Let’s take a look at some of the important issues website owners face and need to focus on when getting their website optimised. For your website to be traffic-focused, click-conscious and sales conversion centric there are some essential SEO strategies and best practices you must adhere to. This list is not meant to be the comprehensive be all and end all of all things SEO related, this is more to focus in on some of the more important aspects that webmasters, business owners and website owners should look at addressing. The first part of this article is presented in a rough order of importance based on getting the work done. In many cases, you’ll find your own circumstances may not apply in every instance but as a general guide it is designed to present key word pictures to assist you in search engine optimisation pre-planning. This list represents what would be considered the ideal for a brand new, freshly planned website, prior to being built. If your circumstances slide you in at random points in this list, don’t worry about it. The point is this is a solid place to start your SEO pre-planning from.
Your Website Crawlability
If a crawler is unable to access your content, the content will not be indexed by search engines and it will not be ranked. Enable and use XML sitemaps with a low error rate to build trust with the search engines. Make sure your website navigation is clean and strive for a simple, search-friendly URL structure. This means the URL is keyword rich and avoids session variables or doc-IDs. Our suggestion is for you to use robots.txt files to instruct the crawlers on how to interact with your website and find your content.
Your Website Structure
Providing a site structure with strong functionality, good structure and user experience in mind helps encourage link building. Linking to both trusted outside sources and internal content shows a search engine you care about users getting the best data around their query and their user experience. In addition, HTML and XML sitemaps ensure a good user experience and help search engines discover all your pages and content.
Your Content Hierarchy
When you plan your website’s content hierarchy, take care to align your content with what searchers and your prospective customers are looking for and their buying intentions during their journey through your URL. Basic keyword research can also help you understand how searchers are interacting with search engines, and can help craft to your overall content strategy. Also avoid placing links and content inside rich media applications, such as Flash and Silverlight, which make it almost impossible for crawlers to find and read the content. If you really need rich content don’t despair just ensure you use up to date html5 coding as required and your content will be found considerably easier with no loss of user experience.
On-Page SEO Factors
Follow a few simple guidelines for the area inside the code of your webpage denoted by the tag. Each should be short, about 65 characters, and unique to the page. Include the keyword you’re targeting for that page near the beginning of the title. Thetag can be longer and should also contain the keyword or phrase you’re targeting. All content should be unique to every page and be based on keyword research. Don’t worry about investing time discussing whether the tag outweighs the value of a proper tag. Invest your time in producing better content. Splitting hairs doesn’t move your rankings nearly as much as excellent content does.
You must remember that even though content is king as they say, not all content is fit to rule. What the search engines seek is compelling, unique content. And while we judge what “compelling” means to a degree, what’s more important is how searchers react to your content when we show your webpage to them in a search engine results page (SERP). Your job is to create content so compelling that visitors to your site feel no need to look elsewhere to have their needs met. The worst approach is to provide thin content that leaves your viewing audience wanting more but not getting it. An example of this would be a website aggregating content from multiple sources on one page. Such an approach amounts to little more than a links page related to the query entered but you also need to remember that that’s a search engine’s job and not yours.
You create returning viewers by engaging them, meeting their expectations, answering their queries and providing value. When you build content, ask yourself if you’ve answered the need the searcher expressed. Now ask, if you’ve covered any related topics that come obviously to mind. Ask yourself why your webpage stands out. Why is your webpage better than all the rest? What does your content bring forward that others miss? This is why content from articles or syndication cannot stand alone and rank successfully. Unique content brings forward elements that other website articles may miss, which is why that content outranks others targeting the same phrase.
SEO Link Building
When you build links, work to get targeted keywords inserted into the anchor text to boost relevancy for a specific targeted search term. This increases a link’s perceived value to both users and search engines. Encourage links to your page by integrating social network icons which allow visitors to easily share your page. More eyes on your page can increase the odds it will be linked from an outside source. And remember that inter-linking between your own domains can be construed by search engines like Google and Bing as a Spam tactic. The best way to get links, though, is to provide excellent, unique content. You should avoid services which claim to be able to build you a number of organic links for a fee. You can be assured that the search engines are looking at backlinks to authority websites and blogs like Digital Point and Ezine Articles and not spam websites, link farms and like farms. When a repetitive pattern is picked up by the search engines they will certainly discount the value you were hoping to obtain from these backlinks leaving you with no ranking gains and possible penalisation from the search engines via demotion.
Beyond the items listed above, here are a few items that are essential for any websites SEO best practices. While none on their own will vault you to the top of the search engine rankings they remain best practices that you should look to engage in. These are not in any order of priority:
- RSS Feeds – Get them up and running and keep them clean. By following your feeds, it’s easier for the engine to get your latest content. This means we see it faster, so indexing, ranking and showing in the SERPs can happen faster. Want to really impress Bing? Get into your Bing Webmaster account and insert your RSS feed URL into the sitemap submission flow.
- Mark it up and Validate – Why don’t you check out the ideas presented at www.schema.org. This jointly supported protocol (Bing/Yahoo/Google) enables you to “mark up” your content, essentially embedding tags into your page code to help search engines to better understand your content. This can range from videos to images, recipes to Geo-location information. Lots of tags are supported today, so hit the schema.org site to see what’s applicable for you. Again, this helps search engines to better understand your content, and the better it is understood, the more likely they will be able to return you better matches to queries.
- User Experience – It is a known fact that websites that offer an excellent user experience tend to rank better. Why? Because people like them. Yes, it is that simple. While you need to work on a lot of signals to be successful in search, you also need to find a balance. Page Load Times (PLT’s) are a perfect example. Some sites take this one signal to the extreme, paring down their site to an absolute minimum hoping PLT will vault them up in the rankings. The trouble with this approach is that by removing things from the page to speed page load times, you erode the user experience in most cases and that is a no-no. While machines calculate page load times in fractions of a second, humans are much more forgiving. Stay focused on pleasing your human visitors first and foremost. You shouldn’t ignore PLT, but taking PLT from 1/2 second to 1/4 second will be largely lost on your visitors. The engines will appreciate it, but if you had to remove content or functionality to save the 1/4 second load time, your user experience for humans has suffered. The essence is to find Balance and you do this by concentrating more on what your viewing audience wants.
- Social Media Strategies – It is essential to manage social media just like managing your website. Plan your approach to social media carefully and execute consistently. Build your presence so that followers see you as an authority source and an information resource. Again this is also a balancing act but one you can get attuned to quickly enough. Just make sure you bring value to your followers consistently and you do that with educative content, humour, sharing and knowledge. People like links in their inbound tweets and wall posts so make sure you deliver – Don’t disappoint your social audience because they can be fickle. Fill your social program to the brim with value and your followers will love you. Even if you’re not active socially, you still need to monitor social spaces to understand what others are saying about you. Are happy shoppers spreading the good word about you? Are unhappy shoppers telling their stories to the world? Your products, your services and your concepts are what you need your social audience to understand, comprehend and inevitably buy. Social Media is a perfect place to interact with your target buying audience.
SEO Practices to Avoid
These are often referred to as ‘Black Hat SEO Techniques’. They include:
- Code Cloaking
- Link buying
- Like farms
- Link farms
- Duplicating content
- Auto-Follows in Social Media
- Three-Way Linking
- A Thin Approach to Content
As mentioned previously, not every Search Engine Optimisation topic is covered here this is merely a rundown of some of the main points you should consider when planning to get your new website project or existing website optimised. There are numerous other areas to effective SEO but this should help with your primary focus on key areas as a starting point.