Since the last time we discussed SEO tips in this blog, progress has continued apace in the struggle to get to the top of the Google heap. Marketers fight to increase their customers’ rankings, while search engines continue to refine what works and what doesn’t to ensure that their users will find the most relevant solutions to their search problems.
This is a relatively new addition to the SEO arsenal. A microformat is an external standard which seeks to make each piece of text on your web page more explicit to electronic systems. Essentially, it uses a standardized data format to explain to the computer that, for instance, “(555) 555-1234” is a phone number and “Mary Jones” is a person’s name. Both Google and Bing/Yahoo use various microformats to help make their search results more relevant.
Here’s the sample of a partial snippet of the schema.org microformat:
<div itemscope itemtype=”http://schema.org/LocalBusiness”>
<meta itemprop=”url” content=”https://samplewebsite.com” />
<meta itemprop=”name” content=”Company Name” />
<meta itemprop=”description” content=”Company Name provides the best water filtration systems to grow organic fruits and vegetables. Check us out and learn how you can grow your organic produce. <a href=’https://samplewebsite/services’>Learn more</a>” />
<meta itemprop=”logo” content=”https://samplewebsite.com/img/company-logo.png” />
… and so on. Most search engines can use this data to create a more comprehensive and attractive search listing.
Notice that the itemtype declaration in the first line points to the URL http://schema.org/LocalBusiness. While humans can certainly follow that link if they wish, to computers it means that Matcha Design declares in no uncertain terms that we are a local business, and therefore should be treated differently from, say, an airline or a school. This gives search engines a better idea of the sort of clientele we want to attract, and targets us accordingly.
But how, then, does a search engine know what’s “local”? For that, we add …
This is essentially another microformat, but one only concerned with points on a globe. Here’s ours:
<meta name=”geo.region” content=”US-OK” />
<meta name=”geo.placename” content=”Tulsa” />
<meta name=”geo.position” content=”36.11252;-95.89706″ />
<meta name=”ICBM” content=”36.11252, -95.89706″ />
By geotagging our site, we’re “planting our flag” at the epicenter of our operation. At the moment, Google doesn’t use these coordinates, but Bing/Yahoo does. And yes, “ICBM” from the GeoURL standard does in fact stand for “Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile,” a little joke left over from the early hacker days.
While Google keeps their search algorithm a tightly guarded secret, they have mentioned that page titles, the bits of text that appears in the tab at the top of your browser, are highly influential in search rankings. Most SEO experts agree that titles should contain your most important keywords, yet should only be 70 characters long (including spaces) or shorter. The jury is still out on whether the page title should actually include your company’s name or not; for Google it appears not to matter, while Bing/Yahoo seems to prefer it.
Meta Keywords and Descriptions
Last, and these days least, are a site’s meta keywords and descriptions. After years of keyword abuse by unscrupulous marketers, Google has flatly stated that they no longer use a site’s meta keywords for anything, period. Bing and Yahoo haven’t made a definitive statement, but keywords still appear to be severely limited in influence, and may even drop your ranking if you jam too many in there. These days, we recommend using meta keywords sparingly and with extreme care.
A site’s meta description is still somewhat important, but it is universally agreed that it shouldn’t be longer than 156 characters (including spaces) and at least attempt to form a coherent sentence or two. In the absence of any microformat data, search engines will often use a site’s meta description for the short text paragraph that appears below the link to your site. This may be your one chance to catch a customer’s eye, so take advantage of it.
Unless you want to spend a lot of time reading up on trends, we always recommend finding a partner with deep experience in SEO to help your site stay high in the rankings. We’ve been navigating these tricky seas for a long time at Matcha Design, and are always scanning the horizon for upcoming changes so we can keep our clients on top. If you think your site should be ranked higher than it is, give us a call and we’ll put our knowledge and passion to work for you.