This article is an overview of Search Engine Optimization (SEO). It contains best practices that may be helpful to you if you maintain a blog or website. The information is from the page Search Engine Optimization (SEO) on LDS.org, provided as an SEO overview for those who maintain the Church’s country communication pages on LDS.org.
Advances in Internet technology have changed the way people find answers to questions or information related to topics they are interested in. Today, Google and other search engines serve as modern-day library card catalogs. The role of a search engine is to determine what a person is looking for (search intent) and then return the most relevant results.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the art and science of making websites findable in search engine results pages (SERP) when someone’s search intent matches content published online. There are standard guidelines provided by Google and tested by the SEO team and countless other SEO professionals that will help the church attract visitors who are searching for Internet content it publishes.
We view SEO as a method to spread the gospel online and encourage others to treat it as such. By being actively engaged in improving our websites for search engines, we help them (e.g., Google, Yahoo!, Bing, etc.) provide more relevant and accurate results to their customers. At the same time, we are able to introduce the honest and pure in heart to accurate and relevant truth as it relates to their search query. This document serves as a set of standard guidelines that must be followed on all church websites in an effort to effectively spread the gospel online.
Title Tag Information and Example
The title tag is one of the most important on-page factors in regards to ranking on search engines.
- It is visible on both the website and the search engine results page (SERP).
- It lets both users and search engines know what your webpage (URL) is about.
Best practice is to keep the title tag descriptive, succinct, and unique.
- Keep the title tag’s length to 65 characters or less or else it will be cut off (by ellipsis) in the SERPs and/or could be seen as “spammy” by search engines.
- Use hyphens (-) and pipe bars (|) to separate keywords (keyword phrases).
- Every webpage needs to have a unique title tag.
Generally, targeting no more than three unique keywords per webpage is ideal.
- Focusing on three root keywords avoids the practice and appearance of “keyword stuffing.”
- A webpage will still be relevant for related long-tail keywords (i.e., “Mormon radio” will be relevant for “Mormon radio station,” “Mormon radio channel,” etc.), even if you just focus on three.
Example title tag for http://www.lds.org/churchmusic/:
Put the most important keywords at the beginning of the title tag.
- Search engines put more weight/value to keywords at the beginning of title tags, so put the main keyword first.
Normally, title tags are short snippets of keywords or small phrases—not sentences.
- Since these titles are displayed on the SERPs, they should be able to digest quickly at a glance. Normally, people don’t want to read a whole sentence while in the initial search phase.
- The keywords that you use, if searched for by a user, will be bolded in the SERP.
Meta Description Information and Example
The meta description is very important for a URLs click through rate (from SERPs), as well as website usage stats and data.
- It is not visible to users on the website (unless you view the source code), but is visible for users on the SERP.
- This is an opportunity to go into more detail about the webpage, as well as offer a call to action and utilize a few targeted keywords.
Best practice is to keep the description relevant (to that particular webpage), write as a sentence, and keep it unique (per webpage).
- Keep the meta description’s length to approximately 150 characters or else it will be cut off (by ellipsis) in the SERPs.
- Shy away from excessive use of “sales” writing, but it is okay to have a relevant call to action where relevant.
- Every webpage needs to have a unique meta description.
Utilize at least one (and up to three) targeted keywords in the meta description from the title tag.
- Use keyword(s) naturally; keyword variations are okay (i.e., pluralizing).
Keyword Targeting Information and Page Content (HTML Text)
Naturally include keywords within the copy.
- Either during or after writing the copy, be sure to check that the targeted keywords for that particular webpage have been used at least once each. Good practice is to not use a particular keyword more than three times, as it will appear unnatural and spammy to search engines, as well as users.
- It is okay to use variations of the targeted keywords as long as you use each targeted keyword once “as is.” For example, if the targeted keyword is “Mormon,” the copy could use “Mormon,” “Mormons,” and “Mormonism” and still be okay—in fact, this usage will look more natural to search engines and users.
- It is suggested (although not uber-imperative) to bold one usage of each targeted keyword using a tag. Even though this practice has lost some effectiveness over the years due to abuse and manipulation, there is still some value in doing so (as it is an indicator to search engines that it is an important word and also stands out for users).
Write in small paragraphs and structure them with subheadings (i.e., headings, headings, etc.).
Image File Name Information and Example
Every image used on church-owned websites should have a relevant file name and alt tag to help search engines determine what the image is about. We also recommend including the image size information in the tag.
Where appropriate, keywords relevant to the image should appear close to the image itself before and after the code. This will give even better signals to Google and other search engines regarding the content of the image.
Information about images on each page should be contained also in the XML sitemap. Doing so may help search engine robots find, index, and rank images on our websites quickly and more accurately.
The file name for images is a key indicator to search engines of what the image is about.
Example file name for this image: wilford-woodruff-mormon-prophet.png
- Best practice is to keep them unique, descriptive of that particular image, and utilize a targeted keyword or variation (if possible).
- It should be a keyword phrase that describes the image.
- Sentences or very long file names are discouraged.
- Separate words with hyphens (avoiding underscores).
Image Alt Tag Information and Example
- The alt image tag serves as an indicator to search engines on what the image is about and displays if the image does not load.
- It is not visible to users unless the image does not load.
- In addition, for users that have vision impairments and special website browsers, the alt tag will be read aloud to users.
- Best practice is to keep them unique, particular to that image, and utilize a targeted keyword or variation (if possible).
- It should be a keyword phrase that describes the image.
- Sentences or very long image alt tags are discouraged.
- Can closely resemble or even be the same as the image file name.
- If the image is only aesthetic in nature and has nothing to do with the content/text of that webpage, it is okay to leave it null (i.e., alt=””).