Now we’re going to take the next step in the on page SEO conversation and we’re going to talk about the SEO basics. We’ve kind of jumped around, right? We started off with improve the site structure and then we went to optimizing content. Now we’re going to talk about SEO basics. And you can go read about some of these topics in Google’s Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide as well.
Accurate Page Titles
We’re going to start this whole conversation off with accurate page titles. Let’s come back and edit a page. WordPress automatically gives you this page title, right? And Thesis gives you this, the custom title tag.
The Custom Title Tag
The custom title tag is your opportunity to essentially give a sales pitch to people who are doing a Google Search to both tell them what the content is about and suggest that they ought to come take a look at it. The consequence of that is that in order for this title tag to be effective, it needs to be unique and accurate so it should be descriptive of the content. It should be keyword rich. That means there should be keywords in it that people are searching for and that are also represented inside the content of the page. And it should be no more than 70 characters long.
The title is displayed in all search results. So if for example, we come over here and we search for you know, Thesis 2 tutorials which I used to do really well for but I’m not sure I do well for anymore. Oh yeah, there I am, up at the top.
Okay this is our title tag, our Thesis 2 Launch Party video tutorials, what’s new in Thesis. And because ours is actually longer than 70 characters, it cut it off and it shows these little dotted lines. But you’re better off keeping that down to 70 characters so that it doesn’t happen.
The Page Title
Now this is not the actual title of the page. If we go look at the actual title of the page it is Thesis 2 Launch Party replay. Well, that’s fine as a descriptive title for this page but it’s not particularly descriptive for a Google search. So that’s why there’s a meta title and an actual title. This is the actual page title. This is your meta title and you’ll notice that as you type, Thesis tells you how many characters you’re using so you can keep yourself to the 70 characters or close to 70 characters.
4 Roles of the Page Title
Your title actually has 4 roles on your site. The main page title should be a reader-friendly title. The meta title should be a search friendly title. It also creates a slug which is the page URL and that should actually be a search friendly slug and it also creates the navigation title or the name of the page in the menu.
So when you write a page title, if you don’t do anything at all except write the page title, the meta title is created from that. The slug is created from that and the navigation title is created from that.
However, what I advise you to do is to create a title that works really well for the reader when they’re on the page. A different title that is good for the searcher when they’re trying to figure out whether or not they want to view the page. And the same thing is true for your slug. You should edit the slug so that it makes sense in that regard. So here it’s probably just fine, West Seattle View Home.
Let’s go back to our About page for an example I originally named it About then we came back later in the lesson and changed it to this. Notice that this is the slug and I could edit this slug to be about-rick-anderson-architects, in this case.
And I could do the same thing down here in the custom title tag where I could create a better description, Rick Anderson, an Edmonds, Washington architect, formerly specializing in residential architecture. And obviously, this is too long so then you’d be looking for a way to say it more succinctly maybe it’s Rick Anderson, residential architect in Edmonds, Washington or something like that. What you’re trying for is some keywords and then a description of what the page is about.
Meta Description Where You “Sell” Your Content
The next tool that you have at your disposal is the description meta tag. Now the description meta tag is very similar to the title in that it must be descriptive of the page. If it’s not descriptive of the page, Google may very well choose not to use it. So it shouldn’t just be keyword stuffing and poor practices like that. It should be descriptive of the page.
However, it should have important keywords that people are going to be searching for and that are descriptive of the content. And it can be larger than the title. It can be 150 characters. Now the place you do that here is in the meta description, right? And that meta description is this right here. Thesis 2 is here and we held a video party to showcase its new features. WordPress web design has changed, come and watch these free video tutorials.
Obviously, we are adding our own keywords in here, right? Thesis 2, WordPress, free video tutorials. We’ve got all those. Those are things that we care about representing on this sort of thing. And as such, if you search for Thesis 2 tutorials, here we are at the top because of that.
Recap of On-Page SEO Techniques
So your on page SEO consists of headings, links, emphasized text, image alt text and link and image titles. We’re going to talk about image alt text and linking image titles a little bit later. But these are useful things to use when you include an image on your page. And we’re going to be talking about images here in a few minutes so we’ll get to that.
But if you have those things down, if you have a well-organized site with good URL structure, if you have pages that have good, unique, useful content and that content is well-structured, well-organized and includes good use of headings and links and emphasize text… if it has images in it and the text for those images, both the alt text and the titles, are relevant to the page, you will have 95% of search engine optimization mastered.
That’s 95% of real search engine optimization, although it’s about 2% of search engine optimization instruction. There are probably millions, if not millions, hundreds of thousands of people out there trying to teach you how to optimize your site. And most of them have little schemes. But really, none of that stuff really matters.
As far as I’m concerned, none of that stuff matters as long as you master these basics. As long as you do what Google tells you to do in the Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide. As long as you take care of these basics, all the rest of it is going to work for you just fine.
But getting too focused on Search Engine Optimization schemes like link building and article marketing and just all kinds of nonsense that has been promulgated for the last several years, all of that is going to come back and probably, eventually hurt you. Because they’re just tactics to artificially inflate the value of your content.
You don’t want to do that. You want to provide reasonable content that is useful, that is well-structured, that’s well-organized. And if you do that, Google’s going to find you and Google’s going to send people to you. It may not happen immediately but it’s going to happen over the long haul and that’s what Google tells you to do and I am a strong proponent of that.