Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is a skill that requires a lot of time, research and experimentation…
Throughout my time as a Web Developer I’ve always been intrigued by SEO, and would like to think I’ve become quite good at it over the years, to the point where I’ve had evidenced success with a number of websites that are now flying high in Google search results (other search engines are available, but I’m using Google as an example due to its size and importance at this moment in time).
SEO is difficult to measure, difficult to prove and sometimes difficult to maintain. Unlike writing web code, it doesn’t have clear, definite guidelines which ‘govern’ it, and there are no regulatory boards or standards of practice. These are some of the reasons why SEO has always been surrounded by myths.
As the digital industry market, and SEO in particular, have grown, competition has become fierce and the number of SEO companies competing for business has spiralled to such an extent that it has saturated the market. In my opinion, the fact that every SEO has had to find some way of differentiating themselves is one of the reasons we see so much bad information and guidance on SEO. Everyone has their own ‘secret techniques,’ that eventually become public and for the unsuspecting, non-technical person, these seem like little gems that unlock the secrets of SEO.
What I wanted to do in these articles was talk about some facts, and dispel just a few of these ‘myths’ that we hear doing the rounds in the world of web marketing. At Telescope we like to talk facts. We are very much in the ‘white-hat’ SEO camp, and our offering is based purely on optimisation techniques that are tried, tested and come straight from the horses mouth; in this case the horse being Google.
So, here is my take on things…
Is SEO a Myth in Itself?
You sometimes hear people say that SEO in itself is a myth, it is bad practice, and that Google is too clever and will always separate the good web pages from the bad ones. The latter point is true, but SEO is most certainly a real thing, a good thing, it has just been practised by so many incompetents over the years.
Search engine optimisation is exactly what it says it is. Optimising a website or web page in order for it to perform well on search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo. Search engine optimisation IS NOT about keyword stuffing, dodgy backlink building and black-hat techniques that can actually harm your site’s performance in SERPs (search engine results pages).
There are good SEOs out there, and Google does NOT frown upon SEO as a practice, that is not the case. In fact, Google once produced a guide to SEO back in 2010. Ok, so it is a bit outdated now, but it shows that Google openly states that there are things that can be done in order for you to provide a better website for your users, and that is all Google looks for. It’s definitely worth a read, even six years later.
Page Meta Titles & Descriptions for Better SEO
Anyway, lets get down to the nitty gritty and talk about some examples of what is true in the world of SEO. This first article is focussed on page meta titles and descriptions, which have long been analysed, dissected and debated, having been a mainstay of SEO since the phrase was coined.
Unique, descriptive page titles and descriptions are GOOD
Google doesn’t rank websites, it ranks web PAGES. If you didn’t know this, try it out for yourself by going to Google Search and typing in site: before your website domain. For example, if we type in site:telescopestudios.com, Google displays every indexed page from our website.
Every one of your html pages should therefore have a title. Something which tells users, and Google, what your page is all about. Your title ‘meta tag’ doesn’t appear on your web page, it needs to be written into the ‘head’ of your page, which is the first thing Google processes when it finds your site.
Google then displays your page title in the first line of your search result, as the link which you click through to visit your page. It is important to make sure you have page titles in the first place, and that each one is unique and indicates to both the search engine AND the user, exactly what the page is about. You only have a limited number of characters to play with (Google usually truncates it after 55-60 characters) so this is an art in itself! The same applies to your meta description, all the same as above, but with your description you have a bit more room to manoeuvre (about 160 characters with this one) and this displays just below your page title on Google. The other difference is that most SEOs believe that the title is used as a ranking factor, whereas the description isn’t. Either way, put the same effort into both because they are the first things that both Google and your potential visitors will come across.
How to produce good page titles and descriptions…
- Describe what your page is about, in a way that makes sense to end-users, not search engines. Don’t use default titles such as ‘page 1’ or even worse, nothing at all! Your web page won’t create its own title, you need to go in and do it.
- Use unique titles and descriptions for every page. This lets Google know that each of your pages is different. Duplicating the same title for each page can be harmful. If you’re struggling to think of different titles or descriptions for each page, then you probably do not need that page!
- Be brief, but descriptive at the same time. Remember, Google will truncate anything too long, so you need to accurately describe your page in just 60 characters (title) or 160 (description).
I hope that helps some of you in some way. Obviously, I’m talking about the very basics here, and like I said above, writing good meta tags is an art in itself. If you would like to know more, get in touch (link) with us and we will arrange a time to go through it with you in more detail.
Next in this series we will move onto some other simple SEO factual basics, maybe we will take a look at the subject of keywords. Please feel free to subscribe to our blog to receive a notification when we publish the next article.