Although search engine has its own algorithm with many weighting factors that change through time, fortunately there are common factors in the match between search terms entered and the occurrence of the words on the page that influence search engine factors.
Occurrences of search terms in body copy
The number of times the keyphase is repeated in text of the web page is key factor in determining the position for a keyphase. Copy can be written to increase the number of times a word or phrase is used (technically, keyphase density) and ultimately boost position in the search engine. Note though that search engines carry out checks that a phase is not repeated too many times such as ‘cheap flights’…‘cheap flights’…‘cheap flights’…‘cheap flights’…‘cheap flights’…‘cheap flights’…‘cheap flights’…or the keyword is hidden using the same colour text and background and will not list the page if this keyphase density is too high or it believes ‘search engine spamming’ has occurred. Today, other ranking factors like anchor text of backlink pointing to the page from other sites are much more important.
Google goes far beyond the number of times a term appears on a page and examines all aspects of page’s content (and the content of the pages linking to it) to determine if it’s a good match for your query. The other factors include:
- Frequency (which must be not excessive i.e. less than 2-4%)
- Occurrence in headings (H1,H2)
- Occurrence in anchor text of hyperlinks
- Markups such as bold
- Density (the number of time)
- Proximity of phases to start of document and the gap between individual keywords
- Document meta-data
Alternative image text
Graphical images can have hidden text associated with them that is not seen by the user (unless graphical images are turned off or the mouse is rolled-over the image) but will be seen and indexed by search engine and is minor ranking factor, particularly in images linking to other pages. For example text about a company name and products can be assigned to a company logo using the ‘ALT’ tag or attribute of the image tag as follows:
<img name=”Logo” src=”logo.gif” alt=”Car insurance”>
‘Meta’ refers to information ‘about’ the page which characterizes it. The three most important types of meta-data are the document <title> tag, document ‘description’ meta tag and the document ‘keywords’ meta tag. These need to be unique for each page on site(s) otherwise the search engine may assess the content as duplicate and some pages may be down-weighted in importance. Let’s look at it in a little more detail:
1. The document title
The <title> tag is arguably the most important type of meta-data since each search engine places significant weighting on the keyphrases contained within it AND it is the call-to-action hyperlink on the search engine results page. If it contains powerful, relevant copy you will get more clicks and the search engine will assess relevance relative to other pages which are getting fewer clicks.
2. The ‘description’ meta tag
A meta tag is an attribute of the page within the HTML <head> section which can be set by the content owner. It doesn’t directly affect ranking but shows the information which will typically be displayed in the search engine results page. If it is absent or too short relevant ‘snippets’ will be used from within the body copy, but it is best to control messages and this can help identify the page as unique to prevent duplicate content problems. So, the page creator can modify this to make a stronger call to action in the search engines listings as in this case:
<meta name=”description” content=”Direct Line offers you great value can insurance by cutting out the middleman and passing the savings directly on to you. To find out if you could save, why not get a car insurance quote? Breakdown Cover Insurance also available.”>
To see how relevant and unique your <title> and meta descriptions are, use the Google ‘site’: syntax with a keyphase – this will return all the pages on your site about a particular topic. For example: <seo site:mudu.io>
To view meta tags for a site, select View, Source or Page Source in your browser.
3. The ‘keywords’ meta-tag
The meta keywords meta-tag is used to summarise the content of document based keywords. Some unscrupulous SEOs can still be heard to say to potential clients (‘we will optimise your meta tags’). But this is not significant today since the keywords meta tag is relatively unimportant as ranking factor (Google has never used them), although these keywords may be important to internal search engines. For example:
<meta name=”keywords” content=”Car insurance, Home insurance, Travel insurance, Direct line, Breakdown cover, Mortgages personal loans, Pet insurance, Annual holiday insurance, Car loans, uk mortgages, Life insurance, Critical illness cover”>
Chaffey, D. and Ellis-Chadwick, F., 2012. Digital marketing: strategy, implementation and practice (Vol. 5). Harlow: Pearson.