Introduction: Natural Language SEO
On-site SEO includes: optimized content, well-formed HTML code and creating Web pages that are both usable and accessible, basically designing with Web standards.
These guidelines are as powerful today as they were yesterday — if not more. But the difference today is that you can no longer go around misusing these techniques. To be taken seriously by the search engines you have to create content for the people. This is what the search engines – or, more precisely, what the people using the search engines — really want from you.
Don’t ignore the technical factors that help the search engines categorize your website properly and show it as a possible resource in their search results when people type in a certain keyword phrase or even search queries based on natural language.
Natural language is what most of the search engines are aiming for. The system, called semantic search, will deliver search results based on actual questions, sentences and phrases, and not on keywords. For example, you will ask “Who is George Bush?” and the search engines will be able to come up with relevant questions about both Georges, the father and the son.
Semantic search engines will need words too in order to deliver results. That the words get together in intelligent phrases… it is not the point. For any web page to appear in the search results for a particular query, the words people type into the query box need to be found in the content of the page too. Or at least words that are synonyms and make sense. Words that meet the user’s expectations. Content.
The traditional SEO ways are timeless: write relevant content with relevant titles. And if you remember the websites vs books analogy I made in another article, you’ll understand that, as a matter of fact, SEO is not reinventing the wheel, but applying common sense principles that were always used in publishing.
That the tools used in SEO have other names than what you usually find in books… is a matter of semantics.
What SEOs call key words or tags, editors call terms or phrases that classify the content.
What SEOs call site maps, editors call table of contents.
The list could go on. The point is: when done right SEO has a positive impact on your site.
I am not going to debate here SEO ethics. I am, however, going to give you some timeless tips to improve your sites for the visitors, for the Web, for the search and for yourself.
What follows is a series of articles that give you tips on something that can already be called “SEO stereotype:” optimizing page titles, optimizing meta data and, of course, all the HTML code with its tags, comments and attributes. Today: optimizing page titles.
The Page <title> Tag
Just the same way it appears at the very top of your browser, on-site SEO starts with the page title. This is not a headline, or the visible title of an article, but the title displayed by the browser on the upper left corner of your screen.
The <title> tag is contained in the <head> section of an .html page. It is a stand-alone element and not really a meta tag, but it is the most important step you need to take in optimizing your website, whether it’s a blog or static Web page.
This tag is what Google and the other search engines index in their results to link to your website. It is the “first impression” and your only chance to make the Google user click on the result pointing to your website. This is a mirror of the quality you offer on your website.
Here are guidelines:
- Do not stuff your page title with keywords.
- Do not leave it empty either. If you do, your link will appear in the search results as “untitled document.”
- Do not write page titles that are longer than 67 characters (including spaces). It’s OK if you do, but it is pointless. 67 is the maximum number of characters Google will index and if your page title is longer it will appear truncated in the search results. Yahoo! is more tolerant (about 76 characters) so if you optimize your site for Yahoo! feel free to go over the 67 limit.
- Write appealing page titles that summarize the content of the page.
- Use simple language and try to give a logical meaning to what you write: a natural flow of the language, even when you use keywords. If you write in English you could use the Emotional Marketing Value Headline Analyzer from http://www.aminstitute.com/headline/index.htm to determine what emotion you trigger inside your visitor’s heart with the page title you choose.
- Put your best foot forward: When you are targeting keywords, try to begin the page title with them – it will help gaining a higher ranking in the search results.
There are three styles of titles: informational (business style), teasing (polemic style) and cute (entertainment style).
- How to Write Blogs – Informational
- To Blog or Not to Blog? – Teasing
- Blog-a-boo! – Cute
Each style has another purpose. Each of the above titles will appeal to different audiences. Your challenge is to find the style that is most appealing to the audience you want to target, and then go from there. Keep in mind that good titles will also be used by bloggers and other Webmasters when they link to your page or blog, so make them stand out. Oh yes, and don’t forget the keywords.
You need basic HTML skills to be able to optimize your page title (and your website in general) without help. When you don’t use content management software, you’ll have to make the changes manually using a HTML editor. The page title tag can be found in the <head> section of the HTML code. No matter what software you use to make the changes, this is the place where you’ll need to make your edits.
If your pages don’t contain the <title> tag, then you will have to add it.
So add after the <head> and before </head> the following:
<title>Your 67 characters, keyword rich, logical and appealing title</title>
- the title needs to be appealing to the Web surfer
- the title needs to flow logically – so use natural language
- the title needs to contain the most important keyword phrase for the Web page, however, it should not be stuffed with keywords
- it should be related to the content of the page
- unless it is the “About Company” page, you do not need to put your company’s name in the title. It is pointless. The search engines are smart enough to recognize the name of your company from the copyright notice you place in the footer of your website and they will rank your site automatically when someone searches for your company.
- avoid cluttering your page title with needless characters and pointless words (avoid clichés and jargon)
Examples of bad Page titles:
- Welcome to Company (do you really want to rank for “welcome”?)
- Keyword, another keyword, more keywords, keyword again, keyword variation, keyword synonym, keyword plus keyword, etc
- ALL CAPS PAGE TITLE: VERY BAD IDEA