The head tag is the first tag located at the top of an document. It contains website data designed to signal search engines and communicates how the page should be dealt with.
Search engines use web crawlers, also known and spiders and bots, to index the world wide web. Google calls its web crawler “Googlebot”. Bots access the head tag to determine how to treat the document.
Head tag elements
There are six elements to consider when designing the perfect head tag for SEO. In order they are as follows.
Character Set tag
Displays the type of character-set to use for reading the web document. The the default character-set for modern browsers is ISO-8859-1, but utf-8 is becoming more popular.
The title is the most important tag for SEO. If you have a well crafted title tag, with the targeted term at the front, the page will index higher in search results
Meta Description tag
Search engines often use the meta description tag as the text that features in search results and should summarise the page content with a strong call to action. Users decide whether to click through to your page based on this information.
Meta Keywords tag
Although not used as an indexing element, meta keywords are cached by the major search engines. Use this if you want to tick ALL the boxes.
Meta Robots tag
Meta robots tags tell Googlebot how to treat the page. If you don’t want pages listed in search results, noindex can be applied to signal search engines not to index. If you don’t want the links on that page indexed you would use noindex, nofollow. If you want to follow the links use noindex follow in the Meta tag.
Meta Author tag
The Meta Author tag it references the name of the person who created document. Both first and last names should be used. This tag does not factor into how the page is indexed.
You should avoid having too much additional information contained within the head tag, but there may be situations where it’s required. You may have a mobile optimized website or use CSS, Maybe you want one of those funky browser tab icons (favicon). Each of these elements will need a line of code in the head tag. Just keep it to a minimum as best practice.
Java script may appear in the head tag but should be kept to a minimum where possible for better page load times. Sometimes it can’t be avoided, especially if you use WordPress plugins, but most <script> can be moved down to the bottom of the page just before the </body> tag.
Follow these head tag tips and your site will have a better changed of indexing well for SEO.
The title tag is the most important HTML tag on your web page for generating traffic. The title tag is a component of meta data and should be located in the head section of your HTML code. It should contain keywords that best describe the content on the page, and be no longer than 70 characters in length.
Update: In line with its mobile first philosophy Google has recently changed the way titles are displayed in its search results. Titles they are now measured in pixels – 512 to be exact. So now with the variations in character spacing, best practice is to use no more than 49 characters. By following this practice it has been discovered that around 99% of all titles will appear – with anything over the specified width truncated to fit within the designated 512 pixels.
The title tag also acts as the heading you see in the search results of Google and Bing. It is the link users click on to visit your website and must feature the targeted term up front for SEO. It should be crafted to grab the user’s attention and be relevant to the content on the webpage. Your business name can be included but I recommend it’s best place it at the end. Title tags must be rich in descriptive keywords for effective SEO. If you get this right your website WILL generate traffic.
When building a website you must ensure that every page has the capability to display a unique and keyword rich title tag. If this capability does not exist you increase the chance of duplication, which search engines have been known to penalize.
Here are some key points to remember about title tags
If you site is about selling Widgets it belongs in the title tag – “Buy Widgets from Widgetland”
If you sell different sizes there should be one page for each – “Buy small Widgets from Widgetland”
Same with location – “Buy small Widgets in Widgetville from Widgetland”
Why do this? Well, put yourself in the position of a user who wants to buy a Widget. Imagine the thought process when poised over a keyboard…
“I need to buy three widgets but only small ones. I need them today and don’t want to travel too far”
Luckily our user actually lives in Widgetville, so chances are the query will be something likebuy small widgets widgetville. Close to an exact match – great.
Luckily you took my advice because search engines are in the business of serving only relevant content to users, which means your site will have a pretty good chance of showing at or near the top of that search result page. Our user looks at the link and thinks “Bingo”, and clicks through. You now have a visitor – thanks to the title tag and SEO.
Using headings correctly on your web page can drastically improve your website’s chances of ranking well in search engines. Headings are implemented in HTML as tags and range from H1 to H6.
The use of headings in a document is standard practice – even before the Internet was around. Structurally, headings are considered crucial because they break down the contents of a page into easily digestible portions. This aids a reader to better comprehend a document and therefore achieve a greater understanding. Headings should contain enough information to give the reader an overview of the content in each section. The first heading in an HTML web document is known as an h1 tag and should describe the document’s content. Headings can range from the h1 tag to a depth of h6.
From an SEO perspective the h1 tag is important because it signals the theme of a page to search engines. The h1 tag is one of the three main references web crawlers use to index content in search results, so getting this element right could yield considerable benefit for your website.
Difference between headings and titles
Although both have some common meanings, the h1 tag is not to be confused with the title tag, which is the actual name of the document and is viewed as separate to the general flow of body text. Both are important because the title and h1 tag, plus the body contents of a web document are used by spiders to index the page in search engines. The more descriptive and relevant these elements are to the user query, the better chance your site will have of ranking higher in the results.
There must be only one h1 tag per page. It must be keyword rich and as descriptive as possible. The h1 tag should feature the targeted term and indicate how it applies to the rest of the document.
By acting on this one HTML element, it will improve the way search engines see your website. Similar action with all other elements will drastically improve things so it’s well worth the effort.
So you are planning on building a website to promote your business products and services. Regardless of whether you want to sell through your site, or simply provide information, you will need to understand SEO basics. SEO, or search engine optimization, is the term used when referring to where a website appears in search results like Google, Bing and Yahoo. To succeed with SEO basics one must be able to understand psychology of the average Internet user. You need to think about what’s going through the mind when someone is about to conduct a search, and how can you provide the best answer. Is this person researching the best option, or has the decision been made to purchase? The way your site is optimized will determine whether you appear on the first page, at the right time, or not.
The three key elements of SEO basics
Sitemaps and Robots.txt
This is important – these elements MUST be considered carefully and be incorporated BEFORE you launch the site.
Choosing the correct keywords is the number one rule of SEO basics. These are the words that best describe your product or service, which are referred to as targeted terms. More often than not your targeted term will be in the form of multiple words – such as “widgets for sale”. The two types of keyword terms you need to understand are generic and “long tail”. Generic keywords like “widgets” are usually very competitive terms because all businesses in you category will want to rank for that term. You should aim to rank long tail terms such as “small widgets for sale in [location]”. These are the quickest wins for your site because:
It’s easier to rank higher up the results; and
the more specific the term, the better chance of a sale.
Using location specifically as part of your targeted term is a smart thing to do because it signals that a user searching by location is ready to buy. So SEO basics tip one is – start with long tail terms to begin with, and as you build a brand online the more generic terms will come into play.
Rule number two of SEO basics is to use the right tags and Metadata in the HTML code of your site. HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) is the way your computer translates into the into the webpage that becomes rendered on your screen (transferred from a web server to your computing device via HTTP). HTML is how search engine’s view your web page (think Neo in the Matrix), so it needs to be presented in the right way. By “right clicking” on the page and selecting “view source” you will be able to view the HTML. It will look something like this…
It probably looks very confusing but for the purposes of basic SEO we are only going to focus on three areas
The title tag
There should only be one title tag on each page, which is unique and keyword rich. The title tag is considered one of the most important HTML elements on the page by search engines.
If you’re reading this you’ve probably used MS Word (or a similar program), so you should be familiar with the use of headings. For basic SEO we need to focus on only one heading – the h1 tag. The h1 tag is the main heading which helps signal the theme of a page to Google. As with the title tag, there must be only one h1 tag per page and it must be unique to all others on your site.
Meta description tag
The meta description tag is a component of metadata and is used to summarise the content on your page. More often than not search engines will use the meta description as the snippet of information that appears in search results. Your description should always include a strong call to action so that users are encouraged to click on yours over the competition, and again it must be unique Why must each tag be unique? Because if search engines see the same tag across your site it will assume each page is about the same thing and the perceived quality of your content will be diluted causing a lower ranking in the results. So SEO basics tip number two is to present a unique title, h1 heading and description for each page of your site.
Sitemaps and Robots.txt
The purpose of having a sitemap is to alert search engines to the existence of all pages on the website that you want indexed in results. There are two types of Sitemaps, both of which are an essential part of SEO basics. HTML sitemaps allow search engine web crawlers (or robots) to penetrate your site structurally, while XML sitemaps provide a list of URLs contained in your site. Both must be available to ensure your whole site is indexed On most sites there are links that shouldn’t be accessible – like password protected pages, etc. A robots.txt file is a simple file which notifies search engines parts of your site to crawl (or NOT), and should be viewed as a mandatory inclusion for all websites. So SEO basics tip number three is to attract web crawlers to only the parts of your site you want indexed by including HTML and XML sitemaps, along with a robots.txt file.
Using the right keywords, unique Meta data and web crawling mechanisms lays a solid foundation for your site. And before you decide to hire someone to build it for you make sure they understand these SEO basics.