SEO: Design and Content Guidelines From Google (Pt II)

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Good morning Internet fans. It’s Ryan Perry, Simple Biz Support. Today is Thursday, September 17th, therefore it’s Internet marketing Thursday, and as usual, I have Virginie Dorn with Business Website Center. Good morning Virginie.

Virginie Dorn: A very good morning to you, Ryan. How are you doing this morning?

RP: I’m doing very good. Just got back the other day from spending five days in Desolation Wilderness, carrying a 45-pound backpack on my back, so…

VD: Love it.

RP: First thing I did after I got home and cleaned and went to sleep, I woke up and got a massage the next day, so I’m feeling great.

VD: Oh god, life is tough.

RP: It is sometimes. It was beautiful out there though. We have a lot of information to cover. We’re going to continue on from the show last week, where we kinda talked about the top 5… Or not top 5, but essentially we had 10 guidelines that come directly from Google Webmaster Tools, regarding search engine optimization. And it’s specific to design and content guidelines, because after this show, we’re going to go into more technical stuff, but it’s all going to be SEO-related. And it really is kind of the nuts and bolts of your website to ensure that you have the right programming, the right information that Google wants in order to be found on the first page of Google.

VD: Yes, I’m very pleased with Google, because in the last two years they’ve actually been more open about what they want to see on websites. So with a little bit of a homework, a little bit of time, one can educate himself, or herself, in order to optimize their website better and assure top ranking for it. So, yes.

RP: Alright, perfect. So we’re going to continue on. We did the first five last week. We’re going to continue ’cause it was a top-10 list, and we’re going to start with six through 10, and six has to do with crawlers and the fact that they really don’t understand what images are. If you throw a video up, they don’t necessarily know what that information is, and there’s ways to actually tell, not only Google and the other search engines, but also people that are using software such as JAWS. JAWS is a piece of software for people who are blind in order to read the Internet, and obviously blind people are not able to tell what those images are, so you actually use code in order to let them know.

VD: Yes, so that’s actually their seventh recommendation is about the alt tag, but let’s step back a little bit, it’s about images and using text within an image. I still have a discussion almost weekly with clients who think there is someone in Google that is looking at their website, and is looking at it with eyes, human eyes, and they don’t understand it’s actually a software program and crawls over the coding of their site, and they look at image 1, 2, 3, and it doesn’t indicate an image 1, 2, 3 as a call to action and it’s some really important marketing text. So if you have important text and you want to put in your images, that’s fine and dandy, you can do that, but you have to make sure it’s also in HTML format, and by this we mean, when it’s actually a really bold text elsewhere, and not just on the image, because Google won’t see that text. So I’ve seen images with full paragraph of great content, which brings no optimization value, because again, the Google bot does not read that. So it’s important to have your important text in HTML format.

RP: Okay, perfect. So essentially, you’re talking about then when somebody actually embeds text in an image and then places that image; so from an end-user point of view, it’s very readable, I can read it, it looks great, it’s beautifully laid out, all of that. But unfortunately, like you’re saying, the bots cannot actually physically read the image. All they see is, “Oh, okay, this is an image file and maybe it’s 123.jpeg, as an example.”

VD: Correct. So make sure it’s in the textual content of your page as well. And that leads into the next guideline, which is about the use of alternative tags and title tags, which you and I are a big supporter of that. An image tag… Actually an image can have two tags; one is the title tag, which is your mask-over; so someone will put a cursor over an image, it will give you some small text. This is very important for the end-user. It gives them another indication about what the image of the call-to-action is about. The second one, which is if not more important, is the ‘alt tag’ which stands for ‘alternative tag’. That’s what you mentioned, people who are visually impaired will have software, they will read the alt tag of an image to someone who’s visually impaired to explain what the image is about, so this is where you can put really great content, great keywords, and Google expects you to do that for every single image, so don’t be lazy. The images in your slider is the images embedded within the text of every page should all have image title tag and image alt tags as well.

RP: Right. And they need to be keyword loaded and specific to what the image is about. And if you happen to be selling 1,000 shoes on an e-commerce site, each one of those should be different, and it shouldn’t just be a generic number that you downloaded from the manufacturer. If it’s a red shoe, you need to say that it’s a red sneaker or a red Converse sneaker. You want to be very specific.

VD: You’re correct. So just not just the title in alt tags but also the image name. So if you have the time, and I really recommend to everybody out there to do that, is to rename those images with really keyword-empowered names, like ‘redshoes.jpeg’ for instance. That’s the way Google is going to index those images in their library of images, but also is going to give you better ranking for the website as well.

RP: Okay, great. So beyond images it looks like we’re going to get a little bit more technical because we’re talking about PHP, JavaScript, HTML, but I don’t see anything in here about… Oh, and I forgot it. I had a great pun.

RP: What am I thinking of?

VD: The Beauty of Live webinar.

RP: Yes. Oh, I can’t think of it. We finally… They finally killed it off and I don’t know why I cannot think of this stupid software.

VD: No more Flash.

RP: No more Flash, thank you. Yes. Let’s talk about riddle software though, like JavaScript and PHP.

VD: Correct, so Google eighth recommendation, it’s about using proper coding techniques. Just like English has proper grammar, Google wants you to use proper codes. So sometimes broken code can display really nicely on your page, but in the back end, it’s still not correct, might have some syntax issue. Again, the the browsers like Internet Explorer or Firefox might render it fine because they get it, “Oh, you made a spelling errors in your code,” but Google doesn’t like it. You get penalized for using inaccurate coding techniques. So that refers to HTML, CSS, PHP, ASP, JavaScript. So make sure you have good programmers, not someone who’s kind of doing that on the side, because they most likely will make errors, and most likely you’re going to be penalized for those errors, even though you don’t see them.

RP: I was just going to say, and that’s the frustrating part is the fact that as an end user the website may look beautiful, but deep down inside where it really matters, and that’s in the code, ’cause essentially that’s what Google, their search bots are reading as they’re going through the code. It’s kind of like walking into a nice restaurant with a dirty bathroom. After you walk into the nice restaurant you’re like, “Wow, I’m really impressed, this looks beautiful,” and then you go into the bathroom and there’s a lot of dirty code in there, you’re kinda like, “Maybe this isn’t the best place to recommend to my friends.” And essentially that’s what Google’s trying to do, is make recommendations to the people that are using the search engine.

VD: That makes sense to me. Well I’m a programmer, so I totally appreciate where they’re coming from. It makes it easier for the crawlers to understand the website and index it accordingly. So yes, just get a good web programmer. And so that goes to the ninth one, which to me is the most important one, especially for websites that are like e-commerce and have lots of product pages, or maybe even real estate agents and have lots of listings listed on their website, is to make URL SEO friendly. So ‘friendly URL’ is a big keyword in our industry, and a lot of people still don’t understand what it means, so I was hoping to perhaps do a screen share and demonstrate what it could be.

RP: Definitely, and this is… Go ahead and get that screen share up. And this is one of the frustrating things, a lot of people use WordPress as a platform to build a website, which is great, I’m a big fan of WordPress; however their default setting is not SEO friendly, and Virginie is going to show you what I mean by that.

VD: Yeah, so for instance, this is a real estate website, I also do more of finding real estate and selling real estate. As you can see, this is under construction. You can see it in the title or the test listing is 567 Test. If I click on it, you’re going to see in the URL here, there’s a project page, but at the end, instead of putting ID 10 or 11 it shows 567 Test, which is the actual name of that listing. So a lot of what we see when it’s generated by a database will have ID, equal, and a number. That brings no SEO value to Google or other major search engines. So you want to make sure when your webmaster adds additional coding, to make sure whatever’s important on that page, in this situation it’s the name of the listing, shows up in the actual URL. So this is a SEO friendly URL.

RP: Yeah, and the big thing with that is that essentially the URL, to some degree, is kind of like the book title. If you’re going into a library and you want to find a specific book, maybe it’s going to be travel in Italy, you’re going to go to the travel section, and the first thing you’re going to do is you’re going to go down and I’m going to look for books on Italy; Italy, Italy… I see Germany, I’m going to go past that, I’m going to look at Italy. Your URL is one of the first things that Google’s going to look at, and if it just says “? 1-2-3”, ’cause that’s the default permalink, that WordPress uses, it says, “Okay, this page is really about ? 1-2-3, not a lot of value if you’re actually trying to sell information or provide information about Italy, as an example. So you need to have ‘Italy’ in that URL, or if you’re selling blue widgets, it needs to say ‘blue widgets’, whatever it might be.

VD: Yeah. So, again, check your website, make sure that is not happening to yours, if it’s not you’re in good shape. If you’re in good shape make sure you use the best optimized title as well, try to take advantage of that function. And if you don’t, just go back to your webmaster. It’s typically not a very difficult fix, should be quite affordable to make that change in your website, so pick up the phone and have them taking care of it right away, otherwise none of those pages have any value to Google, and most likely will never be indexed.

RP: Right, and if you do find it and you know that you’re on a WordPress site, all you need to do is change your permalink settings. You can do a quick Google search. We don’t have time to explain it now, but Permalink, it’s all one word, is where you need to start. Just do a Google search and there’s plenty of information out there on how to do that for those WordPress users. Let’s go ahead and roll into number 10 then, which is kind of a… Almost like a generic catch-all that, just do things right.

VD: It is, they pretty much tell you “Do all the first nine one’s we told you about”, and then we covered the last two weeks. But also they give more information, and links to other things we’ve discussed in the past, like optimizing video, rich snippets, which is something that started a couple years ago, schemas, and all kinds of other SEO techniques approved and encouraged by Google. But they don’t go into any specifics for that 10th guideline, I think they ran out of IDs for that section of the record.

RP: They decided they wanted to stop sharing, ’cause Google is notorious for not sharing information.

VD: Yeah, but you have to appreciate they give a little bit at least, and not all search engines do that. So just have to remember all the first nine ones, really stick to it. And again, this information is available for free, online. You can just Google… Google ‘Webmaster guidelines’, or SEO guidelines from Google themself. Most likely you’ll find our blog post, but if you can, you can go to Google’s website and get more in-depth information. It can be a full-time job just to warn you.

RP: Yeah, definitely. And that’s why… It’s interesting that internet marketing, it used to be kind of this big umbrella, everybody did everything. The web developer also did SEO, then they started doing social media. Then it was like, well everything’s getting kind of specialized, maybe the programmer should just focus on programming, ’cause there’s so many changes. Even before the show started today, we were talking about Microsoft Edge, which rolled out with Windows 10, and some new features that are going on in there that can effect, not only the programming, but also the marketing side of things. And so, always recommend talking to an expert when you’re financially able to do so. When you’re not, then Google Webmaster Tools is definitely a great… Or developers… What was it, Google Developer Tools? It’s under Webmaster tools though isn’t it?

VD: Just go to Google Webmaster Tool. If you have a Gmail account you automatically can have access to it, just Google ‘Google Webmaster’.

RP: Yeah. Yeah, and you want to make sure that your Webmaster Tools and Analytics are actually connected to your URL, and you’ll want to have a Gmail account set up for that. Additionally, if you missed last week’s episode, we have the first five so go back and check that, ’cause there’s a lot of great information in the first five. This ends it for this one, and this was all about kind of content design. Next week we’re going to get a little bit more geeky, if you will, nuts-and-bolts. And are we going into…

VD: Technical Guidelines.

RP: Technical… See even just the technical guidelines, it sounds very geeky. The key thing is, all of this stuff is very important, especially if you’re in a competitive market space where it’s really hard to get ranking just by doing good SEO, such as social media, such as content development, video blogging, all of that. If your competition’s all doing the same thing, a lot of times it’s going to come down to the details in your website, so this is all really good information.

VD: Yes, indeed. We have…

RP: Sorry. Sorry about that. Our time is up for today. Thank you very much for watching the show. Again, if you did not see last week’s show, we covered the first five tips, and Google always likes to put all the good stuff upfront, so there’s a lot of good information in that last show. And then keep in touch, next week we’ll be live again, next Thursday at 9:30 AM Pacific Standard Time. Virginie, as always I appreciate your time, and I hope you have a great day.

VD: You too, take care.

RP: Alright everybody, take care, we’ll see you next week.


About the Author:

Ryan Perry is the founder and CEO of Simple Biz Support, Inc. Ryan started video blogging in 2009 as an alternative to written blogs to create visibility and credibility online. During the workweek, he enjoys helping small business owners harness the power of video to grow their companies. On the weekends, he enjoys hiking and searching out waterfalls throughout the state of California.

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