A 2011 Google whitepaper found that customers who researched products online and purchased offline (ROPO) were not only better informed, they also spent more.
Indeed, one finding involving coupon marketing found that the average physical world retail spend was approximately double the online spend after a customer downloaded the coupon online before going to the store.
Last week we considered why relevance matters when building a personal brand online. This week, we'll look at some factors that can increase your visibility in search engine results (SERPs) by giving you the virtual world equivalent of more "street frontage", as they say in retail parlance.
By understanding what search engine robots "see" when they look at your virtual facade, and considering the real world and virtual connections that exist between you and your customers, you can give yourself an advantage over a nearby competitor who may be a less capable marketer.
For Poplar members, we'll explain you how your profile works so you can take advantage of our network features to help you, or your company, rank better for key phrases related to your profession, such as "solar installer", "LEED consultant", etc. See the "Tips" below to learn how to optimize your Poplar profile for search engines.
To make sense of the roughly trillion pages on the Internet, search engines process thousands of simultaneous "on-page" and "off-page" signals before (almost instantaneously) delivering your search results.
Inbound links to a site, and other off-page signals (such as social media activity related to you or your brand) are like votes that help Google to place a value, or importance, to of a piece of content. But besides the importance of a page, how do search engines determine what your site is about? This is where the "on-page" signals come in.
The three most important on-page factors are:
Unique page content
Page title (and title tag)
Google and other search engines use robots to crawl through the code on your site in order to analyze its contents. The bulk of what they're looking for is in the HTML. (To see what this looks like yourself, you can do this in your browser by right clicking and choosing "view source" or "view page source").
In search engines' early days, you could "tell" search engines what a page was about just by literally stuffing a string of search terms (keywords) in the body of the page or elsewhere. Because of how easy it was to game, the meta keywords tag (<meta name="keywords">) is no longer used by Google at all. Indeed, most search engines stopped paying attention to this as a ranking factor over 10 years ago.
Today, search engine algorithms are more sophisticated and consider factors including content uniqueness, length, the overall vocabulary used and how it relates to other signals on the page. The approach that search engines use to recognize tags has evolved as well. Bing.com, Yahoo! and Google all rely on markup from Schema.org, which offers special markup, or code, that can be assigned to specific types of data, such as people, products, events, recipes, etc. For any engineers reading this, markup from Schema.org is used to help search engines map out how these data types are connected together, like a schematic of the various components on a circuit board.
With the growth of the Internet, this rich markup helps search engines determine the meaning of a page, and also with machine learning. Google and other search engines are increasingly using semantic technologies, to try to determine what searchers are looking for even before they know what they want themselves!
Tip: Poplar members can choose green building specialties to be associated with, such as LEED certification for New Construction, commissioning, green homes, solar photovoltaics, etc. By choosing several specialties, a user's profile is automatically associated with those main topic pages, as well as any relevant content associated with those pages including Q&A and News.
After unique content, the Page Title (aka the "title tag") is perhaps the second most important signal to search engines when trying to determine what a page is about. Like the title of a book in a bookstore, or a retail store sign, it's what visitors often react to first. If you're viewing the source, it looks like this <title>This is My Title</title>.
Page Title is important "frontage", so to speak, because it appears in a variety of places including the SERPs (see example below), in the description of the page at the top of your browser and in any bookmarks a visitor may keep.
When crafting Page Titles, it's considered a good idea to make them unique (whenever possible), place the keywords you want to rank for toward the beginning of the title, and be descriptive. Brevity is also a consideration because 70 characters is the maximum a search engine will show in its results before giving you an elipsis "...")
The Page Title should not be confused with the "meta title" (which looks like this: <meta name="title" content="This is My Title">). Like "meta keywords", this is rarely used anymore because it carries little weight with search engines.
Tip: For Poplar members, when creating your profile be sure to choose the profession that is most appropriate (and if you don't see a good fit for what you do, let us know). As shown below in Google's search results, your profile's page title is your full name, followed by your profession.
Meta Descriptions are not necessarily a factor in terms of helping your search engine rankings, however like a great billboard or descriptive tagline, a well-written Meta Description can often help you connect with your audience by increasing the click-through rate to your site. The Meta Description is a slightly longer (156 characters) summary of your page's content. While many sites do not do this, Google recommends using Meta Descriptions on every page.
Meta Descriptions are also sometimes (but not always) used by search engines to populate a description of a page found on the web. Google's generation of descriptions is totally automated. How yours appears relies on the amount of information that it can gather about a page and how its algorithms choose to display that information in response to a query.
Think of your Meta Description as an opportunity to be more descriptive of what a person would find if they clicked on your result in the SERPs. You can also use calls to action inside a meta description, such as "Buy Now!", if you were trying to close a sale.
Tip: Poplar members, the Meta Description is pulled automatically from the "About Me" field. When creating your profile, you should not only provide a great description of what you do, but also mention an important keyword or two (don't stuff!) in the first 156 characters. For instance, in the example above, Dwayne mentions that he is an experienced electrical engineer who is also NABCEP certified. This little detail may go a long way in terms of connecting with a new customer who is looking for experience. Your "About Me" can consist of multiple paragraphs, so you could create a well-written introductory paragraph that is 156 characters that may help you connect more quickly in the SERPs.
Thanks and hope this is helpful. If you have any questions contact us or leave a comment below!