The Secret Sauce (part 3): SEO – Secrets of “The Waterfall”
In part two of my series on SEO “Secret Sauce”, I talked about Search Logic, and the tangible methods of “getting inside the shopper’s head”. In this installation, we are jumping into what I call The SEO Waterfall – otherwise known as Search Content Hierarchy – and how little things add up to a LOT when it comes to driving and capturing (qualified) traffic. Specifically – I want to highlight the URL -and how the power of the waterfall comes from the TOP->DOWN…
Let’s start with your business name. Is the product or service you are selling a clearly distinguishable part of your domain name? If it is (and your content backs it up), you will be the lucky recipient of a heavily weighted ranking out of the gates. In order to maintain and advance your cause, you still have a lot of work to do. If you are like most companies, your domain name was not completely thought out in terms of search relevance, or the founders didn’t care, or whatever…that being the case, by itself it probably has little to no value in driving search traffic. A couple of quick examples:
Awesome Domain Names for Relevant Search: flowershop.com, bicycle-parts.com, etc
Nice Domains, but not Search Relevant: kristyscloset.com, boogieboardsandsurfing.com
Use your head on this one – if google can distinguish something tangible from the domain name, and your content is relevant to what google thinks should be relevant, you WIN. And YES, using dashes in URLs is perfectly fine. Let’s be honest – How often do you have to spell out your domain name? If it is sent in an email or newsletter, it will get clicked. If it is on a business card, it will get typed. For the rest of the world, you have to assume they DON’T know who you are – but they WANT to find you.
How about this: adaptable-lab-furniture.com
I mean – how easy can it get? Everyone is finally catching on with “Search Friendly URLs” with store categories and products…hmmmmmmm, I wonder what would happen if I pushed that same logic UP to the TOP LEVEL domain?? Are you with me?? Ok, let’s take a look at what I mean by the Waterfall.
* Domain Name (used-video-games(dot)com…)
* URL String (…domain.com/category-name/product-name-descriptive.php
* Page Title <title>
* Meta Description <meta name=”description”… >
* Meta Keywords <meta name=”keywords”…>
* Page Headings <h1, h2, h3>
* Custom Content Tags
* Content Text (This is all about my content…)
* Image Names <img src=”red-white-blue-holiday-carnations-flowers.jpg…
* Image Alt Text <img src= alt=”Red, White, Blue Holiday Carnations – July 4th
URL Strings – canonical strings with clearly-defined-words-separated-by-dashes will help google define and match up your URL with content and tags…exact matches are ranked more highly.
Page Titles – These are generally not given enough credence. Make no mistake – the <title> tag is VERY important for two reasons.
- Search Rank / Relevance – this is next in the hierarchy of ranking, and if EXACT string matches are found from the domain-to-url-to-title – you are on fire!
- Merchandising! The first 55-75 characters of the Title is what displays in search results as the main Link Intro – so you want the words to be balanced between being optimized for SEO, and giving the searcher a compelling reason to click.
Meta Description – Remember that this too has a dual purpose.
- Search Rank / Relevance – This is next in the hierarchy, therefore should be weighted accordingly. Utilize exact match keywords from your URL and Title to optimize your page-rank. (see above)
- Merchandising / Promotion – If you have a reasonably clear meta-description that both includes keywords or phrases and is NOT keyword-spammy, you can accomplish a critical objective: Effectively tell the searcher that you have exactly what they are looking for, and compel them to click your link!
Very Important: If you keyword spam (ie, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, Search, Search Engine…), or you add too long a description, you will actually HURT your ranking, and most likely Google will attempt to replace it with some other content from your site (see example above) on its own…which can be disastrous! Simple, short and compelling is what will get the rank AND get the click.
Page Headings – The more you utilize <tags> they way they were intended to be used by our HTML founding fathers, you will be viewed favorably by the Google gods. The standard heading tags <h1, h2, h3…> are no exception, and take their well deserved place, next in our waterfall hierarchy. This is an example where I used H1-H4 on a product detail page for a lab furniture client (split screen showing website and html code):
Oft-overlooked is the option of creating your own named tags through “names” and “id’s”<div id=”lab-cart-detailed-specs”> where you can leverage tags to build relevance to the coinciding content. Only do this if it is truly relevant, or it will be deemed a useless chore 🙂
Content – You have heard that “Content is KING”. That is TRUE. Page visits are driven by the SEO Waterfall and ultimately by Content. Results (transactions) are largely driven by user experience (UX) once the traffic arrives. A future article will be all about “Finding the Balance Between Content and User Experience”… Let us NEVER forget that your business online success is rooted in how much SEO, Site Navigation and Layout are centered around Customer Success.
Some of you may have noticed that I skipped right over “Meta Keywords“. These are no longer utilized by Google in ranking algorithms, but are still utilized by Bing and a few other smaller search engines, as well as many content crawlers and aggregators. Keep these basic, simple and to the point – only focusing on your key content keywords that are directly applicable to the page content. Any overloading of keywords will only result in negative ranking points – so just don’t be lured into that trap any longer!
Finally, since I more or less spelled out the image tagging above in the actual waterfall list, I won’t belabor the point. None of this is rocket science – but it IS SCIENCE. The beautiful blend of rules (standards) based technology and consumer-behavioral-science…I am actually getting goosebumps right now…OK, I am a Huge Geek! But seriously, if you embrace some simple techniques and stay firm in your commitment to Customer Success, you will WIN the SEO battle and the SEO war.
Cheers, and Best in your SEO Endeavors!