26 May Baha’i Website SEO Basics: Part 1
ONE of the key reasons you want to build a attractive website for your local Baha’i community is so that people will see it and want to get involved. In order for the website to have that effect, however, people have to find it. That’s where SEO comes in.
What is SEO?
SEO stands for “Search Engine Optimization”. Basically, the way that search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo! work is that when someone types something into them, they return a list of websites ranked by how useful they think they are to the user. The websites are ranked based on a few factors, some of which are under your control (on-site SEO) as the web designer, and some of which are not (off-site SEO). Today, we’ll talk about the factors that are under your control.
- Title. First things first. You need to take care when choosing a title, because Google puts a lot of weight on what you say here. It should be relevant to what people are searching for in relation to your site. A good example of what to do would be “Baha’i Community of Jersey City | Jersey City, NJ”. For our purposes, make sure you have both “Baha’i” and your city’s name in the title. Basically, you want to help Google put you into the right category at the very beginning.
- Flash. There’s a lot to say on the subject, but basically, just don’t use Flash on your website if you can help it. If you can’t, there are some ways around the situation, but they’re annoying. The problem is, Google really only categorizes and indexes text on websites. Flash mostly consists of animations, so it can’t be categorized easily. Consequently, what you think of as a whiz-bang effect on your homepage Google just sees as an gaping hole. Another reason not to use Flash is that it usually looks terrible, but that’s neither here nor there.
- Text. Since Google mostly reads and categorizes text, make sure that your page is written with that in mind. If you just have pictures, Google won’t know how to categorize it, and people won’t be able to search for it.
- Keywords. If you have a page about your Junior Youth Empowerment Program, make sure you mention that fact somewhere in the text — perhaps a couple of times. Never assume that context from pictures will work. Remember, you’re writing this webpage not just for humans, but also for search engines.
- Nav Bar. On most websites you’ll see a row of categories at the top right-hand corner of the page, usually saying things like “Home”, “About Us”, Contact Us”, and so on. That’s a Nav Bar. Google uses these categorizes to help it put your webpages in the right box, so to speak. Make sure that all of the links from the nav bar work and the titles of the categories are logical and helpful to people who don’t know you. For example, “Who We Are” is self-explanatory, but “Meet Our LSA” is not, since non-Baha’is generally have no idea what an LSA is.
- About Us. Let people know who you are, when you meet, and if you don’t have a “Contact Us” page, list your contact info.
- Metadata. Unless you’ve looked at the HTML code behind your site, you’ve never seen metadata before. Metadata are keywords and phrases that help give Google extra context that are entered into in the HTML header of a webpage near the title. Sometimes when you see the search results on Google, you can see the metadata, such as in this example:
Next week, we’ll talk about what you can do to help your Off-Site SEO with link-building strategies and more.