SEO Blog > Technical SEO: Navigation, Keywords, and URLs
This is the third in a series of posts on Search Engine Optimization (SEO), covering what I’ll call “Technical SEO” (some people call this Traditional SEO). This means you make technical changes to the HTML in order to improve ranking in a search engine.
Many people like the idea of technical SEO. If you could just add the right keyword to a page and suddenly rank #1, that’d be a great solution. This actually worked in the late-90s with AltaVista and other search engines. Today, it’s changed quite a bit.
Let’s cover technical SEO so you can understand what it is. Then I’ll discuss how it has changed and what works now.
First, an overview of the technical methods in SEO:
Navigation: Improve the visitor’s ability to navigate through your site to find pages.
Keyword Research: How to find the keywords that bring visitors and sales to your site.
Meta Tags: The HEAD section of a webpage contains three tags: the TITLE, DESCRIPTION, and KEYWORD tags. Use the keyword research to write these tags.
BODY Tags: The BODY section has the text that visitors see on their screen. You’ll use the keywords for the page heading and the introductory sentence.
Sitemaps: The two types of sitemaps are HTML and XML.
Enough theory. Let’s get started.
In traditional SEO, it was thought that indexing and ranking could be improved by managing the way that search engines moved through the site. This was called internal architecture, silos, or themes. The website’s linking structure was modified to turn the website into several sets of pages, as shown next.
Above: An example of traditional SEO restructuring of a website into themes or silos. The idea was to lead the search engine into a cluster of pages for koi, which would improve the context of these pages.
However, the last few years of social media have shown that people want instant results. They don’t want to go to a website and click through a series of links and pages to get what they want. Don’t obligate your visitors to navigate through a series of pages. Offer the information on the page. Simplify your web site. Make it easy for your visitors to find what they want.
Use your web analytics to make a list of your pages, and sort them by incoming traffic. You’ll find most of your visitors enter your site on only a few pages. These pages are called entrance pages. Other pages may have more traffic because people are moving around within your site, but the entrance pages are where people enter your site. These pages attract visitors. Focus your SEO efforts on these entrance pages, which are usually the website’s home page, the product pages, services pages, FAQs, the support page, and the contact-us page.
Find the Keywords
The next step in technical SEO is to identify the keywords for each page. The keywords are the search terms that users will type into a search engine to find your page.
As people use search engines, they have learned how to get better results. They find the more keywords they use in a query, the better the results. People now generally use three words in a search. I say “keywords,” but I mean keyword phrases with three or four words, such as organic koi food.
Web Analytics: Your web analytics tool used to show you the keywords that visitors used to find your site. However, Google now hides the keywords. More on this later.
Your Website’s Search Box: When you put a search box on your website, you get a report of the search terms that visitors used. This can also show you the pages they visited, conversions, exits, and more.
Google’s Keyword Planner: You can enter a few keywords, and Google Keyword Planner shows you additional keyword suggestions. In addition, it can look at a webpage and recommend keywords for that page. If you have a well-written page, Google will give you lots of good keywords. This also means you can enter your competitors’ websites, Wikipedia pages, industry sites, and so on to get keywords. This tool is in your Google AdWords account. You can find additional keyword research tools at Wordtracker.com and KeywordDiscovery.com.
Competitors’ meta-keyword tag: Visit your top five competitors’ websites, select View | Source, and look at the tags in the section. Print out their product pages and look for keywords.
Brand names: Add your product names to the list. If you sell Yasuhiro Koi pellets, add the product name (Yasuhiro Koi Pellets) to your keyword list.
Company names: Add your vendors to the list. If you sell Koi pellets by Yasuhiro Corp., add the company name (Yasuhiro Corporation) to your keyword list.
Misspellings: Add misspellings to your keyword list. For example, add goldfsih. Search for goldfsih and see how many have misspelled it. Add these misspellings at the bottom of your page by writing “Were you looking for goldfsih? We have goldfish.¨ That lets the search engines index the misspelling on your page.
Web 2.0 and Social: A number of Web 2.0 tools let you see what your target audience is looking for. Over 40 million people ask questions on Yahoo! Answers every month. You can sort these by topic and use these to build additional pages. You can also search Twitter hashtags to find additional queries. Use tools to find the volume for hashtags or related hashtags (such as HashTagify). For more about Twitter tools, get Andreas’ #TwitterBook.
In your research, you may find several thousand keywords. But which ones get the most traffic? Set up an AdWords account, add the keywords, and let it run for several weeks. AdWords will show you which keywords actually get traffic, clicks, and conversions. If you want to test keywords and you don’t yet have the webpage ready, point the ads to a related organization.
The Website’s URL
If you don’t yet have a URL for your website, put your main keyword in the website’s URL. If people are searching for koi, they will more likely click on Koi-Planet.com than RondaAndMichelle.com. The point isn’t to feed the keyword to the search engines. The point is to let searchers know that you have what they are seeking. Keep the following points in mind:
- Put your main keyword at the beginning of the URL. Koi-Planet.com is better than Planet-for-Koi.com.
- If you already have a URL such as RondaAndMichelle.com that doesn’t match your keyword, consider changing your URL. You can set up a redirect on the old site to point to the new site. Another solution is to buy URLs for each product, such as Koromo-Koi-Planet.com, Asagi-Koi-Planet.com, and so on.
- If you don’t yet have a URL, use AdWords to help you to find a good URL. Run an AdWords campaign with several thousand keywords for ten business days. You’ll see which words get the most traffic and clicks.
If you can’t change your URL, work with that. If it’s RondaAndMichelle.com, then add your keyword in the folder, so it appears as RondaAndMichelle.com/Koromo-Koi/.
Note: Should you use a hyphen or an underscore in your URL? There’s two parts to this. As a technical issue, the hyphen and underscore act like a space, so the search engines see Koi-Planet as “Koi Planet.” It used to make a difference whether the URL used a hyphen or underscore, but that doesn’t matter anymore from a technical point of view. However, how will your audience search? Google gives them the result they seek. If they search for Koi-Planet with a hyphen, Google will show the link with a hyphen. If they search for it with an underscore, Google will show the version with the underscore. The technical issue isn’t important; what matters is whether your audience will remember your name and how they will search for you.
Tip: When you write your URL, use capital letters to mark the beginning of words. It’s easier to read RondaAndMichelle.com than rondaandmichelle.com.
Read my last blog, on SEO and Social Media.
In my next blog, I talk in detail about Making Sense of Metadata.
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