Welcome back, dear readers, to the third part in our DIY SEO Audit Series. In part 1, we covered the formulation of content and keyword strategies, part 2 was all about sitemaps, Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools. For part 3, we’ll be going over the process of website meta and image optimization.
What Is Meta?
Maybe you’ve been around SEO professionals who’ve used the term, maybe you haven’t. If you’re unsure what we mean by this term, here’s the gist. When you peak at your website’s source code, near the top of the page, you’ll often find the following attributes:
• <title>Your Web Page’s Title | Your Company Name</title>
• <meta name=”description” content=”This is the description of a web page. Tell search engine users what the page is about in a sentence or two.”/>
• <meta name=”keywords” content=”Keywords, keywords, keywords”/>
If you don’t happen to see these inside the <head></head> section of a web page’s source code, we strongly suggest adding them — especially the title and meta description attribute. So, moving forward, when we bring up meta, we’ll primarily be referring to the title and meta description attributes.
I’m leaving out the keywords attribute, because, to put it simply, it’s not as important. It can’t really hurt to add this tag along with a few (4 – 6) keywords, but Google completely ignores it, and Google is by far and away the biggest search engine on the block. If it’s not good for Google, then it’s mostly irrelevant.
As we discussed in a previous blog post, the title tag described above is really important. It’s arguably the most important on-page SEO factor, so carefully consider the keywords you place there. Keep it concise (between 65 – 70 characters) or the rest gets cut off and ignored by Google.
When it comes to the meta description, you have a bit more room to breathe — approximately 145 characters (or, again, Google cuts you off). This allows you to write a nice sentence or two. You should certainly include a page’s primary keywords, but it is worth mentioning Google has seemingly devalued this tag in recent years. Still, you have to keep in mind that this meta data will be appearing in search results, so you really want to make sure you write something enticing, or you’ll hurt your click through rate.
In addition to following those character limits, you want to make sure that you keep your meta unique. You can’t have the same boilerplate titles and descriptions on every page. Remember, Google is all about extracting the unique information of a page in order to assign its value and rankings accordingly. Give the same message over and over again, and you’ll just make things muddy for the Big G.
When doing an SEO Audit, I like to use the Screaming Frog SEO Spider. It crawls a site and lists each page’s title and description. This makes it really easy to spot duplicate titles and descriptions. You can (and should!) also look to Google Webmaster Tools’ section for HTML Improvements. This can be found under “Optimization.” As you can see in the image above, Google will report any meta that’s duplicated, excessively long, missing or too short. Use this information wisely. Aren’t you glad you used our previous DIY SEO Audit guide to set this up?
Trust us, taking the time to create unique meta that’s optimized for each page’s relevant keywords will really pay off. You may not see your webpages hit the first page overnight, but you’ll definitely see a lot of progress in just a matter of time. Now let’s move onto image optimization.
Optimizing a Website’s Images
Images are a big deal. They attract eyeballs, inform readers in a way that a text description cannot and generally make a web page look more appealing if applied properly (i.e. not like this).
Google recognizes the important of images on a web page. That’s why they’ll pay attention to any clues provided in the text properties associated with an image to get an idea of what it’s about. The more Google understands your content, so long as you’re delivering content of quality, the better off you are.
By text properties, I’m referring specifically to the image’s file name, alt tag and title. When looking at a web page’s source code, this is what an image can (and should) look like:
< img src=”http://www.yoururl/images/plumbing_logo.jpg” title=”Plumbing Company Logo” alt=”Florida’s preferred plumbing experts.”/>
Notice how we’ve changed up the text in the file name, title and alt tags. Terms related to “plumbing” are clearly being targeted here, but they’re presented in a way that isn’t spammy. The above image code would be perfect for the homepage of a Florida plumbing company’s website. You really should fill out this information for all images, but we would suggest only “optimizing” two or three images for keywords in the manner shown above per page. As with any SEO element, overdo it, and you’ll upset Google.
Thanks for checking back with us again this week. We’ll be wrapping up our DIY SEO Audit series next week with links — assessing potential problems with past link building efforts (and how to fix them) and building links the right way. Stay tuned!