SEO Site Analysis: Knowing the Score, Part 3

  |  April 25, 2007   |  Comments

Deepen your understanding of the role keywords play in driving targeted search referrals.

In the third installment of this four-part series, we continue to focus on building an SEO (define) report card for your Web site. In part one, we reviewed how to set up an SEO report card and established simple guidelines to measure SEO project results.

In part two, we worked through the site-analysis process to get a handle on any structural, site-wide issues that could affect overall search engine visibility.

After reviewing site URL structures, linking structure, and navigation, we're finally ready to deepen our understanding of the role keywords play in driving targeted search engine referrals.

More than Words

To get started, set up rows on your scorecard for title tags, headings, body copy, meta descriptions, meta keywords, and alternative attributes. All these elements on the page and behind the page contribute to establish an overall keyword theme for each page.

First, take some time to review your Web site's title tags. Title tags play a definitive role in helping search engines understand what your site is all about. It's important for each page to have a unique title tag. If your site has the same title tag on every page, give your site zero points and plan to devise unique keyword-rich tags as the first step in your SEO project.

The title tag is critically important not only to improve search visibility but also to motivate visitors to click through, since it's predominantly used to create search engine snippets.

You have finite real estate to make this all-important first impression because most of the major search engines only show the first 65 characters (including spaces) in their snippets. You have a bit more room for your actual title tags, but the most important words -- the unique words applicable to only one site page -- should always be at the beginning of a 65 to 115 character (with spaces) title tag.

How do your site's title tags look? Are they unique on every page? Are they branded? Spot-check the tags on rival sites. Assess your title tag score and compare them with your headings.

Header tags 1-6 are a way to communicate to the search engines the most important words on your page (in addition to bold and italic text). Each page should have a single

header tag to complement the title tag and establish the page's theme. Review your site's source code to understand where header tags are used in the different templates.

Even though there should be only one

header tag on a page, you can leverage multiple

through

tags. Think of header tags as an outline for the content on each page. After establishing the primary keyword theme, what could an intelligent, natural header tag hierarchy do to support these keyword themes?

Next, look at the body copy on the page. You can leverage a keyword density checker or a keyword cloud to take a snapshot of how text-based machines interpret the information.

Just understand that keyword density isn't a magic bullet to attain high rankings. Make certain the body content is written for humans, not machines. Assess a score for your header tags and body copy and get ready to review meta descriptions, meta keywords and alternative attributes.

Meta Mania

Taken individually, meta descriptions, meta keywords, and alternative attributes used on images aren't secret weapons to improve search engine visibility. Together, however, these elements help reinforce and accentuate the theme of each page and, consequently, the entire site.

Meta descriptions should consist of 150 to 250 characters (with spaces) and include a call to action. Meta descriptions play little or no role in determining the keyword value of a page. But they do play a critical role in influencing that all-important click-decision potential visitors make, because meta descriptions are often used after the title tag to form the search engine snippet for each page. Analyze how your meta descriptions compare with those of rival sites.

Meta keywords were so rampantly abused with keyword stuffing that they play no role in search engine visibility. They can, however, detract from site performance in the search engines if they don't agree with the page's content.

Review your site's meta descriptions and keywords. Assess scores accordingly and consider what it would take to automate the process of meta keyword selection in your content management system. At the same time, review the use of alternative attributes on site images to determine if they contribute to or detract from establishing keyword themes.

If you think keyword stuffing is taking place in the meta keywords, alternative attributes, or elsewhere, review and edit these SEO elements. File names for images can also contribute to visibility, especially if the names get any measure of referrals from image-based search results. Consider this in a review of the role alternative attributes play in your site.

Keyword Choices

By now, you should have a good feel for where search engine referrals come from and, more important, how and why your site earned these visitors. Now it's time to determine whether your site reflects a balanced keyword strategy -- which is all about making smart keyword choices.

Once again, there are many tools available to help recognize the value of targeting specific keywords and phrases. Wordtracker and KeywordDiscovery are relatively inexpensive, subscription-based keyword analysis tools. You might want to get familiar with these tools before we discuss how to tie all this information together in the final part of this series.

Want more search information? ClickZ SEM Archives contain all our search columns, organized by topic.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

P.J. Fusco

P.J. Fusco has been working in the Internet industry since 1996 when she developed her first SEM service while acting as general manager for a regional ISP. She was the SEO manager for Jupitermedia and has performed as the SEM manager for an international health and beauty dot-com corporation generating more than $1 billion a year in e-commerce sales. Today, she is director for natural search for Netconcepts, a cutting-edge SEO firm with offices in Madison, WI, and Auckland, New Zealand.

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