First thing to know about so called SEO “experts”: Most of them are simply very good snake oil salespeople trying to elicit hundreds or thousands of dollars from unknowing clients for very little of actual value.
It’s only worth paying for an SEO expert if they are:
- Writing and rewriting content & articles for your site to make them more keyword focused.
- Engaging in online discussions on relevant forums and industry/consumer focused websites where they link and promote your website, or help to position your company/website as an “industry expert”.
- Submitting your website address & business details to a range of relevant online directories, creating links back to your website.
Which, for the most part, is a “writer” you’re engaging, albeit one who knows the online space, rather than some mysterious SEO “wizard”.
SEO really is just a good site build + lots of constantly updating content containing relevant keywords and information. There are no secrets. And indeed, social media engagement has taken over the focus for many small business websites as being far more effective. More people now find sites via Facebook (from friends’ recommendations) than Google. In many cases, if it comes down to a choice of spending money on a writer to write or improve your content, or a social media professional to implement a social media plan, for many businesses I would recommend going the social media route.
Page titles, page description
With regards to the adding of the page title and description, the “meta data” of a web page, that’s something that any professional web designer/developer should do as part of their standard service. If they don’t, then you need to question them about it. Preferably make sure they have included this in their proposal to you before approving the project. If they seem a little hesitant or confused about what you’re asking, then take that as a big RED FLAG and look for another web developer!
You will of course need to provide your web developer with the relevant keywords you’re wanting to target, and descriptions for the site, after all who knows your business better than you do? Following are some tips on writing good page titles and descriptions.
Most best practice SEO guides recommend the following:
- It should include the brand/company name (though apart from the Homepage, AFTER each inner page’s unique page title – see below).
- It shouldn’t be just a list of keywords, in fact many SEO experts believe Google may regard that negatively.
- Page title should be unique for each page, hence easiest way is to include the actual page content title along with the site title. Don’t forget that page titles are also for people bookmarking your site, and “Liking” and “Sharing” via Facebook too, so if they’re all the same then it will look like they’ve bookmarked the same page multiple times.
Some advice from Google themselves:
Whenever possible, ensure each page has a unique title that describes the page well. For instance, if your site is for your store “Buffy’s House of Sofas”, a visitor may want to bookmark your home page and the order page for your red, fluffy sofa. If all of your pages have the same title: “Wecome to my site!”, then a visitor will have trouble finding your site again in the bookmarks. However, if your home page has the title “Buffy’s House of Sofas” and your red sofa page has the title “Buffy’s red fluffy sofa”, then visitors can glance at the title to see what it’s about and can easily find it in the bookmarks later. And if your visitors are anything like me, they may have several browser tabs open and appreciate descriptive titles for easier navigation.
“This simple tip for visitors helps search engines too. Search engines index pages based on the words contained in them, and including descriptive titles helps search engines know what the pages are about. And search engines often use a page’s title in the search results. “Welcome to my site” may not entice searchers to click on your site in the results quite so much as “Buffy’s House of Sofas”.
There is also a “shorter is better” mantra followed by many, but while Google may use only a certain number of words from your page description (the exact number is debatable) users also need to be able to understand what’s on the actual page itself when they read Google’s search results.
So a recommended page title format would include the following:
- A short phrase that describes the page, including main keywords
- Page name, unique for each page so users knows what’s on that page specifically
- Brand/company name
This should definitely be where more keywords are used in a smart, user friendly (readable) way. The following site gives a much better summary of the page description best practices than I ever could: www.seomoz.org/learn-seo/meta-description (SEOmoz is regarded by most in the industry as one of the authorities for Search Engine Optimisation knowledge and advice).
Search engine ranking overview
And for a high level overview from the same site that may assist with understanding what’s most important overall with regards to SEO: www.seomoz.org/article/search-ranking-factors. As you will read, CONTENT, CONTENT, CONTENT is the mantra, along with the importance that users place on the site through social media engagement plus their links to the site. These are by far and away the biggest factors for a website’s popularity and visitor numbers. And yes, the SEOmoz report shown is “predictions & opinions” because Google never reveals their actual algorithm or methods for ranking sites.
So as I wrote at the start of this post, having writers with online expertise writing or editing your website and blog/news content is where any $$$ should be invested, along with engaging with social media users. Well, that’s assuming your website designer/developer is building the site optimally for SEO, which should be done as part of their basic service by any half decent developer… but obviously not all developers are created equal.
Got any questions about the above? Feel free to email me regarding anything about this article or SEO in general.