Not everyone undertaking a search engine optimization campaign has an in-depth working knowledge of HTML or does all the coding for their site. For most, being aware of a few key concepts is enough. However, those concepts are quite important, and understanding them gives you the ability to understand the literature and also check your site for SEO problems and barriers to getting the search rankings that you deserve.
So, starting at the start, what is this HTML thing? It stands for HyperText Markup Language, but that’s not informative. Essentially it’s a list of formatting commands that control how things appear in which way on a website. One of HTML’s great strengths is that you don’t need to define the font, text size, bolding, etc, for each of your headings and types of content. You define what the heading should look like once and then attach heading tags to each of your titles and subtitles. This saves time and makes consistency much easier to achieve.
Two types of HTML heading are particularly important for search engine optimization. H1 (or h1) is the one to use for page titles and H2 (or h2) for subtitles. Ideally H1 and H2 headings should contain the right keywords, define the content of the page, and set out the focus of each section. Search engines pay special attention to them.
You can go one step further and define the styles used across multiple web pages by specifying what headings and other bits of text and site content should look like in a CSS (Cascading Style Sheet) rather than on individual pages. The CSS can be called from multiple pages and applies one style consistently. It’s good SEO practice and tidies up your code.
Alt tags are small pieces of text attached to images. They are important because they allow crawlers to interpret an image and get some information from it. Making sure they are defined is a small but significant check to make.
Link text or anchor text is the colored phrase or word that the user clicks on. What’s in the text is used by search engines, so make sure all your anchor texts are related to what’s on the target page. This can also be a factor in link building strategies, as you can gain more benefit by using the right anchor text on the site that links to you. Often you’ll see ‘Go here’ or similar as link text, which is very poor SEO. Like alt tags, this is a little thing that’s easy to check on and easy to fix.
Frames are HTML devices that were common a few years ago, but less so now. They allow a page view to be composed of separate pieces. For example, you could keep the same sidebar and move through subpages in the other frame. Like most HTML they can look and feel effective if used sensibly and coded well, but they do tend to be clunky and a little annoying if you’re not careful. From an SEO perspective, they should be avoided because they complicate navigation through the site and create difficulties for the web crawlers that collect information for search engines. You can use a useful free tool like What Google Sees to find out how the search engines view your site as it currently stands.
Meta tags used to be the most important piece of HTML on the page. The user doesn’t see anything of the meta tags on the compiled page, and once upon a time they were read by search engines and used to determine what the page was about. However, it’s very easy (and very tempting- resist!) to stuff the meta full of keywords to bursting, and engines have gotten much cleverer. It is possible the meta tags still have an SEO impact, but it’s certain that over-filling them with keywords doesn’t help.