What needs to be done so that search engines understand a page correctly and display it for corresponding search queries? In our second part, we explain the basics of search engine optimization and how you can implement the basics without much programming effort yourself.
In the last article of the Search Marketing series from FHWien der WKW’s Communication Management Study Programs we talked about “PageRank”, the original idea of Google. The more external links refer to my page and the higher quality they are, the better. Vice versa, it is also important to integrate high-quality external links on my own page. In addition to link building management, there are two areas that must be considered in Search Engine Optimization (SEO): “onpage” and “offpage”.
Onpage SEO includes all website-internal factors. This is mainly about the structure and content of the page and its relevance for users. The topicality of the content also plays a major role, because Google recognizes outdated content and ranks websites down. Of course, all presented content is of interest to search engines, i. e. texts, images and videos as well as tables, forms, store offers etc. It should be noted here that the Google crawler cannot see images, cannot watch videos and cannot (yet) fully comprehend texts. This content must therefore be translated and titled for search engines in such a way that it is immediately understandable.
Onpage optimization already starts with the right domain selection and includes the structure of the website and the text structure (paragraphs, length of sentences) as well as elements in the source code such as title tags and meta descriptions as well as alternative descriptions for images and videos, among others.
When designing a new website, the selection of the optimal domain for search engine optimization plays a major role. The name must be memorable and usually reflects the company name. However, essential references to important keywords are usually missing here. So what should the URL (“Uniform Resource Locator”, standard for addressing a website on the World Wide Web; the domain is part of the URL) be called? Do we focus on the name, do we refer to the location (company headquarters) or do we focus on a specific keyword (company purpose, service, etc.)? Which domain extension makes sense (“.com” or “.at”)? If you want to have an overview of all URLs that contain “your” keyword, you can do this using the Google search command “allinurl”: e. g. for FHWien der WKW simply enter “allinurl:fhwien+der+wkw” in the search bar.
Title tags, meta descriptions and alt texts
The page title or title tag (also called meta title, SEO title, SEO page title) is mandatory for every HTML document and can be seen on the page itself in the browser tab. It is a crucial Google ranking factor. Google displays it in the search results as a blue headline.
The meta description is a short description of the content with the most important keywords. It must be formulated clearly and precisely. In the search results, it appears as black text below the headline. Good web authors can quickly “catch” users with this and unclean work takes its revenge when essential terms are missing or the text is too long.
Alt texts (alternative texts) are used for the linguistic translation of visual content. They are short descriptions that are rendered instead of images and can be read aloud by screen readers, for example, or displayed if the image does not load. This short description provided with the most important keywords is important because Google cannot capture images or videos. For videos such as on YouTube, subtitles should therefore be integrated, because the Google Bot also browses the text files of the subtitles. The so-called title attribute, which is stored in the code for an image, is used to display a suitable explanatory text as soon as the mouse cursor rolls over the image. A title attribute is not mandatory, but it is certainly recommended.
SEO copywriting is a demanding job. It requires know-how about structured writing and a talent for high-impact anchor texts. Sentences should not be too long and a sense of how often certain terms should appear is necessary. Google likes to see elements that make the text easier to read, such as implemented graphics, tables, lists (“Top 10 ideas”) or explanatory videos. Good content management systems are helpful here. These programs contain their own SEO rating and provide fields such as meta description and alt texts. Practitioners can thus perform onpage SEO easily and uncomplicatedly even without HTML knowledge.
Offpage SEO includes tactics that require activities outside of one’s own website. One method here is link building, which determines the “link popularity” of a page and thus the PageRank. This is done both with the help of so-called backlinks, which refer to one’s own page, and by integrating quality links into one’s own page. When link building via backlinks, the aim is to obtain as many references as possible through (high-quality) pages that can be influenced, for example, by business partners, but also through one’s own entries in business directories.
In practice, this is challenging. Ideally, backlinks should come from pages that are thematically relevant. It is also important for Google that these backlinks have arisen naturally, and have not been purchased. In general, SEO should be viewed as a holistic task, with onpage and offpage optimization interacting optimally: My content marketing, my blog posts, reviews about me and my products, the build-up of Local Citations and “Google My Business” entries, my forum, social media and influencer work and the accompanying “social signals”, all this conditions determine the success of SEO. Thus, successful marketing that produces helpful backlinks can only be done through this holistic work.
It is Google’s greatest concern that website operators offer content that is as up-to-date, interesting and innovative as possible, and which is shared in the ideal case. Google becomes better and better in checking whether this happens or not. Therefore, for all those working in (digital) PR, advertising, marketing and the media industry: We have no choice but to work on exactly that, namely to offer thoughtful, meaningful and above all new content for relevant target groups, over and over again!
Read in the next part of our series on search marketing, which tools you can use to do SEO in a faster and more straightforward way!
This might also interest you:
Dr. Georg Feldmann
Head of City of Vienna Competence Team for the Digitalization of Communication
Department of Communication
M: +43 690 40476118
Mag.a Melanie Gratzer
Coordinator Marketing Communications / Department of Communication
M: +43 690 40476 080
Image: © Kevin Ku I Unsplash