There are many factors that search engines take into consideration when trying to determine the relevance and importance of a page and a site as a whole. Google looks at over 200 factors and so today we are going to look at what are the most important factors in SEO.
One of the biggest things that I always tell clients is that you need to clean your own yard before you can promote your yard. What do I mean by this, I mean that in order to be successful at SEO the website must be of high search engine quality.
There are 3 major components to a search engine:
In order to be the best the website has to be accessible to the search engine crawlers. The better the website architecture and navigation the easier it is for a search engine spider to crawl and follow the content on a website. The number 1 factor for me in SEO is making sure that the website is built so that a search engine can get to it and easily move through it.
A lot of times when a site is struggling a lot in the search engines it could be perhaps that the website is telling the search engines to not crawl it if there is an error in the robots.txt file. Sometimes a website will have the navigation in images which is a huge red flag in not making the website as accessible as it could be.
Another important factor in SEO is the concept of accurately labeling files and properly using keywords in the correct tags on a page. For example putting the major keyword that you want a page to show up for in the beginning of a title tag is a basic task, yet it holds a lot of weight and can easily be overlooked. Images with keywords in their file name and in the alt tag are another way of accurately labeling, yet often get overlooked.
These top 2 factors of making a website accessible to search engine and accurately labeling files and tags are crucial and at the top of my most important factors of SEO. Here is an example of a page that has been optimized and where the keywords are located within the file names and tags:
- serving results
Some of the most important places to have the keyword that you want to optimize a page for are:
Domain: Having the keyword in the domain is a very important factor because these are files to a search engine and so it is best that the keyword be in there. It is better to have the keyword closer to the root of the domain as possible.
Title Tag: These are quick glimpses that a search engine looks at to quickly understand what the page is about. Having the keyword closer to beginning of the title tag is heavily recommended.
Description Tag: These tags have gone back and forth in how search engines look at them in as far as putting them into the algorithm. Right now in 2010 the algorithms are taking them into consideration. Google wants rich snippets and has provided a Rich Snippet Tool in their Webmaster Tools thus confirming that Google is putting more weight on descriptions. Having the keywords in the description helps users as Google bolds them and thus creating higher click throughs which plays a role in SEO.
Heading Tag: This is generally what the headline of a page is and the first thing that a user sees. Having the keyword in the Heading tags helps organize content for a search engine, however they play around with how much weight they put on heading tags. H1 tags carry more weight than H2 – H6 tags.
Image Filenames: Having the keywords in the filename of an image is highly recommended because users search through images all the time in search engines and you will want to get some traffic to your site through these searches. Plus it helps a search engine understand more about the image.
Alt Tag: Search engines cannot see images and therefore rely on the descriptive text that would surround the image like the filename and this alternative text tag. This brief description of what an image is along with keywords greatly helps a search engine.
Throughout Body Content: Having the keyword on a page in the content is just a thing that happens natural. I always say it is hard to talk about making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich without mentioning peanut butter and jelly at least once. Overstuffing the keyword in the text of the content is not advised as you only want to use the keyword to help a user understand the content. Keyword density is not something that search engines use to help them determine the importance of a page. A webpage that has a higher density does not necessarily make it more relevant.
Anchor Text in Hyperlinks: Search engines use hyperlinks to help them crawl around the web and they use these hyperlinks that connect webpage to webpage as a vote, thus the keyword phrase in the hyperlink is important. Make sure you use the correct keyword in the anchor text when you point it to another page. For example if I was creating a link to a page that was optimized for Blue Widgets then I would use blue widgets in the anchor text.
As I mentioned before there are several things that a search engine algorithm uses but these are the most important factors. Here is a pie chart that shows the components of Google’s Ranking Algorithm according to 72 top SEO professionals:
- title tag
- meta description tag
- heading Tags, H1 especially
- image filenames
- alt tags with images
- throughout body content
- anchor text in hyperlinks
All images provided courtesy of SEOMoz.org
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