The whole issue of tag management has become a much hotter topic in the last few months, with Google making its forthright stand in the market and most technology providers refining their products and service offering accordingly.
However, when it comes to tag management for SEO, getting technical and on-page optimisation should be the cornerstone of any SEO project, Ideally it should form the solid foundation on which to base the visibility of the rest of a site.
For successful search engine optimisation, different tags should be approached in different ways and hopefully, after reading the following top tips, you’ll be better armed when creating and implementing tags, both from a technical and a strategic standpoint.
Tip 1: Smart, Optimised Title Tags
Title tags are still considerably important for accurate page indexing, however it’s amazing how many websites still get this wrong. Structure, keyword inclusion and variety are key elements to benefiting the most from title tags. So, if you’re specifically looking at this:
- Try to include your highest volume search terms in your title tags
- Use a different title tag for every page. You will be surprised with the amount of sites that neglect this
- Include your brand name at the end of the URL, by all means. I prefer this to using the full domain (such as Product | Example.com)
- Product Name | Category | Brand is my current favourite URL structure but there is no hard and fast rule here. It is still possible to use hyphens and other punctuation marks, although not as clean. You can also seek to use ‘Primary Keyword | Secondary Keyword | Brand as a different approach
- Review the content on your blog posts. Make it snappy and eye-catching, whilst still including keywords, and you’re on to a winner
- Try to handwrite your most important categories on a dynamic site
- Remember that it’s now actually possible to rank for keywords without even using them in the title tag so don’t get too hung up on including every variation of search phrase, resulting in a title becoming more cluttered and unreadable
- Go over 60 characters if you can help it. Google can shorten titles based on pixel width so, although there is no set limit on characters, it’s wise to follow best practise to ensure you are in control of your tags. It’s also imperative to understand that one character can be wider than another and therefore take up more space. For example, a ‘W’ is wider than an ‘I’.
- Overstuff tags with repeated words. This looks messy and could harm your CTR.
- Use ‘Welcome to my website / homepage’ - it is not 1998 anymore!
- Use the same Title tag for every page.
Tip 2: Description Tags with Calls-to-Action
Likewise, there’s some easy to follow actions here as well as some glaring mistakes that can so easily happen without some due care and attention:
- Reinforce your title tag with added information – consider why someone should visit your page.
- Use effective calls-to-action – you can obtain feedback from your best paid search ads to facilitate this. Once the description changes in Google’s results, monitor CTR on these high volume terms using Webmaster Tools or Google Analytics. It’s worth remembering that even your best ad from AdWords can probably be improved upon.
- Always rely on auto-generated description tags. I’ve seen some disastrous examples of these which made the articles look like they were about something completely different.
Tip 3: Ditch the Keyword Tag
Remove META keyword tags – they are not worth your time or effort, and they won’t help you to gain better rankings.
Tip 4: It’s Time to get Canonical
The canonical tag will tell search engines your preferred URL for a page. These tags are still very important to get right, especially on large scale ecommerce sites and will help reduce duplicate content. This is an open standard and all major search engines should acknowledge it. For affiliates it can be an area to investigate, especially if you have an over-reliance on feed data or some heavily dynamic pages which could be duplicated. You maybe also want to use this if you are having trouble with some 301 redirects.
<link rel="canonical" href="http://example.com/page.html" />
- Keep your use of a page URL consistent.
- Make sure the canonical URL is used throughout your site.
- Utilise existing canonical tag plug-ins for your CMS. These are available for most popular CMS systems such as WordPress, Magento and Drupal.
Typical situations where you might want to make sure your canonical URLs are set-up:
- Duplicate Pages made for printing.
- Session IDs.
- Category URLs such as ‘sort’ or ‘colour’ query strings.
Tip 5: Handle Internationalisation Issues with 'rel=alternate hreflang=x'
If you have duplicate content that is translated, it is possible to place 'rel="alternate" hreflang="x"' tags to assist Google with serving the correct language or regional URL to searchers. This language information can also be placed in a sitemap, which is a more elegant solution. This is certainly worth adopting if you have issues in this area.
Tip 6: Structure Your Data for Rich Snippets that Sparkle
The ‘snippet’ is the information that is displayed underneath each individual search result. Rich snippets can provide the user with extra information that is extracted from the pages’ content. This content or data can be marked up as structured content and is worth doing as it’s of real benefit to the user. There are several different supported rich snippet formats that can be implemented which have different mark-ups and slightly different origins: Microdata, Microformats and RDFa. Google recommends using Microdata, which is specified in HTML5. Check Schema.org for more information and examples.
The above example includes items like reviews, recipes, products, people, events and videos. There are quite a lot of different entities that are supported now so it’s worth assessing which of the information you have that can be marked up on your site with the right attributes.
By doing this, you have the potential to improve click-through rates from search results. However, as yet this may not directly affect rankings. With product reviews being the most obvious use for rich snippets, I predict other types will grow in use during the year ahead.
Tip 7: Utilise Google Authorship & be Proud of Your Content
A feature now common in the SEO industry is Google Authorship. This is something that is likely to continue to be used in many more industries and content sites in 2013. Now more than ever, it is worth making sure your content is marked up with an author’s snippet and profile, to highlight the authority of your writers and to harness authority of potential guest contributors.
Once linked up, you can test your profile image is showing next to the content by using Google’s rich snippet testing tool (see below).
Once you have set this up for all of the content you have produced, you should see data populated here when you log in with the linked account.
It’s who links to you, not where links to you
I expect that authorship will continue to grow in adoption over 2013 with many more companies utilising their workforce to increase authority in more niches. However, linking content correctly to an author will also add credibility, especially with high profile writers or industry experts. This has been widely coined in the industry as ‘AuthorRank’ and is expected to play an increasingly influential role in shaping search results.