Remember when the meta keyword tag was popular? Or when a good SEO strategy was to put keywords in everything (URL, title, description, headings, images ALT text, side nav, main nav, footer nav, in the keywords and 231 times in the body content)?
Welcome to 2015, where the world of search is a completely different game. In fact, in 2015 you need to check site pages to be certain keywords aren’t overused in key elements. So why are so many SEOs still recommending that webpages include the "targeted keyword" in the URL, title, headings, and corpus? Can you say penalty risk?
We can touch on a hundred different SEO strategies do improve your website, but below are 4 ways a beginner can start improving their site.
Hummingbird Made SEO Much Easier
Search engines no longer value pages filled with targeted keywords. Google’s Hummingbird algorithm drove a final nail into the keyword coffin. With Hummingbird, Google proved that they now understand what your page is about; they know the topic of the page, how unique the content is, and how well it’s written.
Searchmetrics released their annual white paper detailing ranking factors and rank correlations. What they found was that there is little to no benefit to strategically incorporating keywords in different page elements, and often sites can be negatively impacted. You can also read a summary of Searchmetric’s report on Moz’s website.
Practices that Will Strengthen the Value of a Website
1) Skip Meta Keywords
Remember in preschool when you’d draw on the walls and your teacher would say, "If you can’t learn how to use the crayons then I’m going to take them away from you"? You would laugh and continue drawing on the walls, only to have the teacher take your crayons.
Now imagine the crayons are Meta keywords and Google is that mean, old preschool teacher. Google took Meta keywords away because we didn’t use them correctly. Search engines have taken it a step further and declared that meta keywords could be a spam signal.
In 2009 Google’s Matt Cutts posted on the official Google Blog, "Google doesn’t use the 'keywords' meta tag in our web search ranking." Still don’t believe? Read Bing’s guidelines for webmasters to get the full picture.
Solution: Stop using Meta keywords
2) Don’t Stuff Your Content with Keywords
Nothing is worse than arriving to a site and finding content with keywords strategically (and awkwardly) positioned throughout. Let’s just put this one to bed here and now. Keyword density is no longer important and you should stop any and all strategies aiming at stuffing keywords into your content.
Instead, learn about an important concept known as TF-IDF, or term frequency-inverse document frequency. TD-IDF means that content should include different phrases and that some of those phrases should appear more frequently than others.
For example, a page about Nintendo should include the word Nintendo more frequently than the words Mario and Luigi, but Mario and Luigi should (probably) appear on the page because they are related to the topic of the page.
Solution: Let’s not over complicate the solution here. Cyrus Shepard wrote a comprehensive post about keyword targeting explaining what I’ll summarize in a few bullet points.
Optimizing Content for Users and Ranking
- Decide upon a topic for a page or blog post
- Extensively research said topic
- Write content that is uniquely valuable to your targeted visitor
- Verify that you have written a minimum of 400 words
- Split the content into short paragraphs, consisting of 2-4 sentences, or bulleted lists
- Add a headline to the opening of each paragraph to describe the upcoming info
- Within the body content create anchor text links to a similar page on the site
- Add a page title that speaks to your targeted visitor and the topic of the page
- Make the page easily shareable on social networks
The result will be an authoritative, user friendly, search engine friendly piece of content for your site.
3) Don't Ignore Your Meta Description
This last one isn’t so much about what companies do, but instead it’s what they fail to do. Too often I see sites with a Meta description that has been completely ignored, or maybe worse yet, use a tool or plug-in to dynamically generate a Meta description.
You have about 215 total characters (or 512px by 100px) to persuade searchers to click on your listing in SERP. 215 characters include the page title and Meta description. 215 characters because SERP is dependent upon pixels and not characters (the letter 'W' is obviously wider than "I").
Plain and simple, Meta descriptions are a conversion factor. Meta descriptions are not a factor in ranking algorithms, though. Knowing that they impact CTR why would you ignore them?
Solution: Take time to write compelling Meta descriptions for all important pages of the site, and for any pages that can be shared socially. While 155 characters is target length, keep in mind that words aligning with the search query will be bolded, causing your description to be longer. So it would be advisable to keep the character length between 115-145 characters. It’s also important to include some form of a CTA or value proposition. Words like ‘decide,’ 'learn,’ or 'find out' can be considered calls to action in this situation.
4) Don't Forget to Markup Pages with Schema, RDFa, JSON-LD
Next time you search in Google or Bing, look at the results. Spot the results that contain more information than just a title, description, and URL. Those results have additional info because the html of the site is marked up to relay explicit information to crawlers. The result is more equity of SERP.
BuildVisible wrote a comprehensive guide to help with Microdata. They found that search listings with rich snippets would be clicked on up 25% more frequently.
Solution: Plain and simple, make microdata part of every site you create. Markup logos, images, addresses, phone numbers, business name, type of business, reviews, prices, software, and anything else that’s relevant to the site. Clients will thank you and visitors will appreciate it.
Once you’re using these tactics you can build upon them. Taking just these steps will help your site rank, but optimizing a website is a practice that doesn’t really end. You can stop improving certain pages, but the site as a whole can always be improved.
You may not be an SEO expert, but you’ll strengthen your website with the simple strategies above. Want to learn more about SEO? Check out TSL Marketing's latest blog post on optimizing images for SEO and site speed.
Originally published Feb 18, 2015 11:00:00 AM, updated July 28 2017