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Step 5: Tweaking HTML Code & Meta Tag Optimization

Back-end optimization, particularly of META tags, can be incredibly overrated, and many people falsely claim it to be the only search engine process, but it is still very important to helping a site rank well in search results.

A. Declare the Document Type

The first line of your code should declare your document type. There are different document declarations depending on the document type, but for regular HTML pages, typically this line will work

<!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.01 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/html4/loose.dtd">

B. META NAME Tags.

Directly after the document type there are four META NAME tags that should be included within the "HEAD" section of the web page. The HEAD section is not seen by website visitors and is used only for informational purposes by search engine spiders.

The formatting for the elements will appear as so:

<!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.01 Transitional//EN"
"http://www.w3.org/TR/html4/loose.dtd">
<html>
<head>
<title>your title goes here</title>
<meta name="description" content="your description goes here.">
<meta name="keywords" content="your keywords go here">
<meta name="robots" content="your robots direction goes here">
</head>
<body>
The content of your web page goes here.
</body>
</html>

Here is a breakdown of the four META tags that you should include:

1. Title:

The title tag of each page should include the keywords and phrases you have chosen as a focus for that web page. On the dog insurance page, you may title the page something like "Dog Insurance by ASTYTrust" or "Dog Insurance Plans and Benefits."?? The tag looks like:

<title>Dog Insurance by ASTYTrust</title>

Title Tags should be no longer that 90 characters and should include the focus key phrase for that page only once.

2. Description

Each description should be tailored to the web page and include the keywords and phrases you have chosen as a focus for that page. The description tag could look like this:

<meta name="description" content="Provides details and plan specifics for ASTYTrust dog insurance: quality, dependable pet insurance for an affordable price.">

Description Tags should be no longer that 40 words and should include the focus key phrase for that page at the beginning or as close as possible.

3. Keywords

The keyword tag is not that important, but for some reason it's the first thing that amateur optimizers lock on to. Search engines hardly glance at it, but even so, it doesn't exactly hurt. A keyword tag should be longer than 700 characters. You should not repeat any word more than 3 times, and you should not repeat key phrases. There is some debate as to whether you should separate the keywords with commas, so that is up to you. The keyword tag is formatted as so:

<meta name="keywords" content="dog insurance, pet insurance, dog heath care, animal health plans">

4. Robots Tag

Unless you want the search engine spiders to do something other than spider your page and follow all your links, your robots tag should look like this:

<meta name="robots" content="all"> or <meta name="robots" content="index,follow">

C. META-EQUIV Tags.

The following two lines can be included in your head tag assuming you have a regular HTML page in English with a typical character set (from a typical American keyboard). They are included in the invisible header sent to a requesting agent by the page and make your code more professional. They may or may not help with search engine optimization:

<META http-equiv="content-type" CONTENT="text/html; charset=utf-8">
<META http-equiv="content-language" content="en">

D. ALT Text

Images have ALT text for people who have non-graphics browsers or for people who are visually challenged and must use a talking browser. Use your focused keywords or key phrases once (if applicable) in the ALT text of your images. But again, don't go overboard.

E. Validate Your Home Page.

Validate your homepage at: http://validator.w3.org/. It's actually better to validate every page, but validation can be extremely time consuming. You could easily spend half and hour to an hour validating each web page. Therefore, for starters validate only the homepage.?If you are building a site from the ground up it is important that you validate the site template BEFORE you start pasting in all your content or you will make the same HTML mistakes over and over again, and it will be much harder to clean up later. There are many many tips to help in validation. Ask a senior search engine optimizer if (when) you run into problems.

F. Clean Up Your Code

Minimize your HTML code. The less, the simpler and the easier to read the better. Search engines have to go through all that junk too. Cut things like duplicate tags when you only need them once. And externalize your JavaScript's and other scripts by placing them in a separate file and then using one liners in your code to call them. A brief guide on how to do this can be found here: http://www.pageresource.com/jscript/jxtern.htm.

<< Step 4: Site Structure. File and Directory Organization | Step 6: Linking >>

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