Archive for the ‘Search Engine Optimization (SEO)’ Category

SEO Tips: Content formatting… similar to a newspaper

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014

While Search Engine Optimization (SEO) may be a large subject and rather daunting for most of our customers, there are many things that anyone can do to make a positive impact on your site’s SEO. Most of those basics fall under a category called “On-Page SEO”, which pretty much means as you’d expect – it’s the content on the page. But “content” isn’t just the words you wrote – it’s everything on that page, including your headlines, formatting, images and more. (Note: in the “old” days of SEO, on-page SEO meant keywords. Keywords in HTML code are no longer recommended.)

Let’s start with some basic page content format, and for that, we’re going to think of the classic newspaper.
Headlines for website SEO

The classic newspaper was structured with organization and priority – capturing the readers attention, engaging the audience. You knew that the big headline at the front was deemed the most important article of the day. You knew where to go to find information on sports, business and more. The use of headlines, headline size and consistent delivery of relevant information where users expected it to be is not too far removed from how a website can, and perhaps should, be structured today.

Taking this loose model, we can start with the Page Title as the most important “headline” on a page. Then work into the other smaller headlines. But let’s not forget that the body content itself must tell the correct story for that page as well.

#1: Page Title

Page Titles are of the utmost importance. And they are easy to edit in Site Manager! Here are some tips about Page Titles:

  1. Page titles can – and often, should – be different from the link name (page’s URL). The link name should be short, after all, it’s a link showing in your site navigation. Page title, on the other hand, can be longer (however there is a max, so don’t get too long).
  2. Page titles should be relevant. This may be obvious, but we see a good number of sites out there where the page title seems to have nothing to do with the page’s actual content. This is most often when the page was updated, but the title was overlooked.
  3. Page titles ideally contain a keyword or keyword phrase – preferably as close to the start of the title as possible.
  4. After reading #3, now you must know that page titles must also make sense. Google reads as you or I read. Doesn’t make sense to you – change it!
  5. All pages should have page titles. At least, all pages that you want clicked.
  6. Updating your page titles can create a natural boost for your SEO. We’d recommend that you habitually update your page title when you are updating the content on that page, or at least make a point to review your page titles several times per year to make sure that they are still relevant.

#2: Headlines

Headlines can mean different things, so to be clear, we’re referring to the Heading 1, Heading 2, etc. tags (also referred to as H1, H2 through H6). Now, in Site Manager, we automatically create the Page Title as the H1, to make things a bit easier for many customers, but if you are needing to bring your SEO to new levels, then it’s time to roll up your sleeves and do some work.

Headlines work much like a good ol’ fashioned newspaper. As mentioned above, the biggest headline on the front page is the page title. Your next largest, and most important headlines are Heading 1 and Heading 2 (H1, H2), and the others follow in order down to Heading 6. However, you do not have to use all the headings on a page (and probably shouldn’t), nor do you have to necessarily even use them in order. But – do use a couple per page. Search engines pay attention to your headlines, and if your headlines are relevant and keyword based, it will help your SEO out.

If you would like to have a separate Page Title, the official <title> tag, you can do that by heading to the Page Properties and editing your Title Override field in the SEO tab. This is more advanced, so feel free to create a support ticket or chat with us if you have questions on this.

Think of headlines as natural breaking points in your content. You can also use multiple of the same heading (such as using heading 3 for each new section of content), but you should only have one Heading 1 (H1) per page.

If you want a simple guideline that will be good content building, we recommend that you leave the Page Title as the default “double-duty” of both title tag and h1 tag and then be sure to build a headline as Heading 2 (H2) on that page.

#3: Body Text

We could write many blog posts just on this subject alone, but we’ll stick with just one thought here. Is the content written so that your grandmother, your best friend and even your tween child can read and understand? Does it make sense?

Content needs to be relevant, genuine and authoritative. Think you’ve got that down? Maybe check again.

We often see websites where the page is titled About and you land on a long history or timeline about the church or school. Is that part of the “About”? Sure. Is that the first thing most readers want when they hit the About page? No. They are looking for something more immediately current, like your church service times, the basics of your beliefs, general information about your school, etc. The “now.” Instead, move history to a page called that, or at least place it lower on the page with more applicable content at the top.

Try to look at your web pages with a fresh perspective. Does the page content meet the expectations of your visitors? You aren’t writing for you – you already know all that. What do prospective families or members want to know? Be sure you’re writing to them. It can even help to have a fresh pair of eyes, especially someone who isn’t particularly familiar with your organization, take a look at your pages.

 

We’ll stop at this for now, but be sure to follow our blog for more tips and updates. If you have questions on how to build heading tags or edit headings and page titles as described above, just contact our support team.

Customer’s Great Ideas: Blogs

Monday, November 3rd, 2014

We recently shared how you can get started with a blog for your organization. If you haven’t already, read our simple tips on how to begin blogging and stick to it successfully!

blog_crop_computerWe have many customers who are already blogging and we would like to share a few great examples of blogs on our customers’ websites.

One of the tips from our “How to Start a Blog” post suggested using a variety of authors. Bethany Academy does just this! They have many authors, which keeps the posts fresh and also makes the blog easier to maintain. One customer of ours even has students and parents blog about their favorite things about the school, which can create a great impression for your prospective parents! Take a look at the Bethany Academy blog to see how they are using several different authors on one blog.

Catholic East Elementary has many of their teachers using a classroom blog on their faculty pages. The teacher shares what is going on in her classroom with parents and the students also write blog posts! This not only helps build content and engage the parents, but it also doubles as a writing exercise for the students. Blog posts by 1st graders are not just interesting, but also adorable. Check out Mrs. Albert’s classroom blog for inspiration.

Pastor Shawn from Trinity Lutheran Church ends each of his blog posts with an invitation for comments or for others to share their thoughts. This is the perfect way to encourage engagement and start a conversation. Head over to Pastor Shawn’s blog and share your thoughts!

One Body One Hope shares images in many of their posts. You might be getting tired of hearing us talk about images all of the time, but they are a great way to draw your users in and connect them to what you are saying. Images are particularly important for One Body One Hope because they are an international organization, partnering American churches with Liberian churches. Using images in their updates helps the American readers connect with what is happening in Liberia. Visit the One Body One Hope blog and let their beautiful images draw you into their content. 

This sampling shows just a small array of ideas – blogs can be used for all types of purposes and audiences. Their common goal is to provide a steady stream of new content. New content which not only helps communicate to your users, but helps your search engine optimization too! Give thought to starting a blog (or two!) on your site today.

SEO Talks: Alt Text, behind the scene for images

Thursday, February 6th, 2014

Images have become incredibly important for attracting web traffic and improving the experience that people have on a site.  Site Manager even offers a variety of tools to help you create this visual content.  However, there is one little attribute associated with images that often gets overlooked.  This overlooked attribute is called the alt text or alternative text in Site Manager, although you may also see it called alt tag or alt attribute elsewhere. It can be associated with any image placed within a page.

The alt text’s primary function is to provide a short description associated with an image.  This text would only appear on the page if the image was unable to load.  A slow internet connection, a broken image link, a screen reader for the visual impaired are a couple of examples for when an image might not load and the alt text would replace it.  The HTML for an image with an alt text looks something like the following:

<img src=”conference-presenters.jpg” alt=”Strengthening Christian Schools Conference 2013 presenters”>

image with broken link

The src attribute tells the browser where to look for the image, and the “alt” attribute tells the browser what text is associated with that image.  If the example HTML image tag was placed on a page where the link would be broken, the browser would substitute the image with the text from the alt attribute as seen in the image on the left.

However,  the image alt text plays another role in website building. The alt text is used by search engines to know more about the content of the page and index images for search results.  As a result, the alt text is part of good on-page SEO.  While not as important as the other on-page SEO elements, the alt text using a relevant description helps to optimize images and may boost the image up in search results.

When creating the text for the alt attribute, it’s important to follow the following guidelines:

  • Keep it short – less than 25 words
  • Describe the picture using keywords from the content
  • Keep the most relevant text at the beginning of the alt text
  • Do not just list random keywords
  • Do not repeat the same alt text with different images
  • Do not use alt text for images that are intended to be part of the design and aren’t directly related to the content

If you try using alt text to increase your SEO and want to see if they meet Google’s standards, enter your page URL at http://www.feedthebot.com/tools/alt/.  (Note: remember that images that are part of the site’s design should not have alt text)

Site Manager has several ways for associating images with alt text.  Tools that have a graphic upload option for the image will have have separate field for the Alt Text or tools using File Uploads to place images in the content will have the Alternative Text field in the image options pane.

File Uploads Alt Text FieldContent Editor Alt Text Field

While not all churches or schools are not interested in Search Engine Optimization, filling the alt text field for images will help with the user experience for people using slow connections or screen readers.  We highly recommend taking the time to even place a few descriptive words in the alt text field.

If you’d like to learn more and keep some basic SEO practices updated on your site, be sure to join our monthly user group webinars – free to all our customers! Hope to see you then.

 

 

SEO Talks: Title, a big word for a lot of roles

Thursday, December 19th, 2013

For those who missed our November User Group , here’s a recap of the Search Engine Optimization portion addressing the Title Tag.

The title tag is referred to by many terms: title tag, head title, title bar, title bar override and title elements are among the most common. In Site Manager, you can find the field to build and edit your title tags in Page Properties; it’s called Title Bar Override.

Most experts state that the Title Tag is the second most important on-page SEO element, which is a very significant position! Ranking just under content for importance, it appears in three key places: browsers, Search Engine Results Page (SERP) and external websites.

As we’ve been discussing throughout our webinars this year, if you focus on building your website with the user, and the user experience in mind, you’ll also be doing many of the basics of good on-page SEO work. That includes the Title Tag.

Looking at just the role the Title Tag has with SERPs, the content in your title doesn’t just help drive search engines, but also is what the user reads. Therefore a well created title tag is not only relevant to the page content, but is also written in a way that will interest the users and encourage them to click the link.

Building a title tag that is both optimized and engaging begins with the format. The optimal format for many of our customers may be:

Primary Keyword – Secondary Keyword | Church or School Organization Name

But, if your organization is well known in your community – and certainly some churches and schools are simply recognized by name, then you may want to reverse the order, like this:

Org Name | Primary Keyword and Secondary Keyword/Phrase

Updating or even building your title tags is one of the easiest ways you could increase your rankings. Or, if your rankings are already good, it can increase the number of visitors to your site. In Site Manager, page titles are a per page field, making this job a bit overwhelming for websites with many pages. We suggest breaking the project up into batches based on priority. Your home page is the most important, followed by all your key landing pages. It should not take long to do those pages. Next, do an assessment of the pages that the most relevant for searches. For example, if you are a church, that page may be the service schedule & directions, and if you are a school, it may be pages about your admissions process.

With that game plan in hand, let’s go through a few best practices.

  1. Keep your title under 65 characters. Less is more.
  2. The title tag is weighted left to right. That means that the most important words/phrases should be at the beginning.
  3. The title content MUST be relevant to the content on the page. If you have the word athletics in your title, the page must be about athletics.
  4. User experience matters. Write to be read. Consider readability and emotional impact or connection in your title. You are creating a title tag for SEO, yes, but what the search engines want is a good user experience. Write for your audience first and search engines second.
  5. Evaluate. After you have changed the title tags, put a reminder in your calendar to review your analytics occasionally and evaluate the results. Tweak a few key pages at a time and continue to evaluate regularly.

Even if your church or school isn’t particularly interested in Search Engine Optimization, you should be interested in User Experience. Titles help users understand what to expect on a page, they help guide users on where to click, and in certain browsers, they help identify your site on the screen. We recommend taking time to craft solid title tags for all of our customers.

If you’d like to learn more and keep some basic SEO practices updated on your site, be sure to join our monthly user group webinars – free to all our customers! Hope to see you then.

 

Employing your Website as Customer Service

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

I recently read an article, Customer Service in the Church, and would recommend that you read it too. The article brings out a simple truth that “customer service” is not necessarily labeled that way in most churches, but is vitally important.

This brings up some recent conversations I had with a few Christian Schools and their website redesign projects. Your website has a key role in the first impression, and ongoing communication and connection for your members or families. Is your website doing a good job in it’s customer service role?

Questions that you might ask yourself to determine the answer might be:

  • Is your website easy to find in searches (this may require some basic SEO work)
  • Is your website easy to navigate? Are the menu options clear, simple and obvious?
  • Do you have contact info, address and directions on your website? A common mistake that we see is just embedding a map, and not actually including the street address. This could make things very difficult for users who want to plug the address into their own mapping application.
  • Are your hours posted?
  • Is your information kept up to date? Especially in key areas such as worship, children’s ministries and outreach groups for churches, and admissions and academics for Christian schools.
  • Is your calendar and event information regularly updated?
  • Do the images on your website pages accurately reflect the culture of your organization?
  • Do you have “real” images on your website – are some of your images of actual members, students and families? (Don’t use all stock photography!)

Thinking of your websites as a vital customer service role for your organization is a great perspective. Give it a try!

SEO: Meta Keywords

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013

We’ve had several inquiries lately about Meta Keywords which has brought to light that we are behind on updating our interface, and more importantly, our customers about changes that have evolved over the years with keyword meta tag.

Meta keywords are a series of keywords and phrases that can be added to your site, on a page by page level. They used to be one of the most popular ways to influence Search Engine rankings, and a favorite stand-by for Search Engine Optimization (SEO). The emphasis is on “used to be.” Some search engines may still use them, but Google has stated quite clearly that they do not use keyword meta tags. Bing appears to still be using them – but as a signal for spammers, not ranking (which is a big danger and a negative)!

Meta keywords became a method abused by spammers, resulting in most search engines ruling them out. Most SEO experts will tell you to remove them and not use them – not only because of the possible association of spam, but also because competitors can see what keywords you are trying to target. Now, for most of our customers at Faithwebsites – such competition is not a concern, but the possibility of being associated with spam / spammers should be a concern.

At DIS | Faithwebsites, we recommend that you do not use the meta keywords anymore. But — some meta tags are still used — just not the keywords.

One of the most important meta tags that Google and other search engines do use is meta description, which in Site Manager is “Meta Tag Description”. (See screenshot below)

Site Manager SEO fields

Screenshot of the SEO fields in Site Manager

In conclusion, we would recommend that you do not add or create any more meta tag keywords to your site. We will be working to eventually remove or re-purpose that field in Site Manager in the future. We would recommend that you continue the practice of updating your Title Bar Override and your Meta Tag Description fields.

You may find this video from Google Webmaster resources useful (keep in mind the video was produced several years ago). If you have questions, contact Support through your Support Center ticket system.

 

SEO… One powerful thing you can do today

Friday, November 4th, 2011

The Page Level Title Tag is one of the most important tags in your website – especially for all your key landing pages or your main navigation category pages. The content of the title tag is displayed by most search engines as the title of your page within the search engine results – or SERPs.  Search engines weigh the content in this title as extremely important or valuable insight as to what is contained on your web page  – resulting in a heavy impact on your overall SEO.

In Faithwebsites CMS, you can easily create your own Page Titles on a page by page basis, customizing the keywords for each of your landing pages. To do so, head to your navigation builder, and click “update” for the page you wish to edit.

Click on Advance Settings and you will see a field called “Title Bar Override”. Add your content there, and after saving and refreshing – you can see the changes in your browsers title bar field.

It takes a few weeks for search engines to update this content, but with the right keywords, but results can be seen quickly. Here are a few suggestions in creating your Page Title:

  • Try to keep your Title Tags to between 40 and 60 characters in length, including spaces.

    Less is more!

  • The Title Tag needs to make sense

    to people, not just to search engines. Remember that this is what is displayed on the page of search results for users – make it something that compels users to click on the link.

  • Focus on working in your most important keywords
  • Start with your key landing pages or your main (top) navigation pages first. See how that goes and work into other pages on your site.
  • Revisit! Create your page titles and then mark your calendar to review your analytics in a couple months – see which pages have increased and what the title tag says. Edit and repeat.

Enhancement Update: AddThis

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

If you’re not familiar with the term “AddThis“, you are likely to recognize the image below.

AddThis is a platform that makes sharing a page

or content from your website easy for users – literally one click to the source of their choice and they have shared information with others. Adding this sharing tool to pages of your website is one way to gain visibility and help spread the word about your organization, event, fundraising and more.

Faithwebsites has created a built-in tool that enables you to place the AddThis sharing icon bar on your website with only a few steps! You can choose if you want to add it site wide, or select page by page.

Basic setup instructions:

  1. To begin, you need an account with AddThis. It’s free and only takes a moment to do. Head to https://www.addthis.com/register and register.
  2. Once you register, you are assigned a Profile ID. Copy that ID.
  3. Login to your FWS admin site and click on Settings.
  4. Towards the bottom of the Settings menu, you will see the AddThis Content Sharing section.
  5. Select the options you’d like, knowing that you can come back and change the settings at any time.

  6. Enter your Profile ID, edit the AddThis service options and then click Update at the very bottom of the Settings menu/screen.
  7. If you have selected to include AddThis on all pages, after a refresh, your live site will show the icons on every page, at the top. If you have selected to include AddThis on a page by page basis, continue on to the steps below.
  8. For page control, go to your Navigation Builder and find the page of your choice. Click on Update for that page.
  9. In the Update Page menu, click on red “Advanced Settings” link to expand the menu.
  10. At the very top of the Advanced Settings menu, there is a check box for displaying the AddThis tool. Check the box and then click Update to save your changes.
  11. Refresh your live site and the AddThis will appear at the top of that page. Repeat the process for all the pages you would like the sharing tool placed on.

The AddThis tool has many more features and functionality that you may wish to explore on your own.

We have found proven success with the AddThis tool, which is why FWS created a short-cut built into your CMS, but as a third-party application, we cannot offer support for the tool and it’s features. Should you need any assistance getting the AddThis tool embedded into your website, we are happy to assist you with that. Please create a new ticket in your Support Center and our Support Team will answer you shortly.

Optimizing Photos for Your Website

Friday, November 19th, 2010

An important element of any website is photos and images – they help tell a story, communicate the next steps, bring new and returning visitors to the site and much more.  Yet, photos that are not optimized lead to slow webpage load times and load time is a major factor that influences the desirability of your website.

Faithwebsites application already downsizes images automatically for you when the image is placed on the site using tools (such as the Photo Gallery, Slide Show, and Text/Graphic Editor), but depending on the image size and type, the auto-downsize may not be always be enough for a good result. And while our tool is a huge time saver for most photo uploads, high traffic or key images on your site should be optimized using photo editing software in order to produce an size optimized photo that didn’t lose any quality. Finally, images that are added to the site through the use of uploading the file image in your File Uploads area are not downsized through the application at all – so this is where we see our customers really having optimization struggles.

How do you go about doing photo optimization? There are many experts out there with formulas for bit depth, resolution and dimension, but we find that is not practical or necessary for most of our customers. Instead, we suggest that you will find very good results with the following options.

Installed Applications (purchased):

  • Photoshop or Photoshop Elements. If you own this software, you already own one of the best tools on the market to optimize your photos for web. (Hint: If you don’t know how to use the software, do a Google or YouTube search for “Photoshop tutorial optimzing photos for web” and you’ll find a wealth of free tutorials that will have you on your way in short order.)
  • Mac users – here again, you are in luck. Your Mac comes with iLife and not only does iLife optimize photos, it does much more with ease.

Web Based Photo Applications (free):

If you don’t own photo editing software there are a few good free and web based photo editing software programs out there. We have found that these options below to be among the best.  And, with these options, like photo editing software such as iLife and Photoshop, you can crop, recolor and do basic image fixes before you resize and upload your photo.

  • Picnik does more than just resize your photo. You can do quite a bit of editing and enhancement work while you’re at it – all easy and fast! To resize your photos, you can chose “Resize” or you can choose “Save & Share” and enter in your dimensions and quality. For your FWS website, we recommend uploading no photo larger than 600 pixels wide – which would be nearly the same as your entire main body width.  Your right side bar is typically 200 pixels wide or smaller. So, depending on where you are going to upload your photo, simply enter your width and the height will automatically adjust. Save the file to your computer and you are good to go!
  • Aviary is more than just a photo editor, and the photo editor part is called Phoenix. Phoenix is more like Photoshop in that you have layers and similar tools to work with.

    Launch Phoenix, upload a file and edit as your choose. Select “Image Resize” from the Image menu and enter the pixel dimensions (follow the same pixel recommendations above). Save the file and upload your newly resized image.

  • Picasa. Google’s Picasa is a free photo management program that provides simple edits and more. The benefits of this program includes batch processing, and total file organization.  Within Picasa, you can batch photos and export them to a new folder, downsizing file sizes for the entire batch of photos at the same time.

Other free, optimization-only tools:

The following options are free or low-cost, web based optimizing applications.

Having quality images that don’t take extra time to download is a very important part of your website. Faithwebsites does not necessarily endorse nor support any of the 3rd party software or applications above, but does recognize

the need for our customers to understand and have access to resources that make optimization possible. If you are having difficulty with this, please contact support for more information.

A Simple Step to Improve SEO: Google Places

Sunday, August 29th, 2010

Ever do a search for a type of business or organization by a common category name and location ? For example, “grocery stores in Milwaukee, WI?” Google’s return page displays a set of local business results at the top of the page, and then the rest of the results below, based on keyword and other search engine optimization factors.

For example, see the screen shot below of our search for churches.

Churches, schools and organizations with a physical street address can benefit from an instant Search Engine Optimization tool – for free! Get your church or Christian school listed in the local business places and help people searching for you find your location and website faster.

To start, you need to have a Google Account. For some clarification on what a Google Account is, see our Help Manual under Advanced Resources. With a Google Account setup, head to google.com/places. Just begin entering your information – you will see how your Google Places page will appear as you enter and edit your information.

The key areas for this listing would be your categories and your keywords, as those fields, along with your street address and city, is what will determine when your listing shows up in a users search. You can continue to edit, add and tweak your Google Places page and Places even gives you an opportunity to add event promotions and more for free.

In addition, Places offers some basic statistics about how your listing is doing.

Keep in mind that you want to build your Place page to drive traffic to your website – be sure to add your website address (URL) to your Places listing.  Also, Google Places will only work when a user enters a fairly specific geographic and category driven search (such as “christian school boston ma”). However, a large number of people are focusing their search for a church or non-profit organization by a specific geography, making Google Places ideal for most of Faithwebsites customers!