Friday, January 19, 2007

SEO Made Simple(ish)

Today, while catching up on the Marketing Mix Blog (because every once in a while, I do have time to do such things), I was pointed to a great post on Search Engine Optimization by Joan Damico of Integrated Marketing Minute (a new subscription is in order, methinks). In the post, she goes over some of the basics of writing copy with search engine users in mind, and discusses some great ways to set up blog posts, websites, etc. for maximum Google juice.

A quick excerpt from the post:

it's not just about sprinkling keywords throughout, it's a strategy for placing them effectively in the right places. Search engines crawl a page hierarchy from meta data to header tags to body copy identify keyword matches.

You can read the full post here.

All of this is great advice, but I have a few things to add, from my experience as a web designer. Search engines like Google give a lot of precedence to sites that are built well. Back in 2004, when I switched from old-school table-based layouts to using web standards, I saw the Google ratings for my sites fly up within a week. Part of that is because standards-based layout forces you to separate presentation from content, which means that content flows smoothly for search crawlers without being forced into odd places to satisfy the designer's whim. When you look at the page, you see a beautiful layout, with everything where you want it to be. When you look at the code, you see all the content arranged in a logical order, which makes more sense to the search engines - hence, it looks like a good page and moves up a bit in the rankings.

Another thing I've noticed is that <alt> tags on your images and <title> tags in links make a huge difference; when I changed the tzk site to include appropriate alt and title tags (which mentioned the fact that the work was done by the zen kitchen in Somerville, MA), I noticed an instant jump in my Google ratings.

Adding these tags is easy. If you're creating a link in a post, for example, you'd type the code:
<a href="" target="new"> link text </a>

To add a title to it, you'd just type: <a href="" title="the zen kitchen, Somerville MA: Graphic and Web Design with a Touch of Green" target="new"> link text </a>

and it would look like this:
link text

The same is true with images. For example, if I wanted to put a picture of my cat, Persephone (because why not?) in a post as the tzk mascot, I'd type the code:

<img src="" alt="Persephone, the zen kitchen's mascot" />

and that would look like this:
Persephone, the zen kitchen's mascot

It looks just the same as if you didn't include it, BUT adding the title or alt text adds an extra hit of keywords for the search engine to notice. One quick caveat, however; whatever the title or alt text you insert, it's important that it be relevant to what the link or image actually is. You need to make sure that it represents what you're actually referring to; otherwise, search engines get irritated and knock you down a few pegs.

1 comment:

Joan Damico said...

Cool... I didnt' realize you could add title tags to links too--another good strategy for helping clients boost rankings!
Thanks, Dani!