Through content optimization, you can better communicate to search engines the relevance of pages on your site to certain topics. Simply put, content optimization is the practice of improving both text and media elements of your site. By mapping keywords to specific text and media elements, you can both improve your users’ experience and boost your ranking on SERPs. One important thing to remember when optimizing your content is that search engines now look beyond specific target keywords on your site, they consider the whole semantic cloud of keywords and topics which are included on your site. But before we dive into the nuts and bolts let us first examine some aspects of how to select your site domain name.
Selecting Your Domain Name
If you are optimizing an existing site you may have little choice over the site domain name, but if you are starting from scratch there is one thing worth mentioning. Focus on your brand name in your domain name. Do not select a domain name for SEO purposes. Meaning, do not select a domain name based on the keywords you are planning to target! Google has released updates who target this type of behavior and we advise against it. Selecting a domain name for SEO purposes is both useless and risky.
Optimizing Your URLs
A URL is a human-readable text that was designed to replace the numbers (IP addresses) that computers use to communicate with servers. They also identify the file structure on the given website. URLs appear in multiple important locations such as search results, browsers, and cross-domain links. The URL of a page is
considered to be a ranking factor used by search engines, so you should aim to include target keywords where possible, separated by hyphens. Remember that if you are changing an existing URL, you should
use a 301 redirect to transfer the authority and rankings associated with the old URL to the new one.
Best SEO Practice for URLs:
● Use hyphens to separate words.
They should not use underscores, spaces or any other characters. Not all web applications accurately interpret separators like underscore “_,” plus “+,” or space “%20,” so use the hyphen “” character to separate words in a URL.
● Shorter is better.
While a descriptive URL is important, minimizing the length and trailing slashes will make your URLs easier to copy and paste (into emails, blog posts, text messages, etc) and will be fully visible in the search results. A common rule of thumb is to keep URLs less than 115 characters.
● Avoid parameters.
If they need to be used the number of parameters should be limited to two or fewer.
● Employ Empathy.
Place yourself in the mind of a user and look at your URL. If you can easily and accurately predict the content you’d expect to find on the page, your URLs are appropriately descriptive. You don’t need to spell out every last detail in the URL, but a rough idea is a good starting point.
● Keyword use is important (but overuse is dangerous).
If your page is targeting a specific term or phrase, make sure to include it in the URL. However, don’t go overboard by trying to stuff in multiple keywords for SEO purposes overuse will result in less usable URLs and can trip spam filters.
● Go static.
The best URLs are human readable without lots of parameters, numbers, and symbols. Using technologies like mod_rewrite for Apache and ISAPI_rewrite for Microsoft, you can easily transform dynamic URLs into a more readable static version. Even single dynamic parameters in a URL can result in lower overall ranking and indexing. Note: You must have a unique URL for each page of your site!
The Importance of Page Titles
Page titles are one of the most important elements which communicate relevance to the search engines. Well optimized page titles should include a relevant target keyword at the beginning followed by a brand name. Including the brand name in your titles also helps lift your brand authority. Here is an example of an optimal formula you can use when writing your page titles:
Primary Keyword Secondary Keyword | Brand Name
Additionally, page titles are also important because they communicate the value of the search result to users. You should also consider the emotional impact page titles have on users since they appear on SERPs, and have an effect on the clickthrough rate, Remember to keep your page titles short and very descriptive. Search engines will truncate your page titles if they are too long! As a rule, try to keep your titles under 60 characters. Additionally, it is very important for you to have a unique title tag for all your pages! Writing Effective Meta Descriptions Including targeted keywords in meta descriptions might not help much in terms of search rankings as it used to a couple of years ago. However, adding targeted keywords and their variations in your meta description can assure users that the information on the result is relevant to their search. Writing your meta descriptions creatively and including calltoaction in them will improve the click-through rate of your page in search results. Additionally, meta descriptions compete for attention with paid search ads in SERPs, for this reason, it is recommended that you include a good call to action (CTA).
As with titles, keep your meta descriptions short and simple. Optimally meta descriptions should be around 140 characters long.
Optimizing Page Headings
Headings and subheadings visually communicate how the information is organized on your page! Like humans, search engines want to understand the logical and thematic relationships within your content. Headings and subheadings help both people and search engines understand what is in each section of your text.
Here is how heading and subheadings look in your HTML:
Tips for optimizing your page headings:
● Less is better, try not to overuse page headings! Limit each page to one H1 & couple of H2s, then use H3s.
● Limit length and avoid words that aren’t relevant to the page’s content.
● Include exact target keyword within heading tags (H1), but use variations afterwards to avoid obvious repetition and keyword stuffing.
● Include target phrases toward the front of heading tags for best performance.
● Include support content after heading tags; each heading should precede a body of
● Place heading tags in order. H1 should appear first, then the H2, H3, etc.
Targeted keyword: “SEO Guide”
Poor H1 Heading: ” … ” (you don’t have one on your page), or “Read these cool SEO Suggestion to find out more about SEO.” The targeted keyword is not included keyword stuffing because the word SEO is used twice Better H1 Heading:
“Free SEO Guide” The targeted keyword is included unfortunately this heading is not very descriptive
Best H1 Heading:
“Top SEO Guide by Leading Experts” This heading has the targeted keyword and is very descriptive to users. Well optimized and targeted page headings are very effective in communicating the value
of your content and its structure to both humans and engines.
Optimizing Your Images
Though search engines are generally very effective in analyzing text elements, they have a difficult time analyzing images. When engines look at pages of your site they cannot perceive images like humans do, in that regard engines are a lot like blind people. In order for engines to understand what images might be about they look at:
● Image file names and alternative (ALT) text;
● The text surrounding the image;
● Links pointing to the image;
Optimizing your images for SEO is important because of search engines now return “blended” results to queries.
For example, a search for “athletic shoes” can return images, videos, and text.
File names and ALT tags
Having your target keywords in the file names and alt tags of any images that are central to the content of the page can have a positive effect on your page’s rankings, so consider having highly relevant images on your pages with well-written file names and alt tags. Additionally, ensure that your images are surrounded by appropriate text. There are several elements that can be optimized to help your images rank highly in search engine image search and blended results. Choose the target keywords that you think are descriptive of the content or the image itself. The purpose of image alt text is primarily to describe the image if it either doesn’t load or the user is visually impaired and using a screen reader, so stuffing unrelated phrases into your image elements could be detrimental to the accessibility of your site.
An image’s alt text is one of the strongest signals to search engines with regards to what the image is about, so it’s crucial to include your target keywords here. In addition to helping an image appear in image search, there is some evidence that the presence of targeted images helps the page itself rank in regular search results.
The alt attribute is written in HTML as follow:
<img src=”folder/filename.jpg” alt=”Your target keywords amongst other descriptive text” />
Better: alt=”MidCalf LaceUp Boots”
Best: alt=”Women’s MidCalf LaceUp Boots”
Avoid alt=”Boots Shoes Sandals Pumps Heels Wedges Sneakers Loafers Clogs Slippers Mules Waffle Stompers”
Here is what the full image code would look like:
<img src=”../images/womensmidcalflaceupboots.jpg” width=”100′′ height=”100′′ alt=” women’s midcalf laceup boots” />
SEO best practices for Alt text
● Say as much as you can about the specific image. Your description should be useful and informationrich.
● Avoid keyword stuffing, which can result in negative user experience and be perceived as spam
● Keep the description short and to the point. There is no defined character limit but it’s a product description, not a novel so try to keep it under 100 characters (4 – 5 words)
● Use alt=”” for images that aren’t meaningful like decorations or bullet points.
● Use alt text for logos that are descriptive of the business or organization
Image File Name
Using target keywords in your image’s file name with keywords separated by hyphens can also be effective. That is to say, your file name should look something like yourtargetkeywords.jpg before you upload it to your site or server. You also want your image filename to accurately describe the image. Using solid filenaming conventions throughout your site will help engines understand more about your description. Using the same boot example above, a nonSEO friendly way to name “Women’s MidCalf LaceUp Boots” would be:
image/0016B.jpg. No one will find your image unless they’re searching directly for “0016B”. Though categorizing each file name by SKU might be easier for your developer, it’s not doing any favors for your
An SEO friendly way to name the same image would be womensmidcalflaceupboots.jpg
SEO best practices for filenaming:
1. Use appropriate keywords BUT avoid keyword stuffing
2. Separate out words using a dash () or an underscore (_)
3. Never leave spaces in between words or they’ll end up looking like this women%27s%20mid%20calf%20lace&up%20boots.jpg Some content management systems rename files to include a unique number or string in order to make sure that the file name is unique, so check your images after they’ve been uploaded. If your file names are rewritten, it could be worth working with your development team to configure your site to preserve descriptive naming. Nearby Text Text on the page that is close to the image can have an effect on how well an image ranks for a given key phrase. If the image is part of an article, it should be highly relevant and use the target keywords and related phrases throughout.
More specifically, image captions are closely associated so employing keywords here is highly advisable.
As with web search, the anchor text used will be associated with the target URL, so ensure that you use your target keywords if you create text links to your images. File Size and Format It’s advisable to use images of a reasonable size, as small images are often too low quality for the user, and large images are slow to load. As a general rule, create images of at least 300pixels in either dimension and lower than a megabyte in file size. There are obvious exceptions here, such as thumbnails, large infographics, or intentionally high-resolution images. SEO Best Practices for image file size:
● Smaller is always better, as long as you aren’t losing image quality. Larger images with better resolution might be ranked a little better than smaller and lower resolution images.
● Do not let your browser resize the image for you.
● Always use an editing program to resize your image.
● In addition, use commonly accepted file formats such as JPG, GIF, or PNG.
● Images compressed for right dimensions and for file sizes.
● Base 64 encoding for images avoided. Image XML Sitemap To increase the changes all your images will be properly indexed, you can add them to your site’s XML sitemap or create a separate image sitemap for them if you want to keep things organized. The only data that is required is the image URL, but you can also add the caption, title, and geolocation of the image (where it was taken) to your sitemap. We will further explore sitemaps in the next chapter.
Read Google’s guidelines on images in your XML sitemap. We recommend using the image’s alttext as the title in your sitemap, and to keep the caption the same as on your site.
Like with images, search engines are having a hard time understanding the quality and relevance of video content, because they cannot watch it, and comprehend it as humans do. Because of this engines look at textual and markup elements to determine what the video is all about.
Here are some best practices to consider when optimizing your video content.
● Produce videos which are interesting and add value to your users’ experience.
● Describe the video contents with a paragraph next to it. This also helps people decide whether they want to watch it.
● Have a catchy and enticing title.
● Use a keyword in your video title.
● Transcribe your videos. This is helpful for both blind people who use text to speech browsers and engines.
● Markup your videos with microformats. We will discuss the microformats in the next section.
● Use video hosting providers like youtube and vimeo.
● Avoid placing more than one video per page of your site. There are obvious exceptions to this when more videos will really enhance the experience of your users.
● Include relevant tags in your video description.
Additionally, you should also use a video sitemap file. XML Sitemaps are files using special syntax that map all your pages and content on your site. Video sitemaps inform engines about the category, title, description, running time, and intended audience for each video contained on your site. For more information refer to the Google Webmasters guide on Creating Video Sitemaps.
The Advantage of Using Microformats
Microformats provide syntax with which you can identify very specific attributes. You can augment the code of content elements like food recipes, videos, photos, events, reviews, etc., and help engines gain a much deeper semantic understanding of what this content is all about. Schema.org offers a tremendous variety of microformats you can use and as a general rule, you should augment as many content elements of your pages as possible.
Google calls enhanced search listings “rich snippets,” which benefit websites by standing out more, which may drive more traffic. Though using semantic markup will not give you a ranking boost directly, if click-through improves, rankings may also improve, as search engines want to reward sites that attract clicks.
Rich Snippet Benefits The main benefit is that it extends the number of things that you’re able to describe to the search engines using structured data markup. The chief SEO benefit of providing such markup is increased visibility in the SERPs when search engines generate rich snippets for a product in the search results. Semantic markup is still highly underutilized, so it’s a great opportunity to explore its use to have a competitive advantage over other pages in search. Here is how the augmented content looks like on SERPs.
Having optimized quality, and relevant content on your site must be the most important aspect of your SEO efforts. Additionally, once you have everything in place you need to measure the effectiveness of your content. Have good analytics software in place and track:
● What is your most popular content?
● What is your least popular content, where do visitors drop off your site the most (bounce rate)
● Are your visitors engaged, which content is shared and linked to the most.
● Is the content you produce producing the business results you are after.