We use metadata all the time. It's a bit like punctuation in sentences. And it can save your life.
Even a tiny comma makes a mighty big difference.
Taking phrases or words out of context can confuse us as well…
Among the first sentences of their book Dark Mission: The Secret History of NASA, Richard Hoagland and Mike Bara make this claim:
"The NASA that we've known for over 50 years has been a lie."
What? Oh yes - it's actually a defense agency! Then quoting from NASA's charter, the Space Act of 2015, Sec. 305 (i) the authors make it "clear":
"The Administration shall be considered a defense agency of the United States."
So it really is a guns in space kind of thing? Will our next war be on the moon? YIKES! Definitely time for a bit of context to set things right. Here's what the rest of section 305 says:
"The Administration shall be considered a defense agency of the United States for the purpose of Chapter 17, Title 35 of the US Code."
And Chapter 17, Title 35 is…?
Just a boring rule about patent law. If an employee of any military agency invents a cool new thing, their boss is allowed to keep it a secret for the time being to protect our national security. Relax, there's no conspiracy afoot.
Computers are notorious for not being able to understand ambiguity, worse than us. They need that extra bit of help that isn't visible to the reader, but is clear as a bell to them when they try to read a web page.
SEO meta tags (metadata) are the punctuation and context describing every webpage to any computer who wants to know something about it. At United WebWorks, we're SEO experts in Savannah GA - so we know a thing or two about how all of these components work together to bring your website more organic traffic.
Here's what a dash of metadata looks like:
See the little "<h1>" there in the upper left corner? That says to a computer, "Hey- this is the title of the page!" H2s are subheadings, which are also important to search engines when they try to figure out what the page is trying to say. To the human observer, we simply see bigger, differently colored text and know that's an important heading that tells us what we're about to read.
SEO meta tags include elements like:
A word or phrase that matches what your searchers are looking for, i.e., if a person types the keyword or phrase into their search engine, they will see your site in the search results.
Information about the author, date published, file size, where it's located and other similar details.
This becomes a "snippet" in the search results that gives the human searcher an idea of the page they are about to click on.
The full URL is usually embedded in what's known as anchor text, but any computer can easily access the address of the link you hide there.
Image alt text
Every photo, video or other graphic should have a tag, or alt text that tells Google, Bing or Yahoo what it is. Otherwise, it's just a big empty space that has no context on the page.
These are all factors that we inspect during our website audit service. We take a "behind the scenes" look at the code in your website to see how it is helping or hurting your search results, and let you know how to improve it!
How can I make sure I'm doing it right?
First of all, learn to think like a search engine
What do you want, Google, Bing and Yahoo?
All search engines do only two things. One: they cruise around the internet finding, reading and indexing every single webpage. Two, they produce results for searchers that are both RELEVANT and POPULAR.
Both of these search engine duties are why SEO is critical. Your website has been noted and its metadata is stored in bits and pieces in huge server farms all over the world. Make it easy for the engines - make sure your metadata is formatted correctly so that it's easy for them to understand.
Relevance is where your keywords come in. Google succeeds because usually you can find exactly what you are looking for on page one of the search results page (SERPs). SEO makes it possible for Google to connect the searcher with EXACTLY what they are looking for! No more of this clicking on a page that discusses racehorses when you wanted to look at sawhorses.
Checklist of Misconceptions and Mistakes
- Keep doing SEO on all your online assets
"We already SEO'd everything - we're done."
No, it's more like an intricate dance - a tango perhaps? - in which there is movement and response. Change and adaptation. One big reason for this is that Google and other engines are constantly improving their ability to deliver on their promise of relevance and popularity.
Sometimes a company will find their position in the SERPs has dropped because of a bad or broken link. Have you published new pages or updated old ones? Has a competitor moved in on your keywords with better SEO? Have you found out about the new algorithms engines are using (like the recent one concerning mobile device responsiveness)? Do you have any outdated or irrelevant content?
Keep working on it, monitoring, adjusting, testing, learning.
- Build honest links
"Link building? What's that?"
Think about the popularity score you need for higher positioning on the SERPs. The way search engines "see" popularity is not only how many people are finding you organically, but how many other sites contain a link to yours and vice versa.
There are ways to artificially inflate the number of links you have, but those are mostly flagged as suspicious by the indexers and may result in a ranking hit when your insincere linking is discovered. Be on the lookout for legitimate partners who will insert a link to your site in a blog entry or in their content. Discussion forums are another good place to build links - just make sure the context is helpful.
As the indexing becomes smarter, and better able to detect the nuances of quality, this matters all the more. Just focus on honest, productive links and you'll be OK.
- Keep finding and using long-tail keywords
"Once we find that Killer Keyword, we'll have no problem staying #1 on SERPs."
Not necessarily. Research will show you that not only are a lot of people searching for your favorite concise term, but also that a lot of webpages feature it. The very best words and phrases have the highest competition.
Think about it in terms of a track meet. Your athletes don't need to take first place in every race, in fact you can win every meet if you consistently place second and third. You do this by creating and using long tail keywords. These are words and phrases that are a bit more specific and probably match better with what many searchers are typing into Google. Here's what we mean. Instead of focusing on the keyword "widget," go for a lot of these:
- Widgets in Savannah
- Widgets in Georgia
- Waterproof Widgets
- Best Widgets for Homeowners
- Where can I find Widgets
- Invest in social media
"What's Twitter got to do with it?"
Social media may not affect your findability directly, in other words, the web-cruising indexing process won't see your social media activity (yet - this may come along soon), but it does allow some collateral benefits. Link building is one, but it will also generate some traffic to your site - both of which will boost your popularity score.
Invest in social media. The unexpected results might surprise you.
- Use a Content Management System like HubSpot
"SEO is too hard."
Consider using a content management system like HubSpot. It does a pretty good job of walking you through the steps of covering your SEO meta tag process with a checklist of its own. Here's an example of what you see behind the scenes of a blog entry like this one.
The keyword/phrase is there in the window below This blog post is about:
HubSpot makes sure the keyphrase is present in the URL for the page, checks our meta description for length, and so on.
For more about the Myths of Misconceptions of SEO, click here.
But first, click over to Google and type in "SEO Savannah" and right there under the paid ads (that's another story) you'll find United WebWorks in position one. The old adage about the shoemaker's children does not apply in this case. If you want help with your website's SEO, you would do well to find one that has it figured out for their own company!