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What It Is & How To Use It

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What It Is & How To Use It


Link attributes abound in the world of SEO, including link title, alternative text, and others.

In fact, there are newer rules you need to use if you wish to remain up-to-date on your link optimization.

These types of attributes are important. Not only do they help clarify the context of your link, but they also help to control how Google perceives it.

Whether it’s a paid link or free, you need to make sure you are using the correct attributes so Google does not misunderstand the meaning of your links, resulting in substandard results.

And SEO is all about results!

The way you get to better results is by applying best practices and ensuring that you don’t run afoul of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.

Using duplicate alternative text as the link title text is not an okay practice, for example. There are different ways to use alternative text and title text, both of which an SEO pro must pay attention to.

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The following includes an overview of the link title attribute and the things you need to know about it in order to be successful.

Let’s dive right in!

Link Title Attribute Best Practices

You should use a link title when you are providing more information about the link.

Don’t use a link title to provide the information over again, as this is a usability fail that will only result in annoying your users.

Have you ever run into an incident where the exact link title showed up when you hovered over it?

You didn’t need to know something that’s already visible on the page, right?

Some of your users may think that way, as well.

The best question you can ask yourself when optimizing is: Will this add information to my link or will it just annoy my users with duplication?

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Focus On Optimizing For Users, Rather Than Search Engines

Optimize for your users, rather than search engines.

Yes, this is nothing new. But it is effective.

Don’t:

  • Overstuff the link title attribute with keywords.
  • Duplicate the topic title.

Do:

  • Write the link title so that something unique pops up for users.
  • Write the link title with users in mind.

The link anchor text is supposed to be the name of the link itself.

The link title attribute is supposed to provide more information about where the link will send the user who clicks on that link.

How, Exactly, Should You Be Using The Link Title Attribute?

Google’s Search Advocate John Mueller has detailed this in a past Google Webmaster Office Hours Hangout. This discussion begins at the 00:42 point.

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Google uses both the title attribute and anchor text together within the link in order to increase their understanding of the context of the link.

He explains that you can test this with a word that you made up, and add it as a title attribute.

Then, you can wait a bit for things to be indexed, and then you can examine the results of that after it has been indexed.

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Ideally, one could use the title attribute in order to cover information that’s missing in the anchor text. And Google will use these two attributes together when crawling your links.

Does The Link Title Attribute Help Support Accessibility?

There is some disagreement among SEO pros as to whether accessibility should not be included in SEO best practices.

I’m of the opinion that accessibility, while not a direct ranking factor, is one of those indirect ranking factors that are indisputable in terms of their value.

This will help improve your client’s site and their bottom line by reducing accessibility lawsuits for not including basic accessibility items like alternative text.

(Being inclusive also expands your audience and customer base.)

Alternative text, or alt text for short, is an image attribute that gives text to screen readers for the blind.

In principle, you would think the link title attribute works in a similar way.

However, this is not the case.

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The W3C states the following:

“Current user agents and assistive technology provide no feedback to the user when links have title attribute content available.

Some graphical user agents will display a tool tip when the mouse hovers above an anchor element containing a title attribute. However, current user agents do not provide access to title attribute content via the keyboard.

The tool tip in some common user agents disappears after a short period of time (approximately five seconds).

This can cause difficulty accessing title attribute content for those users who can use a mouse but have fine motor skill impairment, and may result in difficulties for users who need more time to read the tool tip.

Current graphical user agents do not provide mechanisms to control the presentation of title attribute content.

The user cannot resize the tool tip text or control the foreground and background colors.

The placement and location of the tool tip cannot be controlled by users, causing some screen magnifier users to be unable to access meaningful portions of the title attribute content because the tool tip cannot be fully displayed within the viewport.

Some user agents allow access to supplementary information through the context menu.

For example, the keystroke combination Shift+F10 followed by P will display the title attribute content, along with other supplementary information in Mozilla/Firefox.”

It’s not perfect, so it is almost impossible to provide a good way to implement accessibility in this scenario.

This is why it is important to take a more in-depth look at guidelines for these elements.

They don’t always work the way you think they should and, in some cases, changes to the elements can happen in a flash also.

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How to Use The Link Title Attribute: An Example

Here’s an example of how to use the link title attribute correctly:

<a href=”https://www.searchenginejournal.com/” title=”This is a link to the Search Engine Journal website”>SEJ</a>

What Do The Search Engines Say?

We can speculate all day long, but at the end of the day, the final word of the search engines on the link title attribute is this:

“The ‘title’ attribute is a bit different: It ‘offers advisory information about the element for which it is set.’

As the Googlebot does not see the images directly, we generally concentrate on the information provided in the ‘alt’ attribute.

Feel free to supplement the ‘alt’ attribute with ‘title’ and other attributes if they provide value to your users!”

This is what Bing has to say:

“Think of the anchor text as your primary description of the linked page.

But if you do inline linking within the paragraphs of your body text, you need to maintain the natural, logical flow of the language in the paragraph, which can limit your link text description.

As such, you can use the title attribute to add additional keyword information about the linked page without adversely affecting the readability of the text for the end user.”

What Do Other SEO Professionals Say?

Based on the opinions of several people who have done SEO for years, the link title attribute carries no weight on search engines.

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There is also some usability concern when it comes to the link title attribute.

For most browsers, it will show up when you move your cursor over the link.

Because of this, you don’t have to copy the anchor text within a title attribute. If the title attribute is unable to provide additional information, you should not use it.

“Do not add link titles to all links: If it is obvious from the link anchor and its surrounding context where the link will lead, then a link title will reduce usability by being one more thing users have to look at.”

The Rise In Accessibility Lawsuits: Should You Be Concerned?

On January 4, 2019, it was reported that Beyonce.com was sued over accessibility issues.

Target has also been sued over accessibility issues in the past.

Accessibility should always be a concern for SEO professionals because you are supposed to be driving revenue and increasing ROI for your clients.

When an accessibility lawsuit happens, your client loses money, or ROI, from the lack of these efforts. In addition, they are usually not happy about your website.

Your efforts as an SEO should include making sure that link title attributes and links are visible and usable by your users, regardless of their abilities.

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Focus On Your Users, Not The Search Engines

When writing link title attributes, be sure to write for users, and don’t create spammy text just for the search engines.

Because, it will be users who are – primarily – going to be using this title text.

At the end of the day, accessibility matters:

  • Don’t make links hard to read.
  • Don’t make link titles difficult to use, or understand.

Make things look great while focusing on the user experience in order to make sure that your users are happy and elated to be on your website.

TL;DR: Key Takeaways

The key takeaways include the following:

  • Don’t use duplicate alt and title attributes in your links.
  • Do focus on your users when writing these, but also focus on what the search engines will crawl.
  • Do focus on what missing information will be added by using the title attribute.
  • Do optimize your links if the title attribute adds new information.
  • Do not use the title attribute if it does not add new information.
  • Make sure that you use these attributes in such a way that fosters great accessibility for users with disabilities.
  • Don’t over-optimize. Avoid adding title attributes to links that don’t need them.

If you are in doubt about whether a link title attribute is something that is going to benefit you, it’s probably best not to use it. And instead, consult John Mueller or another SEO professional that you trust.

John is known to hang out on Twitter and answer burning questions from SEO professionals around the world, in addition to his office hours hangouts.

More Resources:


Featured Image: BestForBest/Shutterstock

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SEO

How Should You Optimize Your Content?

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How Should You Optimize Your Content?

People turn to Google for just about everything these days.

Whether it’s to buy something, learn about something in-depth, get a quick answer, or simply pass the time, Google is the primary stream of information for the vast majority of people living with an internet connection.

To be precise, Google makes up 92.19% of the search engine market share.

The constant quest of SEO professionals is to get their content matched up with the search queries it answers.

But how has this task changed over time?

While there can be books written on this subject, the general consensus is that search queries are becoming longer, more specific, and conversational.

In many cases, a portion of this shift can likely be attributed to the rise of voice search.

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A lot of what we are seeing is a growing importance on optimizing for questions and semantically related keywords.

So what exactly does this all mean?

And what are the best strategies when you’re down in the trenches of SEO?

Let’s discuss.

Questions & Semantic Search

Since the Google Hummingbird Update in 2013, Google has been on a steady path toward providing more personalized and useful search results.

You know when you enter a super vague query into Google and it somehow understands exactly what you’re getting at? Like when you are speaking to a close friend or family member?

This is semantic search.

A big aspect of Google’s semantic search capability is to pinpoint concepts and entities presented in question-based queries.

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When someone enters a question into Google – whether it be by text or voice – the semantic search capabilities work to understand the user’s intent with four key factors:

  • The user context.
  • Natural language processing (NLP).
  • Query stream context.
  • Entity identification.

What Types of Questions Does Google Answer?

Thanks to semantic search, Google has taken many steps toward a near-flawless ability to answer a plethora of questions. This is largely due to the developments in artificial intelligence, voice search, schema, NLP, etc.

Google generally answers three types of questions – as opposed to just providing links to the sites with the answers.

  • Direct answers
  • Short answers
  • Long answers

These answers are commonly placed in the Featured Snippet – also known as the “Google Answer Box” or “Position Zero.”

Let’s breakdown the specifics of each.

Direct Answer

Direct answer questions typically start with Who, What, Where, When, Best, Top, and sometimes Why.

These types of questions normally result in quick answers and are oftentimes linked to voice queries.

For example, if you enter a query like [When was Apple founded?], Google will use Hummingbird and semantic search to recognize the user intent to provide a direct answer. This answer would be April 1, 1976.

When was Apple Founded

Based on what Google’s algorithms decide is the most reliable source of information, the search engine will pull the answer from the content and display it in the Featured Snippet.

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Short Answer

Short answer questions generally start with words like Why and Can. But, given the context, they can also apply to What, Where, Who, etc.

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These types of questions can generally be answered in a paragraph, of which is shown on the Featured Snippet.

Let’s ask Google [Why does the sun follow a circular path?]

Why does the sun follow a circular path?

Again, Google’s algorithms will decide which content has the most credible answer here (based on numerous factors), and provide the answer in the Featured Snippet accordingly.

Let’s do another one.

Here’s a query for “Can fish feel pain?”

Can fish feel pain?

As you can see, Google has provided a 4-5-line answer – drawing from the content it sees as the most credible.

Long Answer

The long answer queries typically get more into the weeds of procedures and processes.

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Most commonly, these long answers are matched up with How and Why queries.

Google only has so much space to work with in the Featured Snippet; it can’t list out an entire procedure from A to Z. Instead, it has to abbreviate with an outline.

For example, let’s search for [How to build a treehouse].

How to build a treehouse?

The intent of this question is to get a better understanding of what all factors into the process of building a treehouse. The intent is more or less surface level.

As a result, Google’s algorithms serve up the step-by-step process involved in this project. To get more in-depth, the user needs to click on the link.

Other common examples of long answer snippets relate to how-to guides, recipes, workout routines, etc.

Which Types of Answers Do You Provide?

Everyone wants to get their content proudly placed in the Featured Snippet (or somewhere prominent on Page 1).

Given how much real estate this answer box takes up on Google searches, the potential benefits of taking the spotlight here are huge!

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In order to get placed in the Google Answer Box, you first need to have a strong idea of which type of answer your particular piece of content provides, and which keywords attribute to it.

For instance, this online tire store recently published an article around the keyword “best tire brands” – optimized for the question, “what are the best tire brands?”

Best tire brands

If we look at the Featured Snippet for this query, we see a list of tire brands outlined in the content under H2 tags.

In addition to drawing traffic, the content provides avenues for the user to actually purchase the products.

With each piece of content you create, you should be asking, “what types of questions does this content answer?”

This should be an integral part of how you formulate the outline, as well as how it will funnel into the bigger picture (like generating conversions).

How to Pinpoint Trending Questions & Keywords

In the process of figuring out which type of answer(s) is ideal for your content, you need to identify the trending questions being asked and the search volumes behind them.

One tool you could use is the Ahrefs Questions feature in the keyword explorer.

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By entering in your focus keyword, you can get a big list of related questions to be factored into how you create the content.

In this hypothetical scenario, let’s say you are creating a piece of content for a CRM software.

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Let’s look at the questions related to the keyword “CRM Software.”

CRM Software

Given what we found here, there are all kinds of questions to frame a piece of content around.

Now, a long, comprehensive piece of content could potentially work to answer all three major question types. However, for our purposes, we are going to focus on one.

Let’s say we want to create a piece of content that answers the short answer question [What does CRM software do].

What does CRM software do?

Now that we have the question, let’s look into the keywords that funnel into this answer.

What does CRM software do?

Think about it from a user’s standpoint who is at the beginning of the buyer’s journey.

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If someone wants to simply learn more about CRM software and what it does, what informational keywords and phrases would factor into the search?

Based on the keyword research above, this would likely involve terms and phrases like:

  • What is CRM
  • Customer relationship management
  • CRM meaning
  • CRM definition
  • CRM examples
  • Customer relationship
  • Relationship management

These are just a handful of the informational keywords and phrases that would ideally work to answer the overarching question.

Now, if there is transactional intent within this content, you are wise to include the following terms/phrases:

  • Best CRM
  • Best CRM tools
  • Best CRM for small business
  • CRM solutions
  • CRM pricing

When it comes to optimizing for questions and keywords, you need to have an idea of the users’ knowledge prior to looking at the content, what answers they want, and what they should do after consuming the content.

Ultimately, this forms the basis for how you conduct SEO research.

Ranking for Direct Answer Questions

Getting ranked for direct answer questions can be tough.

As with most SEO tactics, there are no laws, just theories.

Based on what we’ve found, getting ranked highly for direct answer questions involves the following common threads:

Get to the Point

Answer the question as early as possible within the content. If you can, try to do this in the first paragraph.

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List the Question Right out of the Gate

This helps Google tag your content appropriately.

Elaborate

After you answer the question bluntly, elaborate on it in the subsequent paragraphs. This helps to show Google that you are answering the question comprehensively.

Go the Extra Mile

This would commonly involve answering typical follow-up questions.

For instance, if you answered the question, “What is a lunar eclipse?” you could also include answers to questions like, “How often do lunar eclipses happen?” or “What is the difference between a lunar eclipse and a solar eclipse?”

You want to show Google that you know the answer in as much detail as possible so you are seen as an expert source of information.

Ranking for Short Answer Questions

Getting ranked for short answer questions has a lot of similarities to the process of getting ranked for direct answer questions.

Much of what we’ve observed comes down to the formatting of the content.

Here are a couple of the biggest patterns we’ve noticed:

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Make the Language Super Easy to Read

Don’t produce a wall of text; break it up into paragraphs no more than 3-4 lines long. Also, try not to use an extensive amount of business jargon.

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Keep in mind, a lot of short answer questions are from people at the beginning of the customer journey – they are simply looking for more information, not to be overwhelmed.

Integrate Questions into Your Header Tags

This should ideally look like a Q&A format.

For instance, the question, “What does a CRM software do?” could be an H2 tag near the beginning of the post which the subsequent content would then answer.

Ranking for Long Answer Questions

Ranking for long answer questions normally requires quite a few factors based on the depth of the content.

On a side note: If a topic could be better answered with a more visual piece of content, Google will probably serve a video. For example, if you search Google for [How to wash pillows] you are going to be met with a video.

How to wash pillows?

So, if you answer these types of long answer questions, you are smart to focus on a video strategy.

Back to getting ranked highly on long answer queries, we have found several patterns in how content ranks.

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Keep the Main Title Focused on the Question

You want your content to appear to be the most relevant to Google.

If you are working to answer the question of “how to create a content plan,” your content should (in some capacity) reflect this in the title.

How to create a content plan?

Provide a Step-By-Step Format

Headings in content created for these types of queries often times have certain steps outlined.

Here’s what comes up for the question, [how to do SEO audit].

How to do SEO audit?

If you look at the content written by Ahrefs, you’ll notice the header tags in the piece correspond directly with the steps listed in the Featured Snippet.

Use Images

Images make your content more user-friendly and engaging – two things that Google loves!

We’ve found that the best-performing content uses imagery to supplement the points being made and provide a more complete answer.

Link out to Reputable Sites

Google wants to reward sites that provide the most credible information, based on the search query.

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What makes credible information?

Credible sources.

For example, if you are writing a post on “how to buy a used car,” linking out to reputable auto websites like Consumer Reports, Edmonds, Cars.com, etc. would (ideally) add credibility to your piece.

Wrapping Up

It’s important to note that every situation is a little bit different and the process of optimizing content is not always apples-to-apples.

However, it’s clear that the SEO landscape has been shifting towards long-tail keywords and questions for some time now.

If you want to get your content ranked well (and stand a chance at getting placed in the featured snippet), you need to factor these into your content strategy.

Hopefully, this post has given you a good idea of where to start.

More Resources:

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Image Credits

Featured Image: Created by author, August 2019
In-Post Image: SEMrush

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