The SEO Non-Techie Primer for Understanding What The Heck Your Web Person is Talking About
Let’s Review Some SEO Basics…
NOTE: To understand SEO you are going to have to learn a few new words. These words are bolded below so you can communicate effectively with your web gal or web guy about search engine optimization (SEO) for your website.
Cyberspace is connected by a web, the World Wide Web to be exact.
Your website is “built” on that web. Your website’s exact location is determined by it’s url or web address. Each page of your website has it’s own unique url so anyyone looking for it can find it…unless you you don’t want it to be found (more on that in a bit).
Search Engines (like Google) search the world wide web to index web pages and create a directory using links back to each web page.
To do this, they send out “spiders” to “crawl” the web and index what is there. Every time a spider crawls a url it looks for signals to determine what the page is about and then, using a link, lists that specific web page in the search engine results of the directory so others can find it too.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the act of optimizing your web pages so that spiders can understand what your website is about through the use of signals like keywords, meta data and alt tags in order for your web pages to achieve a higher ranking in the search engine results. (More on signals below…so keep reading ‘cuz they are important)
Breaking It Down…
Depending on how web-savvy you are, all those bold words above may have your head swimming. Here’s an easy way to get it all sorted ‘cuz those terms are important. They are so important that we’ve created some really complex and technical schematics for you.
Each of your web pages is an apartment within that building.
Each of the sub-pages is a room in that specific apartment.
Each web page is made of of different components (text, photos, etc.). These components are the signals that tell a spider what your web page (and consequently website) is about.
I knew you would. 🙂
Now About Those Spiders
Spiders have a pretty tough job and SEO is all about making that job easier for them. You see, spiders have to go out and just by “looking” at the html code of a web page (or component on that page) be able to determine what that page is about.
Here is a snippet of what a spider sees when looking at this page…
Do you see the problem? You see images and neatly oraganized concepts, ideas and words. A spider sees only code – so that code better signal to him exactly what the page is about.
Send Spiders The Right Signals
Here is where signals come in…so pay attention, this is the important part.
Specific components on the page signal to the spider that “this is important” or “this is what this is a photo of”.
These are the signals a spider looks for…
- Title Tag – The information in the title tag is what appears in the header of SERPs (search engine results). It is also what appears in the tab of the browser and what will be used for a bookmark.
- Description – Also known as the meta description, it is a brief summary of the content found on that web page. Limit the description to 160 characters because THIS is what shows, under the title, in search engine results.
- Keywords – Keywords are the specific words that the page is about. DO NOT “stuff” keywords as this will have a negative impact on your ranking. If you use keywords use them wisely.
- Instructions for Web Crawlers (spiders, also called bots) – Remember the job of a spider is to gather information so that a search engine can index that specific web page. You can add meta data that tell a spider NOT to index that page. By default, spiders always search the web so you only have to use this if you DO NOT want the page to be crawled (think of it as a fence).
- Header Tags – Header Tags are the headlines of your content and should follow a logical or structured order (think outline). The tags create a hierarchy (again, just like an outline).
- Alt Tags on Images – Alt Text (alternative text tag) is used to describe your image to the spiders. Since they cannot see the photos or images on your site you have to tell them what it is. Additionally, screen readers used by blind and visually impaired individuals rely on alt text to explain the images to the reader.
You have to make sure that these signals are used correctly every singe time on every single page of your website IF you want the spiders to accurately report back what they find to the search engines.
In the coming weeks, I will have a complete post on each one of these signals, best practices, and common mistakes. If there is something specific you’d like to learn more about or have a question about what I’ve just explained, please leave a comment below.