Business Monday: What's The Other Guy Thinking?

I'm taking a little break from the "finding balance at home" posts this week to address something I was doing this weekend. Sometimes when I get bored or feel like I should be paying more attention to my marketing I look at other people's website code.

Yes, I know that it seems a little shady, but hey, it's out there so it's not a secret. And it's interesting to see how other people address the issue of SEO and how they think people find their websites. It's also instructive to see who's using really sneaky search engine tricks, and who's out of date with those same tricks.

I like to kind of poke around and see what people in other places are doing, too. People use different types of keywords in different parts of the country, which is kind of strange to me, but still insteresting.

So to make a long story short, there's a fun way to spy on other people and see how they think people will find their sites. Just look at their code.

First, go to their website, then right click anywhere on the page. When that menu comes up, click on "view source." This will show you the html that was used to write their page.

Now take a look-see at what they used for their keywords, which is what google USED to weight very heavily in how it ranked your site. They should be listed relatively close to the top of the code. Look for "meta name="keywords."  After that you'll see a list of the search terms they think people use to search for their type of product. Mine include things like Richmond wedding cakes, custom wedding cakes, etc etc.

One interesting thing is that some web designers are convinced that keywords don't matter at all, so they don't put them in the code at all. Google supposedly weights on-page text more heavily than keywords these days, but I think it's a mistake to totally leave them out. They still help.

Something that google apparently weights heavier than the keywords these days is the page title, which is probably right above the keywords. This is what shows up on the top tab of your web page. You should have some keywords in there too, but not so many that it's ridiculous.  Here's the title in the code....

And here's where it shows up on the tab at the top of the page:

So make sure that you have those written correctly, with the words that you think people will be looking for. Put the name of your business in there toward the end, not the beginning. there seems to be a consensus that it's better to put the keywords in there first. If you use a template for your site there should be a way to add these things in through the template options.

Other things to do:
-Have lots of keywords in the text on your page, but make sure it reads naturally. Don't "keyword stuff" by jamming a million keywords in there just to have them there. Google likes natural language, not things that are jammed so full it's an obvious ploy to get higher rankings.
- Make sure you have descriptions for your pictures. Put a description of each in the alt text because some code includes that and google's bots read it when they scan your page. Don't leave the number that comes with the photo straight out of the camera, since that tells google nothing about the picture.

Things not to do:
-Don't put the same keywords in over and over, thinking that google will see that and rank you higher. I've seen people who have the same word 200 times, and it doesn't help your rankings. It might hurt you though.
-Don't use words that have nothing to do with your page. Keep the keywords relevant to what's on that particular page.
-Don't think you're being slick and put things like "Sylvia Weinstock cakes" in your keywords, thinking that if someone searches for that they'll get your site instead. This is just a stupid thing to do and makes you look dumb.
-Don't copy other people's keywords unless their websites rank higher than yours!

Remember that search engine ranking formulas change all the time, so strategies that work today might not work next week. As long as you keep your keywords and text on your page clean and don't try to be clever, you'll be fine in the long run. If you try to overthink things you'll probably end up wasting your time, and you might end up hurting your rankings in the long run.

Regardless, I'll keep looking at other sites' code, because it's fun to see that someone thinks that "Yummy wedding cakes" is something that people search for, and deserves to be in their keywords.

 Kara Buntin owns A Cake To Remember LLC in Richmond VA, and cake supplies online at and