I attended a talk last week and two of the speakers were SEO consultants from Distilled, a company with close ties to SEO Moz. The following are some of the ideas presented in that talk. It is by no means comprehensive, but contains some of the more relevant points.
The page title appears in multiple places: browser bar (above URL), bookmark text, search engine results page and external sites (delicious, etc). There was a high level of importance placed on this, especially among ‘on page’ ranking factors. The tricky part about the page title is balancing the value of the brand with the value for a keyword. Consider the following:
Example #1: Primary Keyword – Secondary Keyword | Brand Name or
Example #2: Brand Name | Primary Keyword and Secondary Keyword
Basically it was said that in most cases, especially if the term is highly competitive, use Example #1. If the brand gives added value or is known as an authority, then use Example #2.
Use short, descriptive URLs with relevant keywords. Use dashes (-) instead of underscores (_).
There is a zen like balance between on page factors such as URL, page title, H1-H6, text and images/media. Basically the page title, H1, image ALT tags, should have keywords and variations thereof sprinkled throughout in Goldilocks/Three Bears like fashion.
As far as images, use keywords in the following areas:
ALT tags: use on all images (alt=”Good Texas Holdem Hand” )
Filename: (good-texas-holdem-hand.jpg, NOT image12.jpg)
Text that surrounds the image
Basically it does not affect SEO/ranking per se, but that it can help (along with page title) with click through rates. This is because it is what users see/read on the search engine results page so be sure to keep these more ‘human friendly’ than search engine friendly.
Although not a huge ranking factor, it is being used by Google and will only improve your visitor’s experience. The question really is why NOT optimize?