Welcome back Spoonfeeders! Yes, I just said that and yes I’m going to open every new post with it!
One thing I’ve noticed and it was certainly something I struggled with at the beginning of my career; having to Google every new term I was faced with.
Let’s face it, not everyone knows their canonical tag from their elbow. Hell, I didn’t even know what it was after I read my first few articles.
Want to know why? Because nobody broke it down, nobody Spoonfed it to me.
Well buckle up, spoonfeeders! Let’s jump straight in!
SEO Key Terms & Tags
Ah the meta title.
If the meta title was an office worker, it’d be the receptionist. That’s because it’s the first one to greet you on that SERP (Search Engine Results Page) and let you know if you’re in the right place.
The meta title gives you a wink and a smile and lets you know you’re in safe hands. Yes, this is your first impression folks so it’s damn important!
I recently had a client and the first task I did for them was re-write their meta titles and just wait.
Before you know it, they significantly increased in rankings because all of a sudden they were targeting keywords, were relevant to search terms and had an increased CTR (Click Through Rate).
Now I’m not saying that’s all you need to do, not even close. But after some keyword research, updating your meta titles should be one of your first steps.
The meta title is different to your page title.
For example, a page title would be “Home”, “Contact Us” or “About Us”.
Whereas the meta title is the title that displays on the SERP, describes the page, matches the keywords and informs your audience what they are getting themselves into.
As a side tip, please don’t ever leave your meta title as “Home”.
You’re losing out in so much SEOness (I’m aware that’s not a word, but you get the point).
For a good title, you should be looking at between 55-60 characters.
Any more than that and you’re risking getting cut off or even having Google make up their own title for your page, and we don’t want that!
Next up is the meta description.
Now, the meta description has no ‘direct’ bearing on SEO. But it should be treated as if it’s a make or break.
Much like the meta title, this is one of the first impressions your visitors are going to get.
If the meta title is the receptionist, then the description is the nice lady that collects you from reception and leads you to the meeting room, making small talk and making you feel very important.
Now there’s a lot of conflicting information on how long a meta description should be. Some say between 150-160 characters and some say anything up to 300.
There was a short, glorious moment where Google increased the length to 300 characters and then promptly reversed it. So you’re looking for the sweet spot between 150 and 160 characters.
While it doesn’t necessarily impact SEO, a good meta description will certainly increase CTR, which has a huge influence on how well you rank. More clickies, more climbies.
Also make sure to add your keyword in there. Any keywords used in the search phrase that are present in your meta description will be bolded. Thus drawing the eye, getting them to read.. Enticing them.. Clicking through. Am I making sense here?
Please, also do not just write one killer description and then duplicate it across everything. Your description should be unique for every page. Seriously. The whole point of this is to rank well. So plan out your keywords, see what people want to gain from your page, and write a description that matches their needs.
Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto.
Ok, the robots.txt is an important file. It single handedly has the power to entirely block all crawlers from your site and keep you from ever ranking on search. Those pesky robots!
With great power, comes great responsibility.
The robots.txt file basically gives Google some instructions on how to crawl your site.
Let’s say Googlebot is your mother during a Spring clean, and you’ve got some shifty stuff in that sock drawer. She just doesn’t need to look in there and broadcast it to the world, God dammit!
She’s not getting in there now, mission accomplished!
So the Robots.txt file indicates whether certain web crawlers can or cannot crawl your site, or parts of your site. For example, you’d usually keep the admin section out of crawls, so just disallow all (Disallow: *) from that part of your site.
Redirects are our friend. Oh so useful, but be careful. A badly placed redirect or incorrectly formatted can have bad consequences.
Imagine a URL redirecting to itself, redirecting to itself, again and again.
You’ve mainly got two types to focus on, 301 and 302. A 301 redirect is a ‘permanent redirect’, whereas 302 is ‘temporary’.
So for example, if you temporarily needed to change the location of a page; say temporarily redirecting to the homepage while you draft your nifty new landing page. Then that’d be a temporary 302 redirect.
You’re telling Google, “this is going here. But not for long, I’ll be back and we’ll sort it out!”
Then a 301 should basically be used any other time, because that’s going to be a permanent move.
Now, some developers are lazy. Yes, this is me calling you out, you lazy-arse developer. They’ll just throw out temporary redirects like they’re trying to get rid of flyers and head home for the day. Stop it! It’s just one number away, it’s not that hard!
So always double-check those redirects and make sure you have the right one set up. A handy chrome extension for this is Redirect Path.
Header tags, just like the big, bold line above this one, are just that; headers.
They start at H1, go to H2, H3, H4 and so on.
Your H1 is your title. But not your Page title, or your meta title. Well, sometimes it’s your page title..
Ok. The H1 should basically be the first thing on your page, or the most important identifier.
This is the first thing that Google reads and identifies the theme of the page from. So if your H1 is “Home”, then Google knows this is your home-page.
Alternatively, if you’re an ecommerce site. Then the name of your products, on the product page, should be your H1. See the example below.
The H2 is your sub-heading or 2nd most important item on the page. So on and so forth.
These should go in descending order. You’re not going to kick off with a H6, swoop into a H1, down to H5 etc.
Keep it neat, folks.
I’m mentioning Meta Keywords because you’re going to hear about them.
They are basically some keywords that you can put in the header of your site. Just a little background nudge to tell Google what you’re all about.
Well, at least, they used to be.
They don’t work and have no benefit to you, your site or crawlers. Don’t listen to anyone that says otherwise.
In fact, if you hear someone saying positive things about meta keywords then pick up your stuff and leave. You don’t need those kind of people in your life.
Image Alt Text
Images are important right? I mean, they literally paint a picture.
But imagine if this picture summed up your whole topic and you relied on this picture to get your point across.
But then the picture is blocked in an email or can’t be loaded. Or worse yet, that little crawler flicking through your site isn’t that great (yet) at seeing what that picture is all about.
That’s where alt text comes in. Literally alternative text to the image. It’s used to describe the picture. So don’t just cram it with keywords, that’s no good to anyone!
Describe the picture. Describe it you your audience and to Google. Obviously, you’re an SEO, you have to throw a keyword in there somewhere, just make it fit!
A canonical tag is a little tag that goes into the header of your site and basically tells Google that a specific URL is the master copy of this page.
Ok that’s a tough one to digest..
Imagine, for some reason, you have a number of versions of the same page. They might be locally optimised, or whatever, that’s not the point.
The point is, these pages are essentially duplicates of each other so not all of them (if any) are going to appear in search.
So the canonical tag tells the search engine crawler which is the master version and that’s the one we want to appear in the search results.
I’m a big believer in self-referencing canonical tags. So putting a canonical tag on every page, referencing itself.
It may not have any duplicates so might be unnecessary, but it might save you a headache later on if there’s ever issues with duplicate content.
You’re bound to hear the term Hreflang sooner or later. Pronounced H-ref-lang. You literally name the letter H.
See, nobody told me this stuff and there I was on a conference call trying to spill out “hereflantag”.
You know that sound you make when you’re trying to chew that piece of food that’s way too hot, while simultaneously trying to blow on it? Yeah, that’s the one.. awkward.
Anyway, the hreflang tag focuses on international SEO. It tells crawlers about your page and the different international versions or translations of the page.
So let’s say you have a different international pages for the US and France.
The US page would be /en-us/ and the French would be /fr-fr/.
Let’s look at what the full code would look like:
<link rel=”alternate” href=”http://example.com” hreflang=”en-gb” />
<link rel=”alternate” href=”http://example.com/fr/” hreflang=”fr-fr” />
A sitemap is exactly that, a site map. It’s a list of all of the pages on your site.
The sitemap essentially points crawlers in the right direction when crawling your site.
They can crawl your site without one, but they might miss a lot of pages you want found. The sitemap shows the crawler parts of your site that it might not have found by itself.
To see if your site has a sitemap, try adding /sitemap.xml after your domain in the address bar.
Sitemaps can come in a variety of formats and can include anything from pages to images, videos, blog categories, authors etc.
The infamous backlink.
A single word that can split the SEO community right down the middle. Because building backlinks is a huge part of SEO, but one of the most tedious parts of the job.
Some people love it, some people loath it. No points for guessing which side of the fence I sit at.
I’m hoping you absolutely love this post, share it, reference it, write about it.. Everything! All the while, giving me that tasty tasty link juice so I don’t have to actually reach out to people. Yuck.
Think about it like this:
Google has two sites that say the same thing. They both wrote it at the same time, same images, everything the same.
The only difference is person A finished the blog, emailed a few websites with similar interests, shared it on all their social accounts etc.
They are actively spreading the word about the post and as a result, people are mentioning it. Websites reference it and mention the author on their website. All of a sudden, person A has a number of high authority websites linking back to their post.
Person B finished writing, clicks “Post” and goes to bed.
Which version is Google going to show?
That’s right. Google looks for authority as an indicator of who’s trustworthy. If you have good quality websites talking about your blog and linking back to you, then you’re giving off all the right signals and you’re going to get rewarded.
But not all links are good! Don’t ever pay for a link or accept a link from a shady or spammy website.
On the flip side, never ever link out to a spam website. This is just doing you damage and if you’re trying to grow your presence, this will cost you dearly.
Well, there you go folks. That was a long one and if you stuck with me and read the lot, thank you!
I sincerely appreciate your support and if this guide helps just one person then I’ve done what I set out to do.
If I missed anything, wasn’t clear about anything or if you have any questions or comments, then get in touch through the contact form. I’ll write back, pinky-promise!
‘Till next time.