Search Engine Optimisation

Should I use the keywords meta tags?

In case you are in a hurry, the short answer is No.

Google stopped using the keywords meta tags years ago, get people still seem to be trying to leverage these things to get their website “up the rankings”.

The reason Google stopped using them is people generally used them to try and get themselves up the ranking and play the game. They rarely provided much in the way of genuine info that Google couldn’t already get from analysing the data on the page.

Google does however use the Meta Description tag, often (if you have a good quality description) to populate their small excerpt you see on the google page.

So go and spend some time improving and updating the content of your site, but please don’t waste any time coming up with a list of keywords, it’s a waste of time.

HTTP vs HTTPS

HTTPS has always been used to secure websites that contain sensitive information such as Credit Card numbers, but most web site owners tend not to give it much thought outside those requirements.

In 2014 Google announced it was starting to give a slight ranking advantage to HTTPS sites over their HTTP counterparts. This started out as being pretty much a tie-breaker scenario, where two sites were otherwise equal it would rank the HTTPS site first.

Last year Google also started actively looking for HTTPS content ahead of HTTP content. That means if your site supports both protocols Google will automatically look for the HTTPS version.

With the advent of HTTP/2 and it’s current requirement of HTTPS now is a good time to consider switching over to HTTPS. As well as giving your users a more secure experience you also have the added benefit of being in a good place to support HTTP/s if your host supports it.

It’s official, I am a supermarket!

Ok, not quite, but in the world of the interweb it seems I have set up shop as one of the largest supermarkets in the UK.

Last week I noticed a spike in traffic to one of my sites. When I checked the stats I could see the traffic was coming from people searching for a particular domain name in Google. People often seem to type web URL’s into the Google search field, so it is worth making sure you rank high for your domain name too!

For some reason when people entered the URL of this supermarket into Google my site ranked number 1. I found this to be quite amusing.

What I found even funnier is once they clicked my link people seemed to think I WAS the supermarket. It turns out the supermarket had a prize draw and to enter you had to fill out a survey. People were registering on my site and emailing me their opinions thinking they were in the running for a prize.

This is most amusing, as my site looks nothing like the supermarkets branding, it isn’t even close.

I do find it odd that the proper site didn’t even rank in the top 10 on Google though. They must really be in the Google bad-books!

I pointed these people in the right direction, it seemed the right thing to do, but whoever the supermarket employ for their SEO probably needs a lesson in Googlisation!

Duplicate content? Check out the canonical tag

Google (along with Microsoft and Yahoo, it seems) have just announced they now support a format that allows you to publicly specify your preferred version of a URL. If you have multiple pages that have similar content you can now let Google know which is the one you wish them to index.

Direct link to Webmaster Central Blog

The idea is a new <link> tag that specifies the preferred version of a page inside the <head> tags, as follows:

<link rel=”canonical” href=”http://www.thinksynergy.co.uk/2009/02/11/twitter/”/>

At first glance I was wondering what all the fuss is about, as to be honest most of us have done a reasonable job of cutting out the duplicate content in our blogs anyway. Once thing I overlooked was the use of Google analytics campaigns (along with any other campaigns). This could lead to your URL being tagged (and indexed) as:

http://www.thinksynergy.co.uk/2009/02/11/twitter/?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=twitter

There are two issues with this. The first is that the above indexed URL could be (to what extent, only Google can answer) penalised as duplicate content. Secondly, if it is not being penalised, it is certainly attracting the PageRank that should be aimed at the “official” page.

By using the canonical tag the tagged URL will now tell Google the preferred version of itself, thus putting the PageRank where it should be and avoiding any possibility of being kicked in the backside for duplicate content.

This is a subject that has been discussed a few times on Nice2all, as WordPress seems a hot bed of duplicate content and it is a challenge to cut out as much of it as possible. I imagine with this new method it will be possible to put this issue to bed once and for all, although I haven’t had time to test it out just yet.

I am a bit cynical of the effect of duplicate content, I actually think Google deals with it quite well and people are not punished as much as they may think, but this is a very easy tag to implement and whatever we can do to make the search engines job easier the better in terms of reward, I guess.

How important is a blog post title?

The importance of a blog post title is something I thought I had covered before, but looking back it seems I never posted it.  The title of a post is one of the most important aspects in terms of getting your post seen. The content of the post is actually more important in terms of the total post, but if you rely on visitors from search engines then they need to arrive at the post before they can read it, right?

There are several things that dictate how well a post is ranked by the search engines, some of the most important are:

  • The title of the post
  • The URL of the post
  • The title PROPERTY of the post (in the browser header)
  • The value of the headings
  • The amount of keywords in the body

The list does go on, but for the purpose of this post I will focus on the title.

If you are anything like me you will be quite enthusiastic about your blog post. When you write it you may be brimming with ideas, full of enthusiasm and excited to post. You write your post and come up with a great (sometimes funny) title to give the post the POW! factor.

This is a very easy trap to fall into, I have done this many times myself. It is easier to illustrate through an example.

Take this post… it is basically about the title of a blog post. Instead of naming it :

How important is a blog post title?

… I could have called it:

The risks of the POW factor

Ok, that’s not necessarily the best title in the world, but what I am getting at is I could use the title to make a newspaper headline type statement, to intrigue the reader and make them want to read on. There is an argument that actually that is the right way to do it, but we need to be aware that while a reader may be enthused by that, Google may not.

Of course, the holy grail is to combine the two, but in my opinion it is more important to optimise your post to allow people to find what they are searching for, not just from google, but from your internal search engine. If someone searches for this post 6 months down the line they may search for “post title”. This post will appear on the list, whereas it may not (or be lower down the list) if I gave it a funny title.

Some of this may seem like common sense, in that case great, but like a lot of these simple aspects to web design and blogging, it’s only simple once you know about it.

As always, comments (and other angles) are always appreciated.

Ranking in Google, important?

A question we get asked all the time is “how to get on page 1 of google”? There is no easy answer but what I tell people is that is not necessarily the Holy Grail of web marketing, it is more a by-product of a successful marketing campaign.

Imagine you run a normal “physical” business in Harrogate (i.e. not on the web) and you partnered with a company who designed you flyers, leaflets, adverts or whatever it may be. Imaging also you were listed in the phone book. Would you rely on the phone book to generate your income, probably (hopefully!) not.

When a business starts up it is important to spread the word as far and as wide as possible. New start up’s get their adverts put in as many local places as they can and rely on as many mediums as possible, shop windows, letterboxes, local publications, word of mouth etc. In this case you would target local Harrogate publications, Harrogate Advertisor etc.

Now imagine the following:

  • The Yellow Pages: Google
  • Local publications: Harrogate Council websites and business directories
  • Letterbox advertising: Emails
  • Word of mouth: Forums, comments on websites, actual word of mouth!

Each of these are as important as the other, and a business cannot succeed without them.

Now imagine that the Yellow Pages would not list your business unless you prove you have done the other advertising too. Yes, you guessed it, that’s pretty much how Google works!

So, in essence what you need to do is focus less on Google and more on making your business a success. If you do the other aspects of your campaign right your Google ranking will look after itself!