I have to admit, the journalism geek in me is pretty excited for this one. Not to mention the fact that it features one of my favorite speakers, Mr. Matthew Bailey. He’s kind of the greatest thing in the whole world. If I had Matt’s speaking skills, you’d find me on street corners everywhere.
Um, shut up. You know what I meant. Weirdos.
He’s going to talk most about the onpage factors, because that’s where he spends the majority of his time. He lives under the philosophy that you better clean up your house and get it in order before you invite people over. We need to get our Web sites in order and ready for searchers. The most important part of communicating to searches is that there is a sender of information and a receiver of information. Our Web sites are only as good as users ability to decode what we’re telling them on the site. We have to make our sites easier to decode and understand.
Unfortunately, we get wrapped up in design and overlook the needs of searchers. Every time you adjust your site to make it easier to use, the benefits are tangible in search engine rankings. When your site is better for your users, one of the best benefits is better rankings.
Power of Words
As its base level, all you have on your site are words. They’re the building blocks of communication. Words are the foundation. They’re all we have to go on.
Words carry power with them. Words are like little dynamite sticks in people’s minds. By finding the words that will resonate with your searchers on an emotional level, you can create a reaction in their mind. If you can take content off your site and put it on someone else’s, then it’s generic. You want information that is specific to you and what you offer.
Rule #1: Call Things What They Are
Get rid of the corporate speak and the jargon and realize that your target audience may not talk the same way that you do. Call things what they are.
[As an aside, Matt Bailey is seriously an awesome speaker. I know I've said it before, but really, he is.]
Codependency of Words
How do search engines rank Web sites? What factors do they use?
The search engines are trying to find out ways to make people happy. They want to think like people. They want to engage sites. They want to judge them and rank them using factors that people would use. The search engines are just little machines that want to be real boys. Hee.
Page Titles: They need to be unique and they need to be concise. They need to explain the content that is on that page. You have 60 characters to get your most important, critical stuff out to users. That’s where the battle is won for the search in the SERPs.
Headlines: Navigational device. They draw us in. They’re short, concise and full of power. Make liberal use of headlines, subheads, bullet points, paragraph headers, etc. They make it easy for people to read quickly.
Page Structure: Title, Meta description, H1s, links, etc. The engines are looking for readability.
Meta Tags: Similar to a card catalog at the library. They were meant as a form of organizing the Internets information in a logical format. If you filled everything out, it would be like pulling a card out of a card catalog. Webmasters found out if they put keywords in the Meta tag they’d rank (pre-2000, of course). Once they figured that out, it was abused. And now the search engines don’t pay too much attention to them. Don’t waste your time on the Meta keywords, however, the Meta Description is very important because it shows up in the search page. They should be unique and focused to every page.
Links: Nuts and bolts of the Internet.
Alt Text: If a picture is critical to the usability of that site, you need to have alt text included to describe what that image is about in case it doesn’t show up.
Google says, “Use the alt attribute to provide descriptive text. In addition, we recommend using a human readable caption and descriptive text around the image.”
Images: Name your images what they are.
Multimedia: Optimize your digital files – file names, summary, descriptions, etc. Everything is searchable and rankable.
Location of Words
Users scan content. 80 percent of people scan your page. 16 percent of people will read word for word. How you arrange your content is critical to helping people find it faster because they’re scanning. Give users a structured group of information to look at.
Credibility of Words
People make credibility decisions based on how pretty it is, including layout, typography, font size and color scheme. You have to have a consistent format throughout your Web site. Number one factor in readability is small text. Low contrast is after that. If its too low of a contrast, people don’t see it.
Performance of Words
Segment your visitors based on how they found the Web site. Dig in and find out why someone came, what they were looking for, did they find it and how many?
People don’t search for your brand first. Know the buying cycle.
Clarity of Words
You have to be clear about what you’re saying. People search based on their needs and you have what satisfies their need. Write with clarity, directness and commitment.
Semantics of Words
A sandwich can be a hoagie, a grinder, a sub, a po-boy or a sandwich. There are so many different words to call things. Think about the verbs that you use to describe something, then think about the verbs people can use to describe your product. People look for what we offer in vastly different ways.
Search engines are getting vastly better at understanding the context of things. They’re using personalization.
Designs that work in the US may not work elsewhere. Avoid euphemisms, slang, vague instructions.
Know your searchers:
- Sharp Shooters: Specific Search
- Shotgun: Concept Searcher
- Artillery: Idea Search