Back in March a fellow blogger (Arizona Mortgage Lady, Karen George) started a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) contest. Essentially the contest was to see who could write a blog about a "Vanessa Williams Realtor" and get it ranked the highest in one week in google for that search term. There were a handful of us that participated in the challenge. The goal was to use good old-fashioned content and html techniques to get the page ranked higher (linking and other techniques were out). Here's the post that started the contest.
At the end of the week, when you searched "Vanessa Williams Realtor" my blog was in the number one position of google with over 700,000 results returned. Contest Results Available Here.
ok, ok - so what did I do? First I will say that content is really king. Ultimately the more relevant your content is to a search term the better you will place. So here's what I did to try and convince google that my blog was the most relevant page.
URL OF PAGE -
- What is it? One thing search engines look at to determine relevancy to a search is the web site address or url of the page. The closer your url is to matching the search term the more relevant your page probably is. So for example if you have a url called http://www.toyotatrucksforsale.com/ what do you think that site is about? Exactly, that's what the search engines think too. The URL is the complete web site address that you see in the Address bar of your browser.
- How does it work in A/R? When you write a blog in Active Rain, the blog has a unique web site address. The first four words of your blog title are used to make the url. Choose your Active Rain page title with care.
- What did I do? I titled my blog with the keywords first "Vanessa Williams Realtor..." this in turn made the url also contain the words "Vanessa Williams Realtor" http://activerain.com/blogsview/62535/Vanessa-Williams-Realtor-If
PAGE TITLE -
- What is it? Search engines also look at the page title when determing relevancy. Same concept as the url above applies to the page title. The page title of any given page can be seen in the blue bar (if you use IE) at the top of your browser and/or in the first few words of the window on your task bar.
- How does it work in A/R? In Active Rain the page title you choose and the url that it makes are from the same title information you enter for your blog.
- What did I do? I titled my blog with the keywords first "Vanessa Williams Realtor..." this in turn made the url also contain the words "Vanessa Williams Realtor". The page title of my blog is "Real Estate Blog - Vanessa Williams Realtor - If Vanessa Williams was a Realtor..."
- What is it? When people talk about search engine optimization you hear the term meta tags. In my opinion meta tags are important to have in a page, but they are not the most critical element anymore. I think you should have them and I think they should match the content on the page and the page title etc. But I think they are a supporting tool that the search engines use. For example if in my meta tags I put 'toyota trucks for sale' and the whole article was about Vanessa Williams and mentioned not one word about trucks... well I think search engines can figure out its bogus too.
If you would like to see the meta tags on any given web page, right click on the page and from the menu choose to "View Source". The meta tags are visible towards the top of the text page that opens.
- How does it work in A/R? On your Active Rain blog there are two types of meta tags included on your post. They are included in the source file and look something like this...
<meta name="description" content="Your blog page title would be here.... Now the first sentence or two of your blog will be here..." />
<meta name="keywords" content="vanessa williams realtor,vanessa williams,realtor ActiveRain, Real Estate, agents, Network, Real Estate Agent, Mortgage, realtor, social network"/>
The keywords are made from the text you type in the Tags field for your blog. The meta description is taken from your page title and the first part of text in your blog.
I should also note that the concept of 'tags' in Active Rain has a much broader scope and bigger impact than I will get into here. The tags are also linked from the right hand side of the blog and in your tag cloud. All of these tags in turn add to pages that search engines can crawl to get more information about your posts.
- What did I do? Repeat from above... since page title is used to make url, page title and meta tags on AR it is even more important to consider. I also included the keywords "Vanessa Williams Realtor" in my tags. If you look at the summary information located right under a blog article you will see the tags that the person used. In my contest post I included the following tags "vanessa williams realtor, vanessa williams, realtor". Separate each search term you include with commas.
USE THE KEYWORD IN THE PAGE -
- This one is pretty straightforward. Pick your keyword(s) and use the actual phrase(s) in the page.
USE THE KEYWORD AT THE TOP OF THE PAGE -
- Yep, try to use your keywords at the top of the page. The closer the words are to the top, the more impact I think it has with a search engine and relevancy.
- Use the keyword in the page again, and again, and again...
- There is a line between what some call search engine or keyword spam and useful content. This is such a gray area. I've read stuff that says - don't put the keyword too many times, otherwise search engines penalize for the spam. I think my Vanessa Williams article was a little over the top when it comes to a person reading it. The search engines didn't penalize my repitition in this article. I don't really know what percentage of word repitition would be a flag with the engines - but here's the way I would apply it on a real site.... In my opinion your first obligation is to your web site visitor. I don't think any search engines techniques should be implemented on a real site if they would negatively impact the user experience. I would suggest repeating use of a keyword in your page as often as possible without spamming your visitor.
HEADING HTML TAGS -
- What is it? HTML is the language used to display the look of a web page you visit. There are certain tags or language used in HTML. One part of the language is heading tags. There are six tags that correspond to different sizes of text. There is <h1></h1> for the largest heading size, <h2></h2> for the next smaller size, down to <h6></h6> for the smallest heading size. Headings will be bold text (in varying sizes) all on the same line. A tag to designate a paragraph in html looks like this <p></p>.
Since search engines don't see a page with eyes, they read these tags to determine importance of information displayed on a page. Heading tags give emphasis to the display of text and in turn search engines give higher importance to words contained within the heading. Use your keywords in heading tags.
- How does it work in A/R? When you write a blog in AR there is an icon to edit the HTML source. When you click on that a new window opens where you can type these tags directly.
Essentially what you want to do is to put heading tags around the start and end of the phrase you want to highlight. You will replace the existing <p> tags around the text with the heading tags. Here are some examples of what you could do.
<h1>You could type a heading 1 here</h1>
<h2>And this could be a smaller heading</h2>
<h3>And even smaller...</h3>
By the way in this post all of my headings for the techniques I used (page title, meta tags, repitition) are all in heading tags. Feel free to look at the source of the page.
- What did I do? I used lots of headings on the page. The headings contained my keywords of Vanessa Williams Realtor. I repeated the use of my keywords in headings in many places.
BOLD, UNDERLINE AND ITALICS -
- What is it? Same concept as heading tags... since the search engine can't see your page, it has to figure out what the page looks like. When you bold, underline or italicize text the search engines see that word or text as a more important and/or relevant to a search term.
- How does it work in A/R? I'm sure you've all seen where these are... in the tool bar right above where you type your blog.
- What did I do? I included the keywords in various parts of my article and sometimes I underlined the words, sometimes I used bold and sometimes italics. It all combines to help define what is important.
ALT TEXT ON IMAGES -
- What is it? ok, remember all that html mumbo jumbo from above? Well, same concept here. A search engine doesn't know what an image looks like. So the search engine reads the ALT text to determine what the picture is about. (alt text is also displayed as an accessibility feature for people who may surf the web, but not display images. In essence they see the alt text to give a description of what the picture is about.) You can also see the alt text of an image in the text that pops up when you mouse over an image.
In html there is an image tag that contains the alt text attribute. It looks something like this...
<img src="images/1234.jpg" alt="This is where the descriptive image text would show in the source code">
If there are images on the page with alt text relevant to a keyword search - the search engines will remember this.
- How does it work in A/R? When you insert an image in your blog you do so in a separate little pop up window. In this window there is a field for "Image Description". This is used as the alt text for the image.
- What did I do? I included the keywords "Vanessa Williams Realtor" in the alt text for the images.
So How Did I Win the Vanessa Williams SEO Contest?
Well, there was certainly some luck involved. But I also used page title, url, meta tags, content, heading tags, font emphasis, and image descriptions to add to the luck. Hopefully this will help you find some luck with your site.
Disclaimer: I don't own an SEO company. I don't sell SEO services. I just a regular person trying different techniques like everyone else :) There of course are a lot of SEO techniques out there and so many different things to try. These are just a few things to keep in mind when you are writing content and working with the pages and html themselves.