Sunday, July 31, 2011

How Facebook & Google+ Will Both Win Big - Thanks to the Prisoner’s Dilemma

The Prisoner’s Dilemma fascinates me. In 1984 Robert Axelrod (no, he’s no relation to President Obama’s 2008 Campaign Manager David Axelrod, I already looked), published a book on game theory The Evolution of Cooperation: Revised EditionSuccess Books).

Here’s the whole Prisoner’s Dilemma concept in a nutshell:

When two suspects have both been equally involved in committing a crime, the only way for one of them to completely get off is to do exactly opposite as the other, or defect. If, for some reason, one decides to talk and the other doesn’t, the talker wins. If both suspects confess they collectively make out better, but both end up with some punishment. If both collectively defect and neither talk, they make out better collectively than if they had confessed. But, most likely, both are still punished, only to a lesser degree.

Here’s a great graphic illustration (hey, isn’t that now called an Infographic?):

Infographic of the Prisoner's Dilemma fromEncyclopedia Britannica
Copyright 2006 - Encyclopedia Britannica


So how can the Prisoner’s Dilemma predict what’s going to happen now that Google+ has come along?

Okay, so let’s say we round up the usual suspects. Only in this case, one is your Facebook account and one is your Google+ account (if you have one yet!). So to get the most out of these two suspects, what’s the optimum thing to do?


  • Cancel your Facebook account and move to Google+ telling your friends if they don’t come with you they aren’t your friends any more.

  • Try Google+ for a week and go back to Facebook 100% telling your Facebook friends not to go to Google+ because it’s a waste of time.

  • Join both and use them to meet friends where they are happiest interacting with you.

  • Quit both because you just can’t stand Social Media any more

Ah, so you see…it’s undeniable that based on the Prisoner’s Dilemma the winning situation is to eitrther participate in both Facebook and Google+, or none at all.

…and that’s all I have to say about that.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

SEO Saturdays – What’s the difference between ALT and TITLE tags on images?


SEO Saturdays – What’s the difference between ALT and TITLE tags on images?


I could give you the W3’s definitions of “alt” tags (or “attributes”) but this blog isn’t really intended for developers. It’s intended for normal people – hah! I’ll probably catch some flack for that one, but hey, it’s my blog.

“Alt” stands for “alternative text” and is an attribute (most people call it a “tag”) that is shown when an image cannot be displayed. I’m sure that even those of us who don’t use screen readers can think of times when this might happen. Emails are a perfect example. I have to click a button when I get an email that enable images. If there is no “alt” text on those images, and the email is 100% images, guess what I see before I click the “display images” link? Right. I see nothing. 

“alt” attributes are supported by all major browsers. Straight from the W3 schools here’s when to use “alt” attributes and how:

Guidelines for the alt text:
  • If the image contains information - use alt to describe the image
  • If the image is inside an a element - use alt to explain where the link goes
  • If the image is only for decoration - use alt=""

Correct syntax is:  <  img alt="value"  />

Note: If you do not use this syntax, and put the “alt” text at the end of your image tag instead of at the beginning, your tag may display in some browsers but not others. 

“Title” stands for “title text” and is an attribute that should only be used if your image is clickable, that is to say it clicks thru to another Web page. While the “alt” tag should always be included on an image tag, the “title” tag only needs to be included to give your visitors some idea of where they are going if they DO click on the image.

Guidelines for the title tag:
  • If the image is attached to a link - use title to describe where that link goes
  • If the image is inside an a element - use both alt and title to explain where the link goes
  • If the image is only for decoration - use alt="" and omit the title tag completely

Correct syntax is:  <  img alt="value" title="value"   />

Note: If you do not use this syntax, and put the “title” text at the end of your image tag instead of at the beginning, your tag may display in some browsers but not others. 

Thanks for reading! Have any useful suggestions, comments or examples? I’d love to hear them. You do not need to register or subscribe to leave a comment.

Friday, July 29, 2011

One easy improvement to your site’s SEO you can do right now - ALT tags

“Alt” text on images is one of the easiest things to get right on a Web site. Still, it’s amazing how many SEO professionals and webmasters gloss over this attribute. Even if it’s populated, it’s not always done well.

According to the Little Rock Foundation there are 1.5 million legally blind people in the USA and an additional 5.5 million senior citizens who are blind or visually impaired.


How do blind people use a computer?

Many blind and visually impaired people use what’s called a screen reader. It crawls and audibly reads the text on a Web site. So, what does it do when it gets to a picture? If there is no “alt” attribute or “title” attribute, the screen reader sees nothing and moves on. Why does this matter?


Compare these two Web sites using Firefox as your browser:


1987 Cuisinart Food Processor without workbowl


Notice that when you scroll your mouse over the slideshow image on Best Buy’s home page that no “alt” text is displayed. In fact none of the “Alt” tags on Best Buy’s home page are populated at all. Now do the same at Apple’s start page. Notice how a little box of text describing the image pops up when you scroll over the image with your mouse. Try it in the two identical images to the right. Scroll over the first image and you'll see nothing, Scroll over the second image and you'll a text box pop up that describes what's in the photo.

1983 Cuisinart Food Processor without work bowl
Notice on Apple's start page that the offer in the upper left has text inside the image. Notice how the "alt" text tells you what that text says. The "alt" text a screen reader can read. The text imbedded in the image cannot be read by a screen reader, because it's just a picture. When a special offer or promotion is delivered via text inside an image, that text isn’t really text. It’s only a picture of text. Without “alt” attributes, this offer would be invisible to someone using a screen reader.

5 reasons using “alt” text on images matters:

1. It's good business. The discretionary income of people with disabilities is $175 billion [that was in 2001]

2. The number of people with disabilities – and income to spend – is likely to increase as the overall population ages.

3. The Internet plays an important role for people with disabilities. Disabled users spend more time logged on and surfing the Internet than nondisabled users. According to the Harris Poll, 48 percent of respondents with disabilities reported that the quality of their lives had been significantly improved by the Internet compared to 27 percent of respondents without a disability.

4. Improving accessibility improves usability for all users. Making Web sites work for people who use screen readers takes little extra effort while improving usability and findability for everyone.

5. It's just the right thing to do.


How to add "alt" attributes in the HTML of your images

It’s easy! Here is the HTML for one of the images on my blog without “alt” text [note-you will need to remove the spaces after and before the "<" and ">" tags for your HTML to work properly]:

< img border="0" height="239" src="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-5f1FkeecoZ8/ThtCBZHuHWI/AAAAAAAAABk/uwEOuXa_8D0/s320/IMG_0258.jpg" width="320" >

Here is what it looks like with an “alt” attribute:


< img border="0" height="239" src="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-5f1FkeecoZ8/ThtCBZHuHWI/AAAAAAAAABk/uwEOuXa_8D0/s320/IMG_0258.jpg" width="320" alt=”little boy with inflatable quick set swimming pool” >

That’s it! Just describe visually what appears in the picture, and you’re done. Tomorrow I will talk about the difference between the “title” and the “alt” attribute and some guidelines to use when populating both.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

SEO Basics: SEO & SEM Common Acronyms & Uncommon Definitions

…and I thought the Army had an acronym for everything! Learn these terms and, while they won’t teach you how to do SEO, you’ll be able to hold your own at the next SEO cocktail party! Did I miss any? If so leave them in the comments section and I will add them to the list.

  1. AOV – Average Order Value: Calculated by dividing Revenue by number of orders.

  2. CPA – Cost Per Action: Hah, yes, this is different from the standard business CPA (Cost Per Acquisition). Cost per action is a type of online advertising where advertisers pay publishers for specific actions a visitor takes. Perhaps the advertiser wants to visitors to complete a survey or watch a video. They would pay for each action.

  3. CPC – Cost Per Click: This is a calculated number that divides an advertiser’s total cost for a campaign by the number of clicks it received.

  4. CPI – Cost per Impression: This is a calculation of expense for display advertising. It is figured by dividing total impressions by total cost. 

  5. CPL – Cost Per Lead: Advertisers often use this in Education, Insurance and Credit Card Company advertising and it pays for every complete lead gathered by the ad. It usually involves the visitor completing a long form with legitimate contact information including address and phone number.

  6. CPM – Cost per Mille: Okay, you need to go back to high school French class to understand this one, or, if you prefer, Latin class. The word “mille” means “thousand” in French and the letter “M” is the Roman numeral for 1000. Take your pick. Many people mistakenly refer to this as “Cost per Million.” It isn’t. It’s “Cost per thousand” and is used to calculate cost for display advertising. The advertiser pays (or the publisher earns) a set rate per 1000 impressions, regardless of action taken by visitors (click or no click, conversions or none). It is calculated total cost by 1000.

  7. CRM – Customer Relationship Management. This is a tough one to describe because so many people refer to software platforms as CRMs (like WordPress, Joomla and Drupal), when in fact CRM is really more of a business strategy and the platforms are what make the strategy work. An excellent article from CRM Magazine says: “If customer relationships are the heart of business success, then CRM is the valve the pumps a company's life blood. As such, CRM is best suited to help businesses use people, processes, and technology to gain insight into the behavior and value of customers.”

  8. CSS – Cascading Style Sheets: This is part of Web development and design that separates style elements (like fonts, font sizes, headline styles, etc.) from content elements and organizes them in an orderly structure. It significantly shortens and streamlines HTML.

  9. CTR - Click thru Rate: This is a number that tells you how many people out of 100 clicked through on your ad. It is a calculated percentage derived by dividing total number of clicks by total number of impressions.

  10. DNS – Domain Name Server: This refers to the server that “hosts” a domain.

  11. GA – Google Analytics: A fantastic and free Web analytics solution available from Google.

  12. KEI – Keyword Effectiveness Index: This is a numerical value that can give an indication of how likely it will be that a keyword can lead to a high ranking in SERPs. It is calculated by this formula: Searches * Searches / Number of results. Click here to read more about KEI and what it can and can’t help you determine for your keywords.

  13. META – Okay, for those of you who like repetition, the term “META” means “data.” Consequently, the term “metadata” means data about data. Yeah, some computer scientist totally thought that one up! Here’s a great article about META tags if you are interested in knowing more data about data about data span style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">– sorry, I couldn’t resist.

  14. PPC – Pay Per Click: This is a type of Internet Advertising offered by Google Adwords, Bing and Facebook (and many others) where advertisers bid on keywords for paid placements in search results. Google something common, like “Used Cars.” The three results at the top of the page and the ten down the right side are all PPC ads.

  15. PPV – Pay Per View: This has nothing to do with Internet Marketing. It applies to television marketing where movies and events are sold to the public for a set fee for each program viewing.

  16. PVV – Per Visit Value: This is a calculated numerical value that can tell you how much each visitor to an e-commerce Web page is worth, regardless of what action they take. It is calculated by dividing the total revenue from the page by total visits to the page.

  17. SEM – Search Engine Marketing: Often confused with SEO, or used synonymously, it really refers to everything in Internet Marketing, including Paid Search.

  18. SEO – Search Engine Optimization: A term often used interchangeably with SEM by people who don’t do SEO for a living. Purists consider this to refer to on-page and off-page optimizations that lead to better results on SERPs.

  19. SERP – Search Engine Results Page: Go to Google and search for something. The resulting page is page one of the SERPs.

  20. URL – Unique Resource Locator: Also called “Web Address” or “Link” this is the specific address of a Web page and appears in the search bar when you’re on that page.

  21. 301 redirects – Okay, it’s not an acronym, but it was important to put on the list because ignorance about 301 redirects can kill everything else you’ve worked hard to optimize. Say you had a great page on your Web site that was ranked really high in the SERPs. You decide it’s out-dated and you re-write and update it and post it at a new URL, and remove the old page. If you don’t set up a 301-redirect from the old URL to the new one, all that ranking you had?….kiss it goodbye. Now when someone clicks on a link from Google to your formerly hot page, visitors now get an ugly 404 page, conclude that you are either a fake or a moron and they’ll never come back.

  22. IP -  Internet Protocol: No, for SEO geeks it doesn’t mean Intellectual Property. In short this is a set of rules used by computers to send and receive messages. For a great, concise, but still geeky description of how IP works click here.

  23. HTML – Hyper Text Markup Language. Put simply this is what gives content on a Web page structure, kind of like yeast in bread. CSS is what gives your content visual presentation and aesthetic value, kinda like the golden brown color of a great crust on a freshly baked loaf of homemade bread. All similes aside, if you have a burning desire to learn HTML, there’s a great tutorial at HTMLdog.com.



Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Piers Morgan vs. Guido Fawkes

This post was updated on 7/27 with a correction. Blogger Guido Fawkes' story ran via BBC News and not the Huffington Post


Today, blogger Guido Fawkes via @BBCNEWS stated that he had taped evidence that Piers Morgan knew about the phone voice-mail hacking scheme propagated by Rupert Murdoch and his News Corporation Publishing Empire.

As a fan of Larry King, CNN (okay maybe I shouldn’t be) and NBC's America’s Got Talent, I watch these shows because I am trusting the integrity of the network's choices & their journalism. Maybe that makes me a fool, but it doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t have the right to expect that the highest paid journalists with the biggest professional news organizations have integrity and behave with high ethics and professionalism.

Piers Morgan’s integrity as a newsman is now seriously in question. He needs to remove himself from his position at CNN until he is cleared if these allegations. However, I seriously doubt that any blogger with as small a reputation in America as Mr. Fawkes would have stepped forward to out someone as well-known as Piers Morgan if he didn’t have solid evidence. If he has evidence, charges need to be filed and the evidence needs to be heard. If he doesn't have it, his days as a blogger are numbered. One of these two men is going down.


The one thing I derived from the BBC News article was that Piers Morgan's defense seems to be along the lines of "Everyone was doing it..." - Really? As a mother, I find that the most irresponsible and juvenile answer. If that is how Piers Morgan makes choices professionally, then CNN, by keeping him, is complicit. It's instances like this that are the reason the mainstream news media has burned its reputation with the public and so many of them are going out of business. If this is how they operate, their demise is a good thing.

Do you know how to monitor your own onine reputation? As a follow up, I will show you how to monitor your online reputation without spending a lot of money. In fact, you can do it free.

Does Steve Jobs Own a Garlic Press?


Today’s post is definitely going to fall into the “musing” category. Perhaps it might even be “amusing?”

Me, my coffee and my Macbook Pro
This morning I woke up and began cruising around my favorite sites on my lovely Macbook Pro, cup of coffee in hand. Periodically I check my Klout score, mostly because it makes me feel more important than I actually am.

Today my score was still 40, but something new was there.  My “Influence of” column was still empty [hey, it’s not like I’m not trying!]. However, my “Influential about” column had something in it. Something I didn’t expect.

Klout.com says that I am influential about Apple 

Cool! But wait...I’ve only been blogging for two weeks. I’ve written 22 blog posts, 15 here and 7 at my Arts & Entertainment blog The Tan Post. Not one of those posts mentioned Apple in any way. That being the case, I figured I’d better get crackin’ and crank out something about Apple. I don’t want to disappoint folks who arrive here expecting to find all kinds of Apple goodness….

Why is it I love Apple so much? [and how did Klout figure this out?]

My 1987 Cuisinart Food Processor
awaiting a new bowl
As with most things I’m pondering, I resort to my other great love, food. In 1987 I was 22 and newly married. One of the first items we bought for our kitchen was a Cuisinart food processor. Food processors were all the rage then, a relatively new appliance for most home cooks. There were all different kinds to choose from, including some that were combination blenders and others with tons of buttons and fancy attachments. I read a Consumer’s Digest article that told me not to be seduced by the ones with the buttons, that the Cuisinart did everything they did and more and had a motor that was engineered to last.

I still have the food processor. The husband only lasted 7 years.

I love that Cuisinart food processor for the same reasons I love my iPhone and my Macbook Pro. They simply do what they are supposed to do, without a lot of extra crap to make them look fancy. Sometimes one button is better than 50, especially if you can do everything you need to do with that one button. After all, 50 buttons means there are 49 more things that can break than if you just had one.

So, what does a garlic press have to do with it?

My garlic press - although it could be sharper
I bet you money Steve Jobs doesn’t own a garlic press. If he does I’m sure he doesn’t use it. Anne Burrell is one of may favorite chefs. Whoa!!! I know, you’re thinking “Why are Steve Jobs and Anne Burrell in the same paragraph?” Stay with me here… On her show “Secrets of a Restaurant Chef” someone asked her if she recommended using a garlic press. She picked up one of her knives and said something like this: “Why would I want a garlic press when I have a knife that can do exactly the same thing and about 100 other things too? I don’t need to clutter up my kitchen with gadgets like that when I have a good set of knives.”

My Macbook Pro and my iPhone are the equivalent of a Cuisinart food processor and a good set of sharp chef’s knives. Long-lasting, rugged, simple, slick, multi-use, intuitive, powerful and sharp…..that’s Apple.

Perhaps I should use the same criteria for my next relationship?


Sunday, July 24, 2011

Have you Spokeo’d Yourself Yet?

Oh the Internet airwaves are “a-Twitter” [can I say that???] over privacy and Google+ blah blah blah. Meanwhile there’s a little site called Spokeo.com quietly chugging away, gobbling up everything about you it possibly can.

Never heard of Spokeo.com?

Don’t worry, you will. I can guarantee if you’re looking for a job your future employer is using it. If not, use it on them! You might decide you don’t want to work for them after all.

Go to Spokeo.com and type in your name. Here’s a list of what’s available to paid members [only $2.95/month if you sign up for a year] when they Spokeo someone:

·      Name
·      Address
·      Phone Number
·      Email address
·      Gender
·      Age
·      Marital Status
·      Housing type (house, apartment, etc.)
·      Housing value
·      Hobbies
·      Ethnicity
·      Nationality
·      Astrological Sign
·      Chinese Astrological sign
·      Religion
·      Political party affiliation
·      Education
·      Occupation
·      Names of my children
·      Property information, including length of residence, square footage, number of bedrooms, lot size, number of floors, number of bathrooms,  type of garage, estimated home value, number of people, number of children, type of heating and cooling, architecture, construction, material, and whether or not it has any fireplaces or a swimming pool, plus a Google Maps shot showing an aerial view of the property
·      Estimated economic health and wealth indicators
·      Any online photos and videos posted at sites like Picasa and Flickr
·      A list of all social media sites where you’ve ever registered
·      A list of all dating sites where you’ve ever registered
·      A list of all photo sharing and music sites where you’ve registered
·      A list of all shopping sites where you’ve registered
·      A list of all Location/Review sites where you’ve registered
·      A list of all “Other” sites where you’ve registered

It’s amazing to me that in the discussion of online privacy sites like Spokeo remain so relatively unknown. One astute blogger did make mention of Spokeo.com and online privacy really being dead back in May of 2010, but there have been very few mentions of it since then.

My advice? Go to Spokeo.com and opt out here http://www.spokeo.com/privacy

However, there’s no guarantee it won’t show up at the next "Spokeo-type" site, or even at Spokeo again in 6 months. As the author of that post about online privacy back in May 2010 put it “The sooner you realize you are better off learning to manage your privacy than rail against the lack of it, the sooner you can get back to enjoying the Internet.”




Saturday, July 23, 2011

SEO Saturdays: Keyword Research – Quit your whining and just Do It!

Keyword research is really the first step to anything  you want to promote, advance, sell, expose or discuss online. I’ll be the first person to admit that it’s not the first step in my process, sometimes it comes last, but it’s inescapable if you want people to find your pages online.

There are several different kinds of keywords research:

1.    Offsite keyword research – This tells you what terms people are using when they are searching online. Google’s Keyword tool is excellent.

2.    Onsite keyword research – These are the terms that people are using to find things once they are on your site. Google Analytics can track this.

3.    Analytics keywords research – Most Web analytics programs, including Google Analytics, can tell you what terms visitors actually searched and what page of your site that term led them to visit.

All three of these are valuable and will produce different kinds of results. For example you are going to find your most valuable misspellings by looking at Onsite and Analytics keywords. These can help you bid on lower-cost higher-converting keywords in your paid search ads.

Here’s a quick guide on how to do each type of Keyword Research

I. Offsite Keyword Research  - Visit Google’s Keyword Tool 

Since it’s over 90 degrees again today, let’s use the term “window air conditioner” in the search box, and check the “Only show ideas closely related to my search terms” option.

You should get about 121 results for a search limited to USA. While you can do some sorting in this screen, it’s easier to do in a spreadsheet. Click “Download” and select “Download All”  [see screenshot below] and dump them into an Excel Spreadsheet. 



The major advantage to doing this is that “Competition” is given a numerical value, which you cannot see the way it’s represented on Google’s page.

1.    Remove all the keywords that are irrelevant – This could be that they aren’t the right brand name, or type of air conditioner as what you are selling or writing about. For example if you are selling small 8,000 BTU window unit air conditioners, the term “air condition non-window” is not relevant and should be taken off your list.

2.    Average all the columns for the remaining keywords so that you know what average CPC, competition, searches per month etc are for your remaining list. This gives you benchmarks.

3.    Sort by “Global Monthly Searches” descending and flag the top 10-20 with the most searches. You may want to use color coding or anything that helps you recognize these terms easily.

4.    Next sort by “Competition” ascending and flag the top 10-50 with the least competition. Again, color-coding can help.

5.    Next, sort by “CPC” ascending, and flag the top 10-50 (the larger the list, the more you will want to flag).



6.    You should now have a list with a few keywords that were flagged in all three categories.  Mine looked something like this [screenshot above],       and only one keyword highlighted in purple “best window air conditioners” showed up in the top 20 of all three categories.

7.    You now have a narrowed list of keywords that you know you need to work into your page in order for your topic “window air conditioners” to be easily found by searchers.

Tip: If your search term is too narrow and produces very few results, you might be do tightly focused that you aren’t going to get enough traffic. Try searching a broader term, and narrowing that list down yourself.


II. Onsite Keyword Research

To learn how to set this up on your site, read How to Set Up Google Analytics to Track Your On Site Search.

To view your on site keyword search results, open Google Analytics and navigate to “Content” then “Site Search.” On the resulting page
Under “Search: What did visitors search for?” click on “Which Search terms did Visitors use?” [Screenshot below]



If your site is an e-Commerce site and is tracking sales, there will be an E-commerce tab that you can click on and the resulting page will allow you to see which on site keywords converted, how much revenue they earned and what the conversion rate was. In the screenshot below you can see that the term “Communion Cup Filler” received one conversion and earned $113.70 in revenue. [Screenshot below]



Tip: Keep an eye on misspellings that are producing Zero search results. You need to get those misspelled terms entered in your on site search term database so visitors who use a misspelling can still find your content or products.

           
            III. Analytics Keyword Research

In Google Analytics, navigate to “Traffic Sources” and then “Keywords.” The resulting list is default sorted by Visits, which tells you which keywords are producing the most traffic. You can click on the column headers if you want to sort by “Bounce Rate,” “% New Visits,” “Time on Site,” or “Pages per Visit.”

Just like in On Site Keyword Search, if you have your site set up as an e-Commerce site, there will be an e-Commerce tab on this page that allows you to view which keywords produced revenue, how much, conversion rate, # of transactions, average order value and per visit value.

Tip: Keep an eye out for misspellings that are bringing in conversions. These terms are worth bidding on in paid search because they will cost you very little but convert well.








Friday, July 22, 2011

SEO Basics - 3 Simple Steps in SEO Most People Get Wrong – URLs, Meta Tags


1. Search-Engine-Friendly URLs

Just what does that mean anyway? I was raised in Missouri, the “Show-Me-State.” People are pragmatic there, hence the slogan. Rather than give you a lot of techno-babble about what a non-search-engine-friendly URL looks like I’ll just show you one:


What can you tell about the page from this link (other than it’s on Amazon.com)? Yeah, it’s pretty gross to look at, but if you’re Amazon, you can probably get away with this on certain pages. Search engines, like people, like URLs that tell them something about what’s on the page. Here’s a good example of an SEO-friendly [and People-Friendly] URL:


Ahh, that’s so much better isn’t it. It’s a swimming pool. Most Web builders and blogging platforms allow you to customize your URLs. Spend the time finding out where in the Admin section you need to go to do this.

Stop!....I mean StopWords!

Don’t put “stop” words in your URLs or in your Meta Title Tags. Stop words waste real estate and dilute your keywords. Remember when you were in the 4th grade and the librarian taught you how to search for a book in the library? If the title of the book was The Three Musketeers, what did you do? Right, you ignored the word “the.” What about “Of Mice and Men?” Right, same thing. Other stop words include “with, of, and, it, for” and there are a lot more. Here’s a link to a good list of stopwords. Take a look at it, there are a lot more than you think.

2. Meta Titles

It amazes me how many people get this one wrong because it’s so easy to get right. Stick to these rules like glue and you’ll be ranked better:

·      Put your core keywords first, often that might be the brand name, or even a manufacturer’s part number
·      Avoid stopwords completely unless the title sounds like nonsense without it
·      Have a strong brand name? Put it in your title tag.
·      No special characters like quotes, trademarks, colons – no punctuation at all except for a few exceptions, the ampersand “&” the hyphen “-“ and the divider “|”
·      Total character count, including spaces and punctuation must be 66 characters or less. Tthere is some debate that character account allowed in title tags increased to 70 around March of 2010 - Better safe than sorry is my advice.
·      No marketing pitches! – Save that for your Meta description tag.

3. Meta descriptions

Here is your 1 shot at grabbing a potential visitor or customer’s attention and giving them a call to action. It amazes me how many companies don’t take advantage of this opportunity. Follow these rules, and you will improve both your search results and your click-thru rate.

·      Put your core keywords first, often that might be the brand name, or even a manufacturer’s part number.  If you’ve already used the same keywords in your URL and Title tage, use synonym here. Synonyms are your friend.
·      For God’s sake use complete sentences!
·      For God’s sake don’t start your sentence with a stopword (whoops, I just did!)
·      First word out of your mouth should be the same important keywords you put first in your title tag
·      Avoid special characters. Here is a good list of characters to avoid in meta tags and URLS. Normal punctuation is okay.
·      Total character count, including spaces and punctuation must be 160 characters or less.
·      Include a call to action – Do you want to drive inbound calls to your call center? Include your phone number!

Housekeeping

Keep all of the Meta tags from your site in a spreadsheet. When you make a change, keep your old tags and notate the spreadsheet with the dates they were updated, and what the new ones are. If you don’t do this, and you change a meta tag and your search results tank, you won’t have the old one. That’s bad.

If you update a meta tag and your site disappears briefly from search results, don’t freak out. It just means that Google is probably re-caching your site. Those Google folks are pretty quick, but sometimes it takes a few hours. Be patient. If your change produces a negative result, just change the tags back and try again.