Friday, December 2, 2011

SEO Tips for Beginners - Optimizing Images

Search engines are advanced enough to find and index images but they still need help determining what the image is. Eventually search engines will be able to scan an image and determine what it is but we aren't there quite yet. As of right now they need us to tell them what our images are so they can index them into image search for related keywords.

There are a few reasons search engines give boosts to websites that user proper image names and alt tags. The first is that it helps them understand what the image is so they can put it into their image index and other searchers can find it. The other reason search engines reward websites that optimize images is accessibility. Search engines want your content to be accessible to as many people as possible and will reward those who help them with that goal. If you optimize your images correctly it helps the blind and users with text‐only browsers understand what the image so they can get a more complete idea of the page.

Let's say you wrote an article called "Dog Training Techniques" and you have images of all the types of dogs that the particular methods work for. If your images are automatically named something like image1.jpg or postimage2123.jpg it doesn't tell us what the image is about at all. A better and more user‐friendly alternative for a picture of a golden retriever would be golden‐retriever.jpg or goldenretriever‐puppy.jpg. That way both search engines and visually impaired people know what the image is supposed to be even if they can't see it. It might sound like common sense, but give your images accurate names and search engines will reward you.

Note: Use hyphens in your image names to separate words instead of underscores, they're easier for search engines to understand.

The other major image attribute search engines use as a ranking factor is the alt tag. The alt tag is meant to be the “alternate” text if an image is unable to load or can’t be displayed on the page. When you have alt tags it creates stand‐in text if there is a problem with an image loading. Anyone accessing the page can at least see what the image was supposed to be if the image fails to load.

You can use the image name for the alt text unless it doesn't make sense to. A good alt tag for the image golden‐retriever‐puppy.jpg would be "Golden Retriever Puppy." The key with alt tags is to use a short description of what the image is or what it's supposed to represent.

You can pick up a lot of free traffic easily by just naming your images correctly. So few website owners name images what they are you can sometimes rank highly on image search without doing anything else. Easy traffic coupled with a higher search engine score makes image optimization a necessity when it comes to SEO.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

SEO Tips for Beginners - Content Formatting

There are a few things you can do to place special emphasis on certain words and parts of your content. When search engines crawl and index that content they’ll see that you wanted those specific areas to stand out because they’re important ideas and concepts.

Don’t forget that search engines are smart and can pick up easily on manipulative behavior on your website. Don’t overuse these to try and improve rankings, use them when it makes sense and helps highlight important parts of your content for users.

There are two easy ways to tip off search engines about important parts of your content: bolding/italicizing and heading tags.

Bolding and Italicizing

When you bold or italicize a word search engines recognize that you want it to stand out. The most important thing is to not bold or italicize every single keyword because the effectiveness becomes diluted and ruins the benefit.

Golden rule for bold and italics: When you introduce a new concept or idea in your content bold it so that it stands out. When you want to make a keyword or phrase stand out throughout your content use italics. (you should be using italics more than bold overall).

The built in WordPress editor lets you bold and italicize words by either pressing CTRL + B and CTRL + I or clicking the Bold (B) and Italicize (I) buttons in the post editor.

Heading Tags

H tags are the best way to break up and format lengthy amounts of content in a neat and easy to navigate way. There are 6 heading tags you can use on your website that search engines look at to find themes and the overall meaning of the content. The heading tags are H1 – H6, H1 being the most important overall idea and H6 being a more specific part of the main idea. If you’re writing a really long piece of content – like a guide or report ‐ you can use the heading tags to break up your content and create an overall picture.

Here’s an example of how you can organize a guide using H tags:
  • Body Building: The Ultimate Guide (H1)
    • Body Building Tips (H2)
      • How To Get Six Pack Abs (H3)
      • How To Get A Ripped Body (H3)
    • Body Building Exercises (H2)
      • Warm-Up (H3)
      • Stretching (H3)
Assuming it’s descriptive and accurate the page title is usually best for the H1 tag. When you use a numbered H tag between H2 and H6 it’s supposed to indicate a sub‐headline of the heading number before it. If you have an H2 tag called “Body Building Tips” a good H3 tag would be “How To Get Six Pack Abs” because it’s one part of the “Body Building Tips” section. If you use H tags like this search engines can pull out the topics and sub‐topics of your content and award your page higher relevancy for both the broad and long tail keywords.

When making new content the H1 tag should only be used once per page but you can have as many H2-H6 tags as you want. The H1 tag is supposed to indicate the overall subject of the content, so having more than one doesn’t work. In the example above the H1 tag is implying that the content is about a body building guide, and all of the H tags underneath it are sub-topics of a body building guide.

If you think about your keywords like an upside down pyramid you can use the heading tags to really break down topics. The higher on the pyramid the more broad, higher search volume, and competitive the keyword is. The lower you get on the pyramid the more long, lower search volume, and less competitive it is.

It’s not necessary to use this many H tags on every page, in fact most probably won’t use more than the H1 tag. Remember what I said about not trying to force things strictly for an SEO benefit: use the H tags when it helps organize the content.