Category : SEO

By BrianHanson

On-Site SEO – Part Four: Domain Names – Rankability vs. Branding

One of the fundamentals of stirring calls to action in traditional marketing campaigns is to have a memorable phone number. Hooked on Phonics (“1-800-ABCDEFG!”) and 1-800-FLOWERS are perfect examples. On the web, the equivalent to a catchy, easy-to-remember phone number is a URL that is both memorable for human web users and relevant for search engine spiders. Read on to learn how to create effective URLs, domains and web addresses.

Domain Registration

Your domain name is extremely important to your overall search engine ranking. There are two main considerations for choosing your domain name: rankability and branding.

Depending on the scope and approach of our business, one or the other may take precedence. Let’s look at both of these facets individually.

High Ranking Domain Names

Search engines take important cues from your URLs when determining the relevance of your website. Because of this, it’s highly advantageous to include a keyword in your domain name as well as throughout your URL structure (more on this in later posts).

This is hardly breaking news – and because of that, most of the high value domain names are already taken. You won’t get or or even in a million years (unless you have a million dollars).

So, you’ll have to compromise. There are a few graceful ways to do so:

  • Get specific – taken? Play to your strengths by going after or
  • Add a location – This is helpful for local marketing as well as edging your way into competitive keywords. While you might never get, might be within reach. It also helps if other local businesses are doing the same with their URLs. For example, many Pittsburgh companies might add “pgh” to their URLs such as or By following this convention, you can help target your traffic and help deepen the sense of community across local businesses.
  • Hyphenate – This is admittedly not the best way to go – but it works in a pinch. Search engines read hyphens in URLs as spaces, so they’ll see “” as “fresh fish depot.” However, hyphenated domain names are less attractive and harder to remember.

On that note, there are some methods for getting domain level keywords that you should avoid:

  • Numbers – Nothing kills a brand and credibility like arbitrarily inserted numbers. This is okay for usernames and email addresses, especially when the number has some significance to your identity (i.e. the year you graduated), but it evokes shadiness in URLs

Well-branded Domain Names
In some cases, having a well-branded domain name will trump an SEO friendly domain. There are certain professions – such as doctors and lawyers – that lend themselves better to a business name than a keyword. This usually mimics the way these businesses typically advertise themselves offline. You’re much more likely to see signage for Dr. William Thompson, D.D.S or Steinberg, Bosco and Wilson, Attorneys at Law than something generic, such as Orange County Dentists or Jacksonville Law Firm.
Choosing a well-branded domain name also makes sense if you already have a well-branded business name. For example, if you’re using your website to supplement an aggressive print or television campaign, people are much more likely to type in your business name –, for example – when trying to find out more information. Asking them to remember a domain name like makes things more difficult and more prone to leaks in word of mouth marketing.
If you don’t already have a business name, take this opportunity to craft a meaningful, memorable and SEO friendly dba name to also use as your domain name. A good formula is to use a generic term – such as your keyword – and add something to differentiate it. Examples:


Other Considerations
This is the main ground to cover when it comes to choosing a domain name. But there are other factors that may help you get the most mileage from your domain name. Keep the following in mind:
Register your domain name for more than a year. Domain age factors into search engine ranking, and there is some indication that registering your domain name for a longer period adds credibility. Plus, you won’t have to worry about anyone buying it out from under your nose down the road.
Advertise your URL offline in a memorable way. On billboards, bumper stickers and other print material, include www. before your URL to signify that it’s a web address. Also, add capitalization to aid retention, ( since URLs aren’t case sensitive.
Purchase multiple domain names. Register, and to protect your brand and catch mistyped traffic. Pointing these other sites back to your main site is an acceptable practice and you won’t be penalized by search engines.


Choosing your domain name is an opportunity to boost your brand awareness as well as your search engine rankings. Select your domain name carefully to serve your marketing strategy the best. If you garner more word of mouth buzz than search engine traffic, focus on creating a well-branded, memorable domain. If you want to reach out to more first-time customers and gain more leads from search engine users, focus on a keyworded domain name.

By BrianHanson

On-Site SEO – Part Three: Keyword Placement and Keyword Density

Since the beginning of our series on On-site SEO, we’ve been steadily moving through the page from top to bottom. We’ve already discussed creating search engine optimized titles and meta descriptions. Now, we’ll get into the meat of the webpage – the content.

As we mentioned before, there are two aspects of creating effective content for your website. The primary role of website copy is to communicate with readers. To this end, it should be actionable and conversion-friendly. But the other consideration is how search engines will see your text. That’s where keyword placement and keyword density matter.

Keyword Density

Keyword density simply refers to how often a certain keyword appears in your text compared to your total word count. For example, if your webpage has 100 words total on it and 4 of them are keywords, then you have a keyword density of 4 percent.

You might assume that a higher keyword density immediately means a better search engine ranking for that term. But that’s not necessarily true. Keyword density is just one factor in determining your search engine ranking. And as with all things in life, moderation is key.

If your keyword density is too low, it’s possible that you won’t rank at all for your targeted search terms. If they your density is too high, however, you run the greater risk of being penalized by the search engine or worse, turning off your readers.

Search engines have varying (and ever shifting) opinions on what’s the ideal keyword density, but in general, Google prefers the most conservative keyword density (between 1 and 3 percent) while Yahoo! and Bing see keyword density between 2 and 9 percent as acceptable. Given Google’s vanguard behavior¬† and market share in the search engine space, your best off catering to their preferences.

Keyword Placement

More important than keyword density is keyword placement. Google and other search engines give different weights to keywords depending on where and how they appear on your webpage. Most of the high value areas to insert keywords are logical, such as:

  • Titles
  • First 50 words of first paragraph
  • Headings and subheadings
  • Anchor text (i.e. link text)
  • URLs and domain names
  • ALT text

These elements introduce opportunities for highlighting the topic and subject matter of your webpage for search engines and their users – but these opportunities should not be abused. As always, you should use common sense when filling out these aspects of your webpage with keywords. Here are some areas where you should be careful:

Titles and Headings

Do not use the keyword more than once in a title or heading. It’s bad writing and it’s bad SEO.

ALT Text

As explained in this official Google video, the IMG tag on its own won’t tell search engines much about a picture. For robots that can’t see photos the way people do or for people whose browsers won’t render pictures (say, a mobile phone user), the ALT and TITLE attributes can fill this gap. Keep both of these short and sweet – the title should name the image in one or two words, as if it were a piece of art (“Cat on Piano” or “Poker Night”) and the ALT text should succinctly serve as an alternate description for someone who can’t see it (“A picture of a calico cat walking on a grand piano” or “A painting of dogs sitting around a poker table”). Trying to cram a keyword stuffed paragraph into the ALT tag is counterintuitive and unequivocally spammy and will ultimately hurt you both in terms of readability and ranking.

Anchor Text

It’s always better to use relevant keywords in anchor text (For example, “Click here for more vegan waffle recipes” is better than “Click here for more vegan waffle recipes”). But the operative word here is relevant. Including misleading links to internal or external pages will only puzzle and infuriate readers and search engine spiders alike.


When writing the content of your webpage, focus on readability first. But at the same time, work to create copy with a 1 to 3 percent keyword density and a diversified and strategic placement of your keywords. Use your keywords wherever and whenever you can without alienating your human audiences as well as in key, not always visible areas such as meta tags and ALT text. This will help your website both in terms of indexing and readability.

This is part three of our series discussing on-site SEO. Read more:

By BrianHanson

On-site SEO – Part Two: 5 Tips for Effective Meta Description Tags

Choosing effective meta description tags is a lot like crafting conversion-friendly titles, in that the driving quality is no longer skewed towards gaming search engine algorithms and is now more cleanly focused on enticing readers to click through. When Google, Yahoo and Bing display snippets below your title tag on the search engine results pages, they draw this content from one of two places: the meta description tag that you provide specifically for this purpose or an excerpt from your page’s content. It’s preferable to you, the search engines and your customers for you to craft a readable, descriptive and accurate snippet to accompany your search engine listing and writing a good meta description tag is the first step in achieving just that. Here are a few essential tips for creating clickable meta description tags:

1. Follow HTML Conventions

While not absolutely vital, it’s best to feed search engine spiders information in the manner they are accustomed to reading it. This means including the meta tag within the <HEAD> tag and just after the <TITLE> tag. So, it might look like this in your HTML editor:

<TITLE>On-site SEO: 5 Tips for Effective Meta Description Tags</TITLE>
<META name=”description” content=”A quick guide on how to craft click-worthy search engine snippets.”>

If you change this up a bit, it’s unlikely that the search engine will completely miss it. But it’s better not to chance it.

2. Avoid Ellipses

If your meta description tag is too long, it’ll be displayed with ellipses, making it look like an incomplete thought and a poorly crafted description. The major search engines will only display around 150 characters of your snippet. However, with that in mind, note that Google has officially stated that it doesn’t care if your snippet is 260 characters or 74 characters long as long as its descriptive and relevant. They’ll still use it, but just the first 150 characters. So, if you’d like to include a longer meta description, feel free. But just make sure it cuts off at a logical point around the 150 character mark.

3. Include Keywords Strategically

Keyword density in your meta tag won’t affect your search engine ranking (according to Google), but including key phrases in your meta description where it’s logical and natural has a couple benefits:

  • Key phrases are bolded when snippets are displayed in Google search results, which makes your listing stand out a bit more.
  • Having a key phrase in your meta description increases the chances that your meta description will be used as a snippet, rather than an excerpt from your page.
  • If you’ve chosen good keywords, using them in your meta tag will help create a descriptive, relevant snippet.

With that being said, avoid keyword stuffing your meta description at all costs. Doing so won’t benefit your search ranking, click through rate or your chances of having your meta description used as your snippet in the least. On a related note, make sure you don’t unnecessarily repeat any words from your title. Your snippet will always be displayed along with your title, so doing so is not only redundant, but clunky and potentially spammy.

4. Create Unique Descriptions

This means unique to other listings and unique to your own website content as well. Don’t reproduce boilerplate content for each page, as this will lessen your chances of having your meta description displayed as well as make it more difficult for search engine users to discern what each specific page is about. Take time to create a relevant, specific and descriptive tag for each page. For example, instead of making all of your meta descriptions about how great your company is, tailor your “About Us” meta description to highlight an interesting fact about your history, promote your sales on your “Products” description and include your phone number in your “Contact Us” description.

5. Include a Call to Action

This was hinted at above, but it bears repeating. Just like your title tag is an opportunity to include a pitch or tagline, so too is your meta description. Treat your meta description like you would a one-line, 150 character ad in a magazine or newspaper. Tell them what you do, promise that you’re the best (or make some other compelling offer) and tell them what to do to get what you offer (call or click).


If you take nothing else away from this lesson, remember this: crafting your meta description tags with care pays. Although it won’t appear on your actual webpage, a descriptive, useful description tag is smiled upon by search engines and resonates better with potential customers. Give each page’s meta description the attention to detail it deserves.

By BrianHanson

On Site SEO – Part 1: Titles

In our introduction to local Internet marketing campaigns, we identified two major facets of search engine marketing: on-site search engine optimization (aka on-page SEO) and off-site search engine marketing. In this series, we’re going to move very slowly through all the aspects of on-site SEO that should be covered when building your locally marketable website. By the end of this series, you’ll have a comprehensive checklist for optimizing your website for search engine traffic.

We’re beginning with an entire post devoted to titles. Why? Because titles are incredibly important both to search engines and customers. Your web page’s title is as crucial as a headline is to a newspaper article. It can make or break your entire campaign. It’s often the sole reason why readers read or do not read your page. So it has to be perfect.

Selling the Click

For SEO purposes, the title tag isn’t as important as it once was. Once upon a time, including keywords in the title tag was a surefire way to get a boosted search engine ranking, but now search engines are paying less attention to keywords in titles. This is mostly due to abuse and misuse (too many spammers trying to game the system) and it’s debasement in search algorithm weight is actually to our collective benefit as readers.

With that being said, including keywords in the title (especially as the first words in the title) is still good practice – as long as it occurs naturally. But the de-emphasis on keyworded title tags gives web marketers more incentive to optimize title tags for human readership, which, in reality, is the fun part.

Now, the primary goal of crafting a title for your page is grabbing reader attention. This is more important than ranking number one on the SERPs. That’s because most search users will skim through the top 5 or 10 search results and will likely base their decision on the content of the titles and not the rank. They all have the same visibility, so if the third ranking has a more compelling title than the first ranking, it gets the click.

Taglines in Titles

One way to add hookiness to a title is to include a brief selling point or tagline to the title. Unless you already have wide brand name recognition, going this route rather than including your company name in the title will get you more mileage and more click throughs. For example:

  • Good: MyCompany Inc. – Local Internet Marketing
  • Better: Local Internet Marketing – Driving Qualified Traffic to Your Website

View the words in the title as an opportunity, not just space to fill. Those 65 characters will reach more eyes than any of the other words on your page. Make ’em count.

Elements of Title Style

Because you’re dealing with a very small space with the title, you want to lavish a great amount of detail when honing and tweaking your title. This includes fine tuning everything from your word choice to your capitalization and punctuation placement. Of course, the typical rules of grammar don’t apply. Rather, you want your title to embrace as many of these qualities:


Don’t write your title like eBay feedback or a phonebook entry. Listings aren’t sorted in alphabetical order, so including stuff like “#1” or “!!” doesn’t matter. Also, using symbols, lingo and acronyms such as “A++++” or “FTW” doesn’t appeal as readily to a wide audience. The same goes for blatant keyword stuffing. A title such as “A+++ #1 lexmark ink cartridge lexmark refill lexmark printer discounts DEALS” sounds spammy and inhumane. Stick to natural phrasing.


Avoid having your title cut off by staying within the character limit. Google displays the shortest titles at 65 characters, so try to work in your complete message into the space provided. Otherwise you’re title will be cutoff by ellipses, which looks untidy and unattractive.


Standing out is key. Think of an angle that will make your website stick out. If you Google something like “Shoes” and all of the listings say “Shoes for Sale” or “Shoe Store” or “Online Shoes,” then you can get an edge by having your listing break the mold and say something like “Designer Shoes: 70% Off Retail Prices.” Introducing a bit of humor or wit never hurts either – as long as it’s genuinely funny. Clever puns get clicks, but groaners and awkwordplay get passed up.

Readable Formatting

As we mentioned before, the typical rules of grammar don’t apply, but for readabilities sake, stick to logical conventions. Always avoid ALL CAPS (reads like you’re yelling) and excessive exclamation or question marks (“Looking for cheap trailers????? CALL US TODAY!!!!!!”). However, feel free to insert some conservative punctuation to break up ideas within a title: “Responsive IT Support. Affordable Flat-fee Pricing.” This uses less characters than inserting a conjunctive word and is cleaner and has higher impact than using a comma.


There are two takeaway lessons here:

  • Keyword stuffing titles isn’t as important as it once was, but including keywords is good practice if you can pull it off naturally.
  • Craft titles to garner clicks – not to rank high.

When it comes to creating titles for your webpages, it’s all about getting those clicks. To do this, you need to stand out with a unique hook and reach people on a human level. SEO is always important, but there are better places to optimize your website than the title – especially when so much is riding on those five or six words.

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