Web redesign #3 takes a looks at off-page content elements; title, meta-tags, linking strategies, Domain naming conventions etc.
Aside from the Title which appears in the top left corner of the browser outline bar, these are elements hidden from normal view.
They are regarded as important elements by search engines, and can be viewed on any page by choosing “View / Source” from the web page menu bar.
Web Redesign: Off-Page, Links, Domains
The <Title> tag is regarded as one of the most important on-site elements, and an accurate, keyword-rich Title can impact dramatically on a page’s ranking potential.
Other off-page opportunities exist that, if used correctly, increase the density of keyword phrases – some od those are listed below;
This is the content that appears in the top left corner of the web browser page, and is also the heading that search engines use in the SERPs (search engine results pages).
The total suggested Title content is 8-10 words, or 70 characters. Full manual control is very useful. Some CMS and ecommerce applications restrict effectiveness of Title’s by tying the Title to the Page’s 1st heading, or product name. If a Title is dynamically generated, it should be arranged in this order; Product Name + Category + Tagline : to a maximum of 70 characters. Don’t use ‘stop’ words, or irrelevant words. A superior Title tag is both unique and precisely relevant to every page – both aspects critical to achieving top search rankings.
Description & Keyword Meta-Tags Intro
Like the Title, the Description meta-tags is an essential off-page element which impacts significantly on search engine’s assessment of your website. Equally, it has a determining influence on whether searchers click on your link in the search engine results pages!
The keyword meta-tag is less influential, but should still be used. Pick 6-10 relevant, hight-volume keyword search phrases that a strictly relevant to he on-page content!
For CMS and/or shopping cart websites, it is probably best to have a double-action manual/or dynamic system. Initial redesign might see involve populating the Title / Description / Keywords meta-tags automatically from page content. As time permits, a manual over-write of content can be done progressively, as / if required.
Unique Description meta-tags must be provided on all pages. The maximum recommended length for a Description is 200 characters (Google will display 150 only, but other SE’s will show 200). Manual control is best if possible. If dynamically generated then an output string like this is best; Product Name + Category Name + 1st Paragraph of Product Description :: maximum 200 characters It is extremely important to search engine rankings that a carefully crafted Description, unique to every page, be provided.
This helps the search engines to properly categorise the site. A well crafted description will also be used verbatim in most search engine results displayed to searchers, meaning you can control what is shown to searchers in SERPs. And, of course, the Description should in fact describe the page its on.
When descriptions are not supplied, the search engines will do their best to generate one from existing content, which can often look like rubbish, or be duplicated on all pages. Where a “generic” description is provided, all the pages look the same in the search results. Your Descriptions are meant to help “sell” the product…
Unique Keyword meta-tags must be provided on all pages! Manually controlled if possible. If dynamically generated, an output string like this is best; Product Name + Category Name + 1st Paragraph :: maximum 250 characters NB: strip out special characters – e.g. & : ; etc, and its not absolutely essential to place commas between words. NB: This tag is not heavily relied on by most search engines. However, it is a useful discipline to insert the targeted keyword phrases for the page into the tag – as a reminder, if nothing else. However, the terms must focus on the page content, not simply be stuffed full of vaguely related words. Every page must be set to target a specific relevant set of keywords / phrases!
Links, and acquisition thereof, requires a cautious strategy. Basically, it now works this way…
- Links to your website are a vote for your site and are added to your total link-vote score.
- Links from your website to another site is a vote BY you, and is DEDUCTED from your total link-vote score…
Reciprocal Links Neutrality
- Outgoing links can erode your Page Rank away….
- Outgoing links to “bad neighborhoods” can damage your online reputation & rankings…
Link sculpturing is possible; preventing loss of link-juice is done by adding the rel=”nofollow” attribute on outward links. Reckless use of nofollow across the site is unwise because its unnatural and you may be penalised for it. The “nofollow” concept was introduced was to apply to “untrusted” links, and perversion of the original intent is forcing Google to rethink its use.
Domain Naming Issues
Switching domain name as part of a rebranding process is a desperate measure, and one requiring serious evaluation. This was covered in Section #1 of this series. On rare occasions, it may make sense to change domain names. If the existing domain is only a year or so old, is poorly named, has minimal incoming links, and current search engine rankings are insignificant, a more relevant domain name may offer much. There are a variety of Domain-related issues that impact on your search engine rankings.
- Using a relevant, high-volume keyword is a good Domain Naming strategy. 2 or 3 keywords is sufficient, any more becoems counter-productive…
- Separate words with hyphens to ensure clarity for viewers and SE’s…
E.g.; australianhockeytours.com vs. austranian-hockey-tours.com
Correct Country Code or Dot.Com?
An aspect overlooked by many site owners is the importance of the Domain Name “Country Code” to your site rankings, traffic and consequent success. The problem here is the “decentralisation” of search – the way in which the major search engines have split their indexes up into country-specific search opportunities.
- A .com site must be hosted in the targeted country if its to appear in the local search results – e.g. in “Search: pages from New Zealand”
- A .co.uk or .co.nz website can be hosted anywhere and Google will associate it with the specific country dataset.
Google (and other SE’s) know where you are, or where you should be associated with, by either the Country Code (.Co.NZ) or the IP address allocated to your site. IP addresses are allocated in numeric blocks or ranges, by country.
If you are targeting customers in a specific country, make sure that’s where your website is hosted!
Web Redesign Summary
The examples shown in the 3-part article series highlights that its not necessarily the tools, its more the quality of workmanship that makes the difference. Web site designers have a responsibility to their clients to ensure that a web redesign project does more good than harm!
If lack of knowledge or inexperience causes the newly redesigned web site to disappear from search engine results pages, it does not matter much if the site looks stunning!
Elements such as page redirection are so fundamental, its tantamount to gross negligence to overlook these. Incorporating fully automated XML and HTML sitemaps is also best practice in web redesign.