In this article, we discuss 8 key elements that your website needs in order to achieve higher rankings in search engines. It’s assumed that you’ve already completed your keyword research and thus, you are fully aware which keywords you wish to optimize your website for. Furthermore, I’ve focused mostly on how to optimize using WordPress as the content management system, since that’s our official CMS of choice here at Combustible.
No matter what it is, stability begins with the foundations. Whether we’re talking about a house, or a website, it’s the same principle – if the foundations are weak, the structure created on top of the foundation will eventually falter. Businesses which are created on strong foundations will likely grow and flourish. A website with a strong foundation has a better chance of achieving higher search engine rankings than a website with poor quality foundations.
Should you be thinking about either designing or redesigning your own business’ website, one of the keys to success is to be organized before you begin. There are a number of steps whereby each webpage will support the overall theme, and the theme then enables the ultimate business goal – more conversions.
The primary navigation pages should be focused on the corresponding theme, which then supports the goal of more conversions. But what is a theme, you may be wondering? And what does a theme have to do with creating a website?
Well, I’m not referring to WordPress website themes, so that’s a good question to be asking.
Themes are determined by way of not only keyword research, but also demographics. Furthermore, themes can be developed based on the most important services that your business offers. Once that’s complete, these services can be listed as clickable tabs in order of importance perhaps within the website’s sidebar or just below the website’s header graphic – the top navigation bar, most important service being at the very top if you use the sidebar analogy, or at the far left-hand side if you prefer the tabs to be located at the top of your webpages in the navigation bar format.
An example of a theme might be this. Say you had a catering business. The most important part of your catering business was catering for weddings. So there’s a theme. A navigation tab can be inserted at the top of the sidebar which leads to that part of your website – to those particular webpages that discuss catering for weddings. Then next, you might also cater for a lot of corporate events. There’s another theme. So on so forth…
Ultimately, the more pages you have explaining your various services, the more chances you have of ranking high in search engines for keywords related to your service offering.
We’ve briefly looked at site architecture and themes and what they are, now let’s move on to main navigation. We’ve touched on this already, since navigation is obviously key to site architecture. Nevertheless, let’s consider a further aspect to website navigation: PageRank.
Okay, so what’s PageRank? Is it where one webpage somehow or for some reason ranks above another page?
Yes, it is, that’s correct. Basically, that’s it in a nutshell. One page will be more important than perhaps all the other pages on the site. Or, there may be a number of pages within the site’s architecture that hold more importance in the scheme of things.
Check out the diagram below to see how PageRank can flow through a website’s architecture, if the site is set up in this manner.Although I’ve not added further tier levels, the idea would be to build up each theme or section of your websiteif you prefer and link the most important pages within each section together, starting from the home page, working on down according to level of importance. This is what is known as a ‘silo’ structure, where one page links to another within its’ own theme, and then, the final page within the theme – the lowest ranking page, if you will, can link back to the homepage.
In this way, PageRank spreads downwards and throughout the website, where the homepage generally will hold the highest PageRank. This creates for a stronger website foundation, which is what the search engines tend to value rather highly.
Creating a themed website where PageRank (PR) flows down from the upper-most webpage, which is most commonly the site’s homepage
Let’s get back to PageRank, which is shortened to PR (not to be confused with public relations).
PageRank or PR. I think the best way to explain PR is to provide a link so that I don’t have to explain it. It can become a long drawn-out subject matter to cover. So here you go… this article explains what PR is. The article is relatively old, but the meaning of PR has not changed over the years. The explanation is by Danny Sullivan over at searchengineland.com
Right, now we move along to title tags. I can sense your excitement. Well, maybe not, but don’t under-estimate the value of the title tag. Let me explain.
What is a Title Tag?
Hopefully you are using WordPress as your CMS. In which case, adding title tags to your content is a total breeze. But anyway, a title tag is just that – a heading for a piece of content such as an article that, in this case, resides on your webpage/s. In HTML, the title tag would be:
<title> What is a Title Tag?</title>
With WordPress though, you don’t have to bother about the<title> bits. WordPress does that for you when you add the title at the top of the WYSIWYG interface. WYSIWYG meaning ‘what you see is what you get’.
And what a title tag does is to tell people as well as search engines what exactly your content is all about. Thus, the title tag will allow someone to decide if they wish to visit your webpage should that individual find your content in the search engines.
The title tag should contain the keywords that you wish to focus on for that particular piece of content. So, for example, going back to the catering business in Los Angeles (or it could be in Toronto, Montreal Quebec, wherever in the world…). I would possibly wish to name one of my webpages with the title tag like this:
‘Los Angeles Wedding Caterers’ or ‘Montreal Wedding Caterers’ if you are located in Montreal (I’ll quit with the double examples from now…).
Don’t include the tildes. Not unless you want them to be part of your title for some reason.
Furthermore, title tags provide a solid indication to the search engines what your content is about. So there’s double-edged sword going on here, which is beneficial in both respects. And this is why it’s so important.
You should however, write your title tags with people in mind, while formatting them with search engines in mind.
Here’s what the title tag looks like when you do a search in Google:
Title Tags and Meta Descriptions as they Show up in Google Search Results
Finally, with regards to title tags, let’s have a quick look through some extra points about how to optimize the title tag:
- Length – no longer than 70 characters (that includes spaces).
- Placement of Keywords – if you are writing in English (which I presume you do since you are reading this article J), or any language that reads left-to-right, your most important (key) words should be at the beginning of the title, and your least important (key) words at the end.
- Separating Keywords – don’t use commas or full stops or any other form of punctuation unless that makes for part of the keyword. Use only pipes, which look like this | to separate keywords where necessary.
- Wording – don’t use words such as ‘to’, ‘then’, ‘but’, ‘if’, ‘and’… merely use short and simple phrases.
- Name of Company – you may wish to add your company name for branding purposes but this might not necessarily apply to you. Use at your own discretion.
- Don’t Duplicate – use a different title tag on every page on your site. Don’t be tempted to duplicate them over and over.
Complex name, I know it. But it’s not a complex topic so no need to get all sweaty under the collar.
Rather than providing you with the geeky terminology about what a meta description or meta tags are, to see what they look like in Google search results, simply look at the image above. The meta description shows up just below the title tag.
Now, here’s a short video presentation by Nathalie Lussier which is rather fun. She shows you how to use a free plugin for WordPress CMS in order to add your meta description. The plugin she uses is called All in One SEO Pack, whereas, the plugin I tend to use is called Platinum SEO Pack. Both plugins do pretty much the same sort of job.
So why do we need a meta description? Well, Google no longer recognizes the meta description in terms of gaining search rankings, so it’s not for that. Although, apparently Bing and Yahoo Search still use it in terms of rankings in their search engines. However, as witnessed above in the graphic, the meta description shows up in search results. It’s like a back-up result to your main title tag. Thus, a searcher can read the meta description to assess whether or not the result is the right one for them. If it is, in all likelihood, they will click through to read your content.
By headings, I don’t mean your title tags. What I do mean are the headings within your content on your webpage/s.
Headings within your content is or are pretty self-explanatory. Or at least, I do believe so. It’s much the same concept as a chapter heading in a book. It tells the reader of the content what that section of the article is about.
With regards to webpage content, your headings might well include a number of your other keyword phrases. So in this case, it’s beneficial to your reader, and also to the search engines in that you may be rewarded with some extra rankings for those keywords used within the body of your text.
Make your headings stand out by bolding them or underlining them. Making them larger than the body of the remainder of the text. Or even, if you like doing this, make them a different color. I tend to choose one or the other, not all four options at the same time because that’s a bit too full-on overkill sort of thing.
Your content, or text body, should be related to your article title, for obvious reasons. I like to add a lot of white space to my own web content. Oftentimes, I’d add in paragraphs, where in ‘normal’ writing, this would not be acceptable practice. But the fact is, and this is how I feel about it, old-fashioned standards are there to be broken, and when you are writing for an online audience, these days, it’s almost to be expected.
So don’t be afraid to break up your content into lots of little chunks by adding in white space, images, headings, perhaps a video, lots of squiggly funny lines. Well no, not the last one. The squiggly lines probably wouldn’t look too appealing.
It’s good practice to add a few variations of your keywords too.
Let’s take our above example once more:
‘Los Angeles Wedding Caterers’
Presuming that was our main keyword, I will of course use this within the body of the text of my webpage content, but I’d also add in some variations like so:
‘wedding caterers in Los Angeles’
‘caterers to weddings Los Angeles’
‘best Los Angeles wedding caterers’
So on so forth…
One final note. Don’t be tempted to keyword stuff your content. That means, don’t add your keyword too often throughout the body of your text. Some people will say you should add it around 3 – 5%. For me, and I regularly write optimized content for my SEO clients, I merely go with the flow. Meaning, I write my keywords where they fit in well. If it reads well, then it’s a good fit. If the content seems like it’s bogged down with the same keyword or keywords, then I much prefer to change it. It should read naturally, and there should be a natural flow to the writing.
The URL of your webpages will be made up with your main domain name in addition to the title of your content.
So, for example, let’s say that my main URL was http://cateringquebec.com, and one of my webpages had the title of ‘Quebec Wedding Caterers’, then the URL for that webpage would be:
You can see that the URL is very keyword rich. Or, in other words, it contains a variety of the keywords that I specifically would wish to rank for, if my business was indeed in Quebec, and if I were catering to weddings. Only one of which is true. I do reside in Quebec but I know nothing at all about catering. I prefer to eat the food rather than to cook the food.
The webpage’s URL shows up under the title tag within a search engine search, as you can see from the image example shown above. Hence it’s another good reason why you’d want to have your main keyword phrase – the keyword you are focusing upon for this particular webpage, within the title tag. People see it within the URL shown in the search results.
Images are good to use within webpage content. There are a number of reasons for that which relate both to human readers and to search engine spiders.Oh, and also with respect to gaining more traffic to your website.
Firstly, images should reflect your content topic. Thus, at a quick glance, a website visitor can make a fair judgement what your content is about simply by checking out an image or images that you’ve added to the webpage.
Secondly, as we’ve just discussed, images can be used to break up lengthy articles. They serve in some respects to give the reader a bit of a ‘breathing space’.
Thirdly, they are great attention magnets. I mean, often, when you look at a webpage, if there’s a glossy image on the page, that’s where your eyes will probably first roam towards. Thus, they serve very nicely as part of a call-to-action philosophy, where you want to try to get your website visitor to do something – take some form of action.
Fourthly, images also help search engines discover what your content is about, and thus they can help your webpage to rank within search for a given keyword. How do you optimize an image with respect to this however? Have a look at the two images just below to see how it’s done when using WordPress as your content management system.
In the above image, I’m using the WordPress WYSIWYG standard editor. I wish to add an image to my web content, so I click on the Add Media tab which is highlighted by the red arrow.
In this graphic, I’ve uploaded my image, which has nothing to do with catering, but never mind, I’m sure you get the point. Although some people do use rose petals in their cuisine. Now I add in the information on the right hand side – most importantly the alt tag, followed by the title. Once the image has been added to the actual webpage, you can change any of these details simply by clicking on the image and making your desired edits.
Finally, images can be used as traffic magnets. Quite often Google Images will scrape an image from a website and post it on their platform. Google Images is a very popular platform, so that can serve as a decent traffic puller. Another reason why you want to alt tag and entitle your image with your keywords since that’s how Google Images categorises the images they hold in their databank. What’s more, you may wish to post your site’s images to Pinterest. Some… in fact quite a lot of images go viral on Pinterest, and that can serve as a huge traffic surge. Well worthy of consideration!
And that’s all there is to it. Uploading an image into WordPress and optimizing it with the alt tag and the title of the image with your desired keyword.
Yes, we’ve reached the end. You can breathe a sigh of relief. Nevertheless, these elements are actually extremely important and should not be underestimated. They can and they will allow your website, or rather, webpages, to rank well in the search engines, if implemented correctly.
And once again, I shall say to you that the best content management system in my opinion is indeed WordPress. After you get to grips with it, which is fairly simple these days because there are so many how-to guides that are freely available online, then it makes life so much easier when you are originally constructing your website, and also when you are adding content to it later on.