Where You At?


EDITOR'S NOTE: Last month's column introduced some of the whys and whats of search engine optimization (SEO). This month Shafer continues on with the hows. Content is king when it comes to SEO. Not only should the merchandising copy and product descriptions sell products, they should be keyword-rich and relevant to your business. Don't call a jacket a jacket; call it, for example, a Ducati Motorcycle Riding Jacket. All those keywords are important. And use the words your customers use. While the OEM may sell a brake friction block, people look for brake pads.

Good organic search results depend on more than the visible text. Search engine robots index all information. Experts disagree about the importance of some of these "nonhuman" bits of data, but the information can help. Here are some tips:

Name your images with SEO in mind. If you have an image of an oil filter for a Ducati GT1000, don't keep the name off your camera (like DSC-2054.jpg) or call it something like oilfilter.jpg. Give it a descriptive name like 444.4.003.2A_Ducati_GT1000_oil_filter.jpg. If someone does a search for the part number, the brand, the bike model, etc., all are supported by a search result that will highlight those keywords in the search engine results page (SERP).

Use the extra HTML attributes. Modern HTML code is designed for accessibility. Site builders can insert extra data into a page to help things like screen readers (programs that read everything on a site out loud for the blind). Use all these extra bits of data to help your search results.

Use the ALT attribute (typically used to describe what the image is) for image tags. In the oil filter example, the image's tag should have the ALT attribute set to something like Ducati Oil Filter For Ducati GT1000 — Part Number: 444.4.003.2A.

Most tags also have a TITLE attribute. For example, you could use this attribute in a link's anchor tag to provide extra information about the link. So in your site's navigation, or within editorial copy, you could have a "Ducati Riding Apparel" link with a TITLE attribute set to Ducati Motorcycle Riding Apparel. This provides a "tool tip"pop-up when you mouse over it, and it may help with SEO as well. Compared to ALT attributes, the impact of TITLE attributes on SERP placement is more dubious, but every bit helps.

URLs are also hotly debated in the SEO world. Most e-commerce packages create URLs for your categories and products that look like this: http://vroomvroommoto.com/product_detail.aspx?8675309, where 8675309 is the internal product ID number. Not good. What you want is a URL like http://vroomvroommoto.com/ducati_motorcycle_oil_filter.aspx . If your e-commerce package does not allow you to rewrite URLs, there are methods and tools that allow you to at the server level. You could also install and use various add-ons.

Page titles make a huge difference in page ranking. The first five to seven words of the title should be the main keywords. Most companies will put their company name first, then the other stuff. That's backward, unless your company name happens to contain the keywords. But let's say your company is Italian Moto Works and you sell Ducati and Moto Guzzi. It would be pointless to have the title read Italian Moto Works: Ducati and Moto Guzzi Motorcycles. Instead it should read Ducati & Moto Guzzi Motorcycles, Parts, Accessories, and Riding Apparel from Italian Moto Works. This title covers all your bases and has the important keywords up front.

Titles for your product detail pages should have a full product description up front. In the oil filter example the title should read something like Ducati GT1000 Oil Filter: Part 444.4.003.2A — Ducati & Moto Guzzi Motorcycles, Parts, Accessories, and Riding Apparel — not Ducati & Moto Guzzi Motorcycles, Parts, Accessories, and Riding Apparel from Vroom Vroom Italian Moto Works : Ducati GT1000 Oil Filter: Part 444.4.003.2A.

Hopefully your Web developer is up on all this SEO stuff, but you should still know something about it so you can manage and verify.