You just started your business. Your marketing budget is limited and you know you need a website, so you opt to use one of the many low-cost tools available to build your own website or you have your daughter, (son, nephew or sister-in-law, name the friend or relative) who “knows the computer” do it for you. You work your way through this uncharted territory and you manage to get your website up and running and it even looks pretty good.
Job well done! But as time passes, you begin to wonder why it doesn’t rank better on the search engines. Many techniques factor into good search engine optimization (SEO) but novice website designers or do-it-yourself business owners often make three big mistakes that can hurt their SEO.
- Search engines can’t read an image. Overuse of images. If you have website pages that are made up entirely of images or if you have blocks of text that are made of images you’re preventing search engines from reading the text on your pages. If search engines can’t read your page, they don’t know how to index your page. I usually see this mistake made by those with some graphic design experience. They may know how to create a beautiful layout but they haven’t learned the HTML/CSS code to transition that layout to the web correctly so they opt to insert the image into the web page instead of taking the time to code the page correctly.
- Search engines can’t read an image – the sequel. Underuse of image alt tags. Each image used in a web page should use a descriptive alt tag. If alt tags are not used, search engines are not able to discern what the image signifies, so they ignore it. For example, say you’re Joe and you sell bicycles. You’ve created a fantastic logo that clearly identifies you as Joe’s Bicycle Sales & Service. You put it on you web pages and it looks beautiful but you fail to use the alt tag. Now when search engines crawl your site they’re not able to discern what the logo says. However, if you have used the alt tag correctly, the search engines will read the alt tag that says “Joe’s Bicycle Sales & Service” and because you’ve provided that information, the search engine will have more information available to index your website.If you’re building your website using a do-it-yourself tool, you should see a field called alt or image description in the tool. If you’re coding, you’re image code should look something like this:
<img src=”logo.jpg” alt=”Joe’s Bicycle Sales and Service” />
- If you wrote a book you, would you title it “Book”? Title tags and meta descriptions not used at all or used ineffectively. Just like a book or magazine article, every web page should have a unique title. In addition each web page should also have a unique meta description that accurately describes the content on that page – think of the meta description as the book synopsis often found on back or inside jacket of the book. In an html document both the <title> and <meta description> tags are within the <head> of the document which, as you might expect since it’s called the head, is toward the top of the document. So when search engines crawl the page the title and meta description tags are among the first indexable information they come across and search engines expect the tags to describe the content on the page because that is what the tags were designed to do.
But too often, inexperienced or lazy web designers use a title tag like “home” instead of “Joe’s Bicycle Sales | Yourtown, Your state”. Or on the page that shows products the title tag says something like “products” instead of “Bicycles – Raleigh, Schwinn, Trek, bikes for all ages”. And the meta descriptions are either ignored entirely and left blank, or the same generic information is duplicated on each page.
The title tag is the information the web browser shows at the very top of the browser screen–above the toolbar and url address field. You generally want to limit your title descriptions to less than 60 characters. The meta description tag is not viewable on a web page (unless you view source) but search engines sometimes use the meta description you provide on your html page as the description in your search engine listing. Limit your meta descriptions to about 160 characters.
So if you’re not satisfied with your search engine rank, check to make sure that you haven’t overused images in your design; that you have described all your images with alt tags and that you’ve written unique title and meta descriptions for each page on your website.