Anyone with a website has heard the term, “search engine optimization” (SEO). But how do you achieve it for your site? There are many things that go into making your site appealing to readers and the bots that crawl the web, indexing relevant pages and ranking them for Google and other search engines. Have you ever considered how your website code influences your search ranking?
If you own a website, you probably view SEO as a way to influence your search ranking. At the same time, search engines like Google prioritize the experience of the user. That’s the goal of the various factors they look at as they rank pages. If you keep that in mind, the way that website code influences your search ranking will make a lot more sense.
What is Website Code?
Code is the set of building blocks that make up a web page. Have you ever looked closely at the code that makes up your favorite websites? All you have to do is go to a page, right-click on the page in an area where there is no image. Then, click on “view page source” in the dropdown menu. Go ahead and try it now. To most people, it would look pretty complex. Let’s examine a few components of this code to see how they influence your search ranking.
If you walked into a library and none of the books had titles, it would be a terrible experience trying to find what you were looking for. Likewise, if they did have titles, but the titles didn’t accurately reflect the contents of the book, it would be frustrating. You would likely go to a different library.
Just as titles are essential to books, HTML titles are essential to your web pages. They’re the most important HTML signal that search engines use to understand what a page is about. Bad titles on your pages are like having bad book titles. The keywords in your title tag should reflect the content of your web page. If the content of your title tag is deceptive to users (intentionally or simply due to poor website coding), Google will penalize your page in its search ranking. It is so important to search engines that pages are accurate and descriptive, that if they aren’t, Google will change them.
The same keywords or phrases you include in your title tag should be in your meta description. If you are coding your own website, start the text with <title> and end with </title>. This tells search engines the topic and keyword that your web page is about.
Honest and unique Meta descriptions for each page on your site are a must. If readers go to your site based on the description, but then what they find doesn’t match, it will have a negative effect on the user experience.
The Meta description is a lot like the synopsis on the back of a book. The title tag is the heading, and the Meta description describes the content. Just like the limited space on the back of a book cover, your Meta description (which includes your target keywords) should be 160 characters or less.
How does a Meta Description influence your search ranking?
A skillfully written Meta description will help you rank well on Google, but it will also sell and encourage readers to “click” on it when it shows up on a search engine result page (SERP) with the keywords the user searched for in bold, catching the user’s eye. Both can result in additional clicks to your site.
It’s important to understand that having a Meta description tag doesn’t guarantee that your description will actually get used. While having made it more likely that what you prefer will appear, search engines may create a different description based on what they believe is most relevant for a particular query.
Header Tags <— (This is a Header Tag)
Header Tags help readers navigate your content more easily. For example, you would give the main headline an H1 tag. Relevant subheadings follow with an H2 tag. They identify key sections of a web page, reflecting the logical structure (or outline) of a page. Including keywords in your header tags gives search engines a clue regarding what a page is about. This can increase the chance of appearing in searches for those words.
Links are essential for SEO. Together with XML sitemaps, they help search engine crawlers locate and index web pages. The following guidelines will help you create links that are more search engine friendly:
- They contain the keywords you want users to follow.
- They should be blue (and underlined)—these act as visual cues to the user that the text is a link. Without this formatting practice, it will be difficult for the user to recognize and click on links.
- Avoid making links all uppercase or lowercase characters
- Don’t give generic instructions within your links such as “more”, “read more”, “click here” and “learn more.” Users identify and understand links and therefore it is not necessary to tell users to click them.
- Set up cross-links internally and from other websites.
The Need for Speed
Users typically spend between 10 and 20 seconds on a web page unless the content grabs their attention. Now imagine how quickly users will leave a web page if that content takes very long to load!
Faster sites create happy users and speed is becoming more important to users every year. Google has even started including site speed in web search ranking. This is a crucial way in which website code influences your search ranking.
Check out what a couple of Google webmasters have to say about the concept of speed on #askgooglewebmasters
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