Writing for search engines

We don’t write for search engines. We write for people who use search engines.

We use the techniques on this page to help users find information. In addition to increasing the quantity and quality of traffic to Intuit websites, these SEO practices also guide us to create content that is more readable and helpful.

Design clear, hierarchical headers

Headings introduce and organize content in pages. They have a top-down hierarchy from h1 to h6. They also allow for lists to appear in search engine results. The H1 header defines the most important heading. The H2 header is less important, and the H6 is the least important.

There’s some debate that Google will not crawl headers past H3s, so going below H3 might not be necessary (and potentially should be avoided if you want to rank for keywords in any headers below H3).

Use only one H1 per page.

Match the relevance of the content to the header hierarchy (H1, H2, H3, and so forth).

Keep headers natural and readable.

Use headers for calls to action or text that is the same size as the body copy paragraphs.
Use more than one H1 tag your page. This confuses search engines and it might confuse users too.

Write titles for browsers and search results

A title tag is an HTML element that specifies the title of a webpage and shows up in search engine results pages. These are not headers, as they don’t appear in the page. Instead, they show up in 3 key areas: search engine results pages, web browsers, and social network mentions.

Pipes (this symbol “|”) or a dash (“-”) help separate out different searchable phrases for Google. So you can have multiple title tags for each page that can increase keyword power (even using exact-match, high-trafficked, long-tail keywords) and can provide more context to what’s included in the piece, for example, “What is Pricing? | How to Price Your Goods | QuickBooks” (55 characters). Of course, this is also a delicate balance, as you want to provide context but don’t want to keyword stuff.

Examples

Primary keyword – secondary keyword | brand name
Product name – product category | brand name
QuickBooks Online Pricing and Free Trial | QuickBooks

Give every page a unique title.

Keep your title under 60 characters long.

Avoid ALL CAPS in titles. That’s hard to read and isn’t in keeping with our capitalization guidelines.

Try to put important keywords first.

Create accurate and descriptive titles for a specific page.

Use only a list of keywords as a title.

Place repetitive information first (such as company or brand name or category).

Exceed 70 characters. If you do, the title will appear truncated, with ellipses.

Guide users and search engines with readable URLs

Write URLs (uniform resource locators) to meet the needs of users and searches. URLs should be short, reflect the page content and purpose, and include valuable search keywords when possible.

Make sure your URL contains at least one keyword you want the page to rank for.
Use hyphens as “word separators” in your URL.
Craft URLs to resemble, but not necessarily duplicate page titles.
Always use lowercase.
Make URLs readable for human users. The machines prefer readability too.

Good URL: https://apps.intuit.com/app/track-time/lean-law/

Use underscores or spaces in URLs.
Use dates in URLs; this makes URLs longer.
Use uppercase letters or CaMeL CaSe.
Use codes or random letters.

Bad URL: https://apps.intuit.com/app/apps/appdetails?shortName=app-b7p7h43fw8&locale=en-us

Note: If a human can’t read your URL, then a search engine probably can’t either.

Describe your content for machines and social networks

A meta description is an HTML attribute that provides a brief summary of a web page. Search engines typically display the meta description on search engine result pages.

While Google no longer factors in meta keywords or descriptions in ranking algorithms, the description has a large impact on page-click-through rates. And social networks will often pull the meta description into a screen when a user shares a web page.

One thing to note: Sometimes search engines won’t use your meta description. This may occur when search engines don’t think the meta description accurately answers a user’s query. The search engine might find a snippet of the page content that matches better.

Google has been experimenting with allowing longer meta descriptions in smart boxes or “rich snippets.” According to some SEO experts, these descriptions can actually be any length, but 50-160 characters is always a safe bet to avoid truncation.

Keep your meta descriptions between 60-160 characters (including spaces) to avoid being truncated.
Create a compelling description in a natural, active, human way that entices a user to click through.
Keep the content specific to the page and keep it customer-centric.
Include at least one or two keywords, since they will be bolded in the results.
Include a call to action if you can.

Repeat phrases and words for every page of your site.
Include quotation marks. Google cuts off descriptions at the quotation mark.
Stuff a bunch of keywords into your meta descriptions.
Write vague copy. That’s bad for humans and machines.

Images need words too

With image SEO, we optimize an image so that search engines can understand what the image is about. Among the things we can do: reduce the image file size, name the image properly, and include alt tags.

Image URLs


We should name all our images precisely and strategically, not only for search but also for accessibility.

  • Name images with a description of what’s happening in the image.
  • The filename can give Google and other search engines clues about the subject matter of the image.

Example
https://quickbooks.intuit.com/oicms/oi_cms/uploads/2018/08/income-expenses-selected.png

Try to include the main keyword in your image.
Use simple language to name each image.
Keep image names short and accurate.
Make sure the name easily tells users and search engines what the image is about.

Alt text for images


Alt text describes an image and is read by search crawlers when a page is indexed. It’s also critical for users who are accessing web pages with screen readers that cannot process images.

Describe your image specifically.
Use as short a phrase as possible. Screen readers will truncate long alt copy.
Use your main keyword in the alt text.

Fill alt text with keywords. This could cause your site to be seen as Spam.
Include words like “image of” or “picture of” in your ALT text.

Link to good sources of helpful information

In longer-form content, such as blog posts, resource pieces, and help articles, it’s OK to link to information that helps customers. Both external and internal links can help spread SEO authority across the site, and writers shouldn’t shy away from including them.

Be sure to use descriptive language with links. And ensure the anchor text being used contextually matches the page you link to.

Google crawlers care about anchor text, and it’s also important for accessibility. If your anchor text says one thing but then leads to a page that doesn’t match the content, then customers using screen readers will be confused by the links on the page.

When considering how to write meta descriptions for your content, refer to our SEO guidelines.

Refer to our SEO guidelines when considering how to write meta descriptions for your content.

Note: This is a poor anchor text choice because the “how to write meta …” is a subsection of the overall page, so if a person using a screen reader clicks through, they’ll have to scroll for a while before finding the info they’re looking for.