Is your web site content as findable as you want? Being found by a search engine is golden: it means more traffic. If you have not taken stock of how search-engine friendly your website is, you sabotage your web publishing investment right out of the gate. Your ability to serve your audience and compete against the noise of other sites vying for those eyeballs is hurt by poor SEO. If you are making mistakes, this requires your urgent attention.
IGNORE POOR SEO AT YOUR PERIL
I’ve put together a Search Engine Optimization website scorecard exclusively designed to give you insights on how your site is performing against best practices. I’ve identified the top meta-data, content, domain administration and link issues that every web manager should keep their eye on.
Monitoring and fixing these SEO must-haves can make you search-engine friendly. Ignoring a problem on this list could mean your site stays lost in the haystack of the World Wide Web.
HOW TO BE SEARCH ENGINE FRIENDLY
Here is my 16 golden site-specific Search Engine Optimization tips to make your site content easier to find:
- Valid title tag – With keywords anywhere and as first words if possible. Every web page must have a unique and meaningful title meta tag. Aim for 65 characters in length, about 8-10 words. Begin with what is unique about the page and then deliver the contextual information, and not the other way around. Where does it fit in the overall classification?
- Description tag — The description meta tag of no more than 30 words long, and filled with clear keyword rich language. When you leave out a description tag, or send pages to the server with descriptions that duplicate other pages, you hurt your standing in search engines. You may also confuse users at the search result page, since the search engine will grab the first words it sees and serve up gobbledygook instead of the description you supply.
- Heading tags – A web page is not a word document. The code behind the page should put tags around your headlines and sub-headlines so that they are machine readable and classified as headlines. You should aim to use your keywords anywhere in the H1 Headline Tag, and as the first words where possible. Your other headline tags, H2, H3 and so on, should follow the same principle.
- Keyword Use in the First 50-100 Words in HTML on the Page – pay careful attention to keyword use and the number of repetitions in the HTML text on the page
- Keyword use in link anchor text – On pages where you use anchor tags, these links should aim to use keywords to improve your SEO
- Unique and meaningful links – Every link on your page should be unique and meaningful. That means you should not use “click here” or “more” at the end of a post to get users to follow the link. These are “empty calories” telling the search engine nothing about your content’s value, and confusing users who need screen readers; (Of course some users of CMS products like this WordPress site are stuck with them)
- Native formats – Do you use native formats (html, xhtml or xml) for the greatest flexibility for your users? If your site is using flash files without a text alternative your content in that part of the page will not be search engine friendly
- Plain Language URLs – If you are using a content management platform you may have long URLs which end in a string of numbers and characters. Wherever possible you should use technology or masking to change this to regular plain language. Ideally, the name should have dashes between each word, which are read as spaces, and be in lower case since not all servers can resolve upper and lower cases automatically
- Speed – Do you accommodate visitors with low connection speeds to the extent possible, minimizing page download times for visitors and in most cases, keep your HTML pages under 100KB? A heavy page is toxic to a search engine spider which wants to quickly move through the Web and not be hung up
- XML Sitemap – You should include a sitemap.xml file in your root directory. Submit this file to Google using your Webmaster Tools account. Have trouble creating this? Purchase a Powermapper license and you can easily make a sitemap.xml file on the fly
- Employ useful hierarchies – Examine the site architecture of the domain to assure intelligent and useful hierarchies. For example, if you have a top-level button called “about” you need to have a landing page for “about” along with any sub-pages that belong to that parent directory
- Make all pages searchable – A hierarchy directory structure allow search engine spiders to do their work; databases are not searchable — have gateway pages where they exist
- Remove old content from server – Remove old content from the server so only the content you wish to field to users is available. It is always amazing to me what kind of junk I discover out on the server from sites that have are not well maintained. Removing it from your page navigation structure and not the server doesn’t do the trick – you must always delete the file from the server as well or it will continue to turn up on search engines
- Cross-browser testing – Has your website been developed and tested in multiple browsers (IE and Firefox) and versions, operating systems, connection speeds and screen resolutions, based on an analysis of your audience?
- Permanent redirect – You should set up a permanent redirect (technically called a “301 redirect”) between the site root and the www address. That way when people skip the www part of your address the search will still resolve to your site. Once you do this, you will get full search engine credit for your work on these sites
- Really Simple Syndication – Use RSS feeds on the domain, and configure an auto-discovery code in the header tag so the URL displays the RSS button. This will help users link to your content and increase the backward links to your website.
WANT A COMPLETE SEO CHECKUP?
Isn’t it time to turn your coal mine into a gold mine? For those interested in a complete SEO check-up my complete scorecard — covering nearly 70 SEO factors — is now a special Emerald Strategies service for web managers. My 16 golden SEO practices list leaves some things out. For example, best practices related to using directories and social media to your advantage are not on this mini-list but are part of my complete SEO checkup service.
Each SEO checkup includes my analysis of your site in an easy to read scorecard format, complete with an action plan you can start right away to boost your find-ability online. Contact us today to find out how we can help you enjoy golden SEO on your site.