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SEO Basics - Titles, File Names, and Meta Tags

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In an earlier article, I covered why content is important to your SEO rankings.
This article will cover what you can do behind the scenes to make sure the HTML code on each web site page is optimized for search engines.
Updating HTML code can be done using a web editor program such as FrontPage or Dreamweaver, but it can also be done by hand using Notepad.
There are literally dozens of techniques that SEO consultants employ to optimize each variable that makes up a single web page.
For example, at the bare minimum, you need to pay attention to researching and creating effective page titles, researching and creating effective file names, writing effective description meta tags, properly using heading tags and alt tags for each hyperlink and image file.
This goes for every link, every picture, graphic, image, and for every single web page.
As you can see, it is no small task to optimize a web site - even a small one! While each variable plays a small part in the overall optimization - think of it as a recipe with each variable being a single ingredient - and all ingredients being important to the recipe, I want to cover three items: page titles, file names, and the description meta tag.
Page titles Page titles are the hyperlinked words that show in the search engine results and also display at the top of the browser page.
They are not only vital but greatly influence page ranking in the search results, so it's important that the page title is rich in keywords.
You add the title of the page in between the "title" tags in the HTML code at or near the top of the page.
Example: This is the page title Make sure every page has a different title.
If you feel that you cannot pin down one title for a page because it has too many sections of information, then it would be best to create more pages and categorize accordingly.
For example, if you sell widgets in different colors and you put them all on one page and name the title of the page "widgets," this isn't going to do much to help in your page ranking because your page will be competing with thousands of others that contain the same word.
Instead, create one page just to showcase your red widgets and title the page "Red widgets.
" Think about it...
when someone is doing a Google search, they will most likely be as descriptive as possible so as to narrow down the search results.
Another rule of thumb is to keep the title to a maximum of 60 characters.
File names Choose file names that correlate with your page titles.
These should also be keyword-rich as they do have a positive impact on search results.
When choosing file names, use all lower-case letters and do NOT use spaces.
I have read that using hyphens instead of underscores is preferred and nowadays having no hyphens or underscores in the file name is acceptable as well - the search engines should treat them as the same.
One item I do want to stress is that I do not want you to run out and change all your file names because if a page is bookmarked or indexed in a directory somewhere and you change it, then it could not only hurt your rankings, but you may lose customers who can't find your site because of a broken link.
So consider changing the file name if the page is not yet indexed in the search engines or if the page has poor search results placement AFTER you've already changed the other items.
If you are getting good search results placement, then of course do not change your file names.
Description meta tag A good description tag will get you noticed! This is the blurb that is displayed right under the title tag in the search results page.
It is what people skim over when viewing the search results.
Too many times people will search on a term that has multiple meanings and the page titles may help a little, but it's the description that will get their attention and let the person know that your is the site they are looking for! Its placement is right up there at the top of the source code, usually right under the title tag and looks like this: Don't forget to add key words and key phrases here as well.
: ) Quick Start Assignment Take just one of your web pages and optimize it for search engines.
First, do some little research for keywords to use for the titles and descriptions.
It's important to use words that your target audience is actually searching, not what you THINK they are searching for.
For example, if you think people are searching on the key phrase "certified life coach" - do some research because perhaps they are searching on different terms such as "midlife transition coach," "coach to guide me through a divorce," "adhd coach" etc.
Check the title tag, do you have the keywords near the front where they carry the most value? Is the title too long? Is it an effective title? Is this page title the same as all your other page titles? Do your page titles have your business name right in front? If so, make some edits.
Next, write an effective description for the page.
Lastly, only change the file names if there are spaces in the title, if it is not yet indexed by the search engines, or if it has poor placement in the search results.
Of course there is so much more to do in order to properly optimize your pages, but start with just ONE page and do this for each new page you add for the next few weeks.
Get started!
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