Any marketer living in the 21st century, and responsible for a web site, should know three fundamentals of optimizing a web site for search.Â However, most marketers leave even the basics up to their internal or external web resources. That is an expensive, irresponsible practice.
The basics are just that - three fundamental rules every marketer should understand. So I’m going to spell them out here in the hope that marketers (and the people who serve them) will understand these concepts well enough to use them in making every day marketing decisions.
- How do you decide on a new content management system (CMS) to help you maintain your site without knowing whether it’s built to fulfill the basics?
- Beyond that, whom should you ask to add content to your site without knowing the basics? (What skills do you look for? How do you vet candidates? Do you already have people capable of doing so on your team?)
- How do you evaluate your search engine marketing (SEM) vendor without knowing the basics? (As above, how do you judge a potential working relationship without knowing even the fundamental rules? Are they willing to share the basics with you?)
- How do you evaluate the effective integration of your marketing messages oline? What are your potential positioning challenges as they relate to this very important medium?
So here we go - commit these three basics to memory, and you’ll be a much better marketer for it.
Optimizing Your Site
1) Your â€œTitle tagâ€ is the most important optimization tool on the page. You are limited to 64 characters in a title tag, which is sometimes called a “Browser title” in a CMS system. You should have a title tag for each page of your site, as it’s the first signal of relevant content to search engines.
The title tag in this case is: ‘The New York Times - Breaking News, World News & Multimedia’ which is 59 characters long. It provides contextual meaning for people and spiders as they assess content on a site. In this case, the keywords they’ve optimized for are the brand, “news,” and “multimedia.”
Your CMS system or your web designers should have the capacity of creating relevant title tags for every page on your site. Consider your keywords carefully, and use them craftily. Even 64 characters can be enough!
Hint: Consider putting your best writer (perhaps in your PR department) on the title tag case.
2) Once you have keywords selected for each page on your site, use them in your headlines and in the first paragraph of your body copy. Again, keywords provide context, and spiders (and people) look to headlines and will read the first paragraph (if you’re lucky) to see whether they’ve come to the right place.
This goes for regular pages on your site, as well as landing pages from your pay per click ad campaigns.
Hint: Your PR folks are great at writing headlines and killer first paragraphs. Perhaps you can have them look at your web site and help optimize it…
Optimizing for Search Result Actions:
3) Your â€œMeta descriptionâ€ is what people see when they get search results, and is limited to 160 characters (in Google, which has more than 60% of the search market, so you might as well use their limits):
In this case, the meta description is: “CNN.com delivers the latest breaking news and information on the latest top stories, weather, business, entertainment, politics and more.” which is 151 characters, and provides plenty of context for me to decide whether the site has relevant content for me there…
Most CMS programs will allow you to input a meta description for every page on your site. Use the tool to make your results meaningful - especially to people who have plenty of choices as they review search results.
Knowing just these three basics of search will improve your results immensely. And it’ll improve your confidence along the way…