Think Like a Search Engine

Saturday, August 08, 2009 22:39
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Think Like a Search Engine

altIn the Technology Commentary article "Splash Pages Not Making the Right Waves," I provided several reasons why it's important that a website's main page have text content present. Text on the main page allows search engine web crawlers or "spiders" to identify what the page (and more importantly, the entire website) is about. Without text to evaluate, search engine spiders move on to other websites, skipping the current site altogether.
 
So what kind of information should go on the first page of a website? 

This Website Is For Financial Professionals Only


I recommend leveraging the following components to a page's content:
  • Title
  • Description
  • Keywords
  • Text Body
 
There are more methods to describe a page's content, but the four listed here are most relevant to websites for advisors.
 
Title
 
The title of a webpage is self-explanatory. Typically for advisor websites, the title is populated by the name of the firm. Most Internet browsers (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, etc.) display the title in the top of the browser window's title bar.
 
Description
 
The description of a webpage is listed in a meta field that is read by search engine spiders. The description field contains a page's summary. For example, an advisor may wish to use a description like the following: No-name Financial Group is a fee-only wealth management firm serving high net worth clients in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.  This description has all of the main components of a good summary. It contains the firm name, compensation model, target client description, and geographical region served.
 
Keywords
 
Keywords are contained in another meta field and are used to identify key topics and features to describe a webpage. Here is where most site designers have gone wild in an attempt to include all kinds of keywords that may (or may not) identify the content of the page. There are a number of theories and techniques that exist in order to finagle the keywords to boost a website's ranking on a search engine, formally referred to as Search Engine Optimization (SEO). SEO is beyond the scope of this article, but what is important is that the keywords meta field be, at the very, least populated with meaningful terms that apply to an advisor's business.
 
Text Body
 
Finally, the text body is the main text that appears on a page. This includes whatever descriptions are written on the page that are not part of HTML elements (e.g. links or "anchors" to other pages are not part of the body). This is the text that is visible by search engine spiders and is digested to determine what content is present on the site. Obviously the more text that is in the body, the better the search engine will be in ranking the page in search results.
 
Feed the Internet Robots
 
Now you know a bit about the techniques available to better describe the contents of a webpage. However, most advisors I talk to outsource website management to a third party provider and don't perform any website programming (be it in HTML, CSS, etc.).
 
So how can advisors ensure that the main components in identifying a website are fully utilized?
 
Let me introduce a free, slick tool called feedthebot.com. Simply open feedthebot's sipder simulator page, enter a website's URL, and click Go. Feedthebot will examine the website and display results of the page's title, description, keywords, and text seen by a potential spider.
 
Take this opportunity to open up feedthebot.com and enter your website's URL. If any of the fields are blank, you have an opportunity to improve your website's description. Talk to your website provider and give them the information you want placed in the title, description, and keywords section of your site.
 
I can't guarantee that placing information in these fields will launch your site to the top of search results, but imagine where the website would be listed if these fields continue to remain blank. Providing an accurate description of the website's content in a format easily identified by search engine spiders is an easy, low- to no-cost solution to improve the impact of the website.
 

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