Ah, yes. The wonderful world of online search and SEO. I’ve said it a million times and it’s worth repeating: it is no longer okay to put a website together without optimizing the site for local search results! With the economy the way that it is, business owners are forced to be smarter with how they apply their funds to generate leads and sales. Phone books are dead, and with billboards, direct mail, print & newspaper advertising, it is hit or miss at best and even then it’s nearly impossible to justify those advertising dollars with analytics / metrics that show what type of response, if any, that was generated. That’s the beauty of Internet marketing, and where we come in as developers to help these business owners and companies that depend on increasing web traffic to keep money coming in!
While these development tactics are never-ending, we’ll just go over the basics that should absolutely apply to every website.
1. The Title Tag
Most titles for each HTML page should stay under 100 characters or about 10 words. Some search engines just chop them off after about 60, but 100 is safe I think. There are lots of different opinions on this, and different resources that will tell you different things, but I think as long as you don’t go nuts you just be fine. This will force you to do some creative writing. The stronger keywords and phrases need to be at the beginning of the title tag. Also, title tags need to appear someone cosmetic – they are visible to visitors at the top of the browser.
Tulsa House Call Doctors,house calls in tulsa, house calls in ok, doctor house calls, housecall,
Tulsa House Call Doctors | Medical House Calls in Tulsa | Doctor House Calls in Tulsa
It’s also important to note that the Title tags throughout the site should not be identical. This will help the site you are optimizing to have several different listings on the first page for local search results, which is what we want.
2. Check Internal Links!
Make sure that the links in the navigation as well as inline text links go to the correct / corresponding pages in the site. It’s best to test the site in your browser, and click on all of the pages in the navigation menu andin the content of the body of the page to make sure they match the pages you developed content for, and if you don’t have content for a page in the navigation, maybe just put “need content” on the page if you are still working on the site or are waiting for copy from the client.
Also, make sure none of the hyperlinked/underlined text in the content is linked with “#” – it doesn’t go anywhere! Every link on the site should go somewhere…preferably to another page on the site. Linking to other internal pages other than on the navigation menu helps the search engine spiders find all of the pages of the site more easily.
3. Naming HTML Files
HTML files and folders should not include “a” “the” “but”, etc. Example: “schedule_a_visit.html” The new SEO information that we are seeing come out as technology moves rapidly forward says to use hyphens instead of underscores, and take out conjuntions and joining words. So, it should be “schedule-visit.html”.
4. Keyword Named Folders
Keyword-named folders are a huge thing with Google right now. It’s a good idea to pick two or three of the website’s primary search terms and create folders of them for the pages that you plan to optimize for the site. Good examples:
/tulsa-house-call-doctor/schedule-visit.html (instead of schedule_a_visit.html)
/home-medical-visit-tulsa/medical-questions.html (instead of faq.html)
/doctor-house-call-tulsa/laren-hightower-bio.html (instead of dotors_bio.html)
If you use WordPress to blog or manage entire websites even, you’ll notice it does this automatically (depending on how your permalinks are setup) when you create new pages or posts.
Search Engines look for those keyword-named folders. They are an important part of local search and search engine optimization. Another important SEO tip: After a site is launched, and we have about 45-60 days of analytics data, it’s not a bad idea to go back and re-optimize those folders with the actual keywords that are being used to find the site’s content. In the beginning of development, you are kind of guessing, but educated guesses are usually close if you know what you are doing. Remember web content should be modified based on the actual data that we know. Analytics help us to do that. Example: if the analytics tell us that people are typing in “tulsa house call doc” instead of spelling it out like we think they will, “tulsa house call doctor” then we should go back and rename the folder /tulsa-house-call-doc/schedule-visit.html.
5. The META Description
The meta=description is super important. It is what we use to control the way search results are displayed. If you don’t enter a description tag in the page, Google will generally pull from the first few lines of text that it finds. So, those first few sentences should be WELL optimized. The H1 tag should contain the strongest keywords, and the first sentence or two should include the same keywords in sentence form. Once you’ve crafted a well thought out H1 tag and first couple sentences, just re-write the first two sentences slightly different, but with the same keywords, and make that your description.
H1: Tulsa House Call Doctors
First two lines of copy: Tulsa House Call Doctors is Tulsa’s premier medical house call service providing world class, non-emergent, discrete, personalized medical care to infants, kids, teens, and adults in the comfort of your home, hotel, office, workplace, or assisted living center by an experienced, caring, board certified physician.
META Description: Tulsa House Call Doctors provides medical house call service to Tulsa residents with acute medical needs in Tulsa and surrounding areas.
6. Alternate Image Tags
Alt Image Tags are still important to Google simply because Google Images is a good way to search for images when developing content for a blog or website. Example: if I wanted to find a logo for McDonalds, the websites that have the McDonald’s logo on them that took the time to optimize their images with Alt Image Tags are more likely to have their website displayed for those image results in Google. Just another way to get people to go to your site….even if they aren’t there to make a buying decision. Traffic is traffic. You never know what will happen when they see your site. Usually, just the graphics on the page that are NOT part of the layout need to have ALT image tags in them.
7. The Sitemap
This is a simple one. Search engines find pages through hyperlinks, but not just any kind of hyperlink. Primarily, the text hyperlinks that go to other pages on a website you are developing are the ones you need to pay attention to and focus on. An image or graphic that links to a page on your site will not be followed by a search engine spider. So, what happens when you build a navigation menu completely from images? I’ve been guilty of it, and so have other developers. What do you do to ensure that the search engine spiders find all the pages on your site? Enter the sitemap. There are dozens of ways to do this, but I think the best way to do it is just build a page that lists all of the pages on the website in an organized fashion, and make sure all of the pages on your website link to the sitemap page. IMPORTANT: when creating content weeks and months after you launch the site, don’t forget to add new pages to the sitemap. The sitemap needs to be accurate!! On a side note, WordPress has great plugins that build your sitemap for you when you create new pages so that you don’t have to remember to update it every time to you make a change to your website. Below is an example of a site that we manage, www.tonycooke.org. It’s basically just an outline-format list of all the pages on his site:
In closing, these are just A FEW search engine optimization tactics that you should put into practice without exception. If you’d like more resources on SEO from a developmental standpoint, I recommend subscribing to Website Magazine, and frequently read their blog. They provide excellent white papers and up-to-date knowledge about how to create online content to make the first page of Google, and how to drive more traffic to a website. They also have a great iPhone app that delivers content from their blog via RSS.