewarded.

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