Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) refers to techniques used to improve a web page’s ranking as an organic search result. Any other way of making a page appear high up on the results page will be a “Sponsored Link” or paid advertising through Google Adwords, commonly referred to as Search Engine Marketing (SEM).
There are many intricate modifications that can be made to a web page to improve its SEO. Consulting a professional before the launch of a new site or during a site redesign is always a good idea but there are some things to look out for before doing so.
- Be wary of any spam from SEO firms or #1 ranking guarantees. Achieving a #1 ranking on any search engine organically requires time and expertise and receiving any kind of spam should always be subjected to harsh scrutiny.
- Make sure the SEO methods are transparent and do not include shadow domains that use deceptive redirects to draw users or doorway pages loaded with irrelevant keywords.
- Do not do business with an SEO firm that use multiple aliases or has had domains removed form Google’s index. It is always good practice to crosscheck a site on a WHOIS directory.
- The title tag dominantly appears in a search result and should accurately and concisely describe the page. According to Google:
“The <title> tag should be placed within the <head> tag of the HTML document. Ideally, you should create a unique title for each page on your site.”[i]
<html> <head> <title>Brandon's Baseball Cards - Buy Cards, Baseball News, Card Prices</title> <meta name="description" content="Brandon's Baseball Cards provides a large selection of vintage and modern baseball cards for sale. We also offer daily baseball news and event information"> </head> </body>
- A description meta tag is a longer summary of the page that appears below the title if none of the page’s text is used. Google says:
“Adding description meta tags to each of your pages is always a good practice in case Google cannot find a good selection of text to use in the snippet.”
- A short, simple and relevant URL allows search engines to easily explore the website. According to Define Media Group Vice-President and SEO blogger Adam Sherk:
“Research shows that shorter, more descriptive URLs have higher click-through rates on search engine results pages, contributing to an increase in your search referral traffic.”[ii]
- Incorporate breadcrumb lists that allow users to navigate a site and make sure internal links follow a logical hierarchy. SEO blogger Andy Maclean says:
“Breadcrumbs are a great way for engines to understand how your site is structured and to pass link juice logically and evenly to the places you want it. For bigger sites especially I really wouldn’t advise not using breadcrumbs.”[iii]
- An HTML sitemap that simply has links to all or most of the important pages on a site is a good contingency plan for when users have trouble with navigation.
Search engines will crawl through this content as well, but submitting an XML Sitemap to Google’s Webmaster tools will ensure the site will be easily found.
<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?> <urlset xmlns="http://www.sitemaps.org/schemas/sitemap/0.9"> <url> <loc>http://www.brandonsbaseballcards.com/news/</loc> <changefreq>daily</changefreq> <priority>0.8</priority> </url> <url> <loc>http://www.brandonsbaseballcards.com/news/2008/</loc> </url> <url> <loc>http://www.brandonsbaseballcards.com/news/2009/</loc> </url> <url> <loc>http://www.brandonsbaseballcards.com/news/2010/</loc> </url> </urlset>
- Adding a custom 404 page for when users click on a broken link or navigate to a page that has been deleted will improve the user’s experience and the site’s traffic. According to Google:
“A good custom 404 page will help people find the information they’re looking for, as well as providing other helpful content and encouraging them to explore your site further.”
The 404 page should have a link back to the home page and be consistent with the design of the rest of the site. Google’s Webmaster Tools provides a widget that adds a search box and helpful alternatives to incorrect URLs.
No matter how easy a site is for search engines to crawl through, the primary concern should always be the quality of the content for the user. Any text should be clear and concise and with no grammar or spelling mistakes. Keeping content fresh and up-to-date will be more engaging for the user.
- Be mindful of which keywords will resonate with the site’s target audience. This is a good application for Google AdWords’ Keyword Tool that displays the search volume of each keyword variation.
- Anchor text, which describes a link, should be easy for users and Google to navigate and understand.
<a href="http://www.brandonsbaseballcards.com/articles/ten-rarest-baseball-cards.htm">Top Ten Rarest Baseball Cards</a>
Using the alt attribute with images works similarly to anchor text. These image filenames should not be generic (eg. “image1.jpg”) and should be short and descriptive for Google Images to easily understand. This will improve the site for the user, as this text will be displayed when the image cannot and Google Image Search will also find and understand the images better. Supplying an image sitemap will also achieve this.
- Add an interactive element to the site’s content such as a blog, forum or links to social media. CEO of Advice Interactive Group Bernadette Coleman says:
“If people see you actively sharing and promoting other people, they will be that much more likely to share and promote your stuff when the time comes. The time to make friends on social media channels is way before you need them.”[iv]
Adding buttons that encourage users to share and comment on content is also a good idea. A study of four million random tweets by SEO firm Bright Edge found websites that use buttons encouraging users to tweet about content received seven times as many mentions on Twitter as sites that didn’t.[v]
Assist Crawlers Effectively
- Incorporating a robots.txtfile in the site’s root directory will prevent search engines from crawling pages that are not useful to users if found in a search result.
User-agent: * Disallow: /images/ Disallow: /search/
(1) All compliant search engine bots (denoted by the wildcard * symbol) shouldn’t access and crawl the content under /images/ or any URL whose path begins with /search.
According to Google:
“Avoid allowing search result-like pages to be crawled – users dislike leaving one search result page and landing on another search result page that doesn’t add significant value for them.”
- Negative comment spam can be avoided by using the nofollow attribute. This can be achieved by adding rel=”nofollow” inside the link’s anchor tag.
<a href="http://www.shadyseo.com" rel="nofollow">Comment spammer</a>
(1) If you or your site’s users link to a site that you don’t trust and/or you don’t want to pass your site’s reputation, use nofollow.
Nowadays it is more important than ever that sites can be easily browsed on mobile devices.
- Create and submit a Mobile Sitemap using Google’s Webmaster Tools to ensure the site shows up in Google’s mobile search.
- Allow Google’s mobile crawlers to find the site by allowing any User-agent access.
SetEnvIf User-Agent "Googlebot-Mobile" allow_ua SetEnvIf User-Agent "Android" allow_ua SetEnvIf User-Agent "BlackBerry" allow_ua SetEnvIf User-Agent "iPhone" allow_ua SetEnvIf User-Agent "NetFront" allow_ua SetEnvIf User-Agent "Symbian OS" allow_ua SetEnvIf User-Agent "Windows Phone" allow_ua Order deny,allow deny from all allow from env=allow_ua
(2) An example of a mobile site restricting any access from non-mobile devices. Please remember to allow access from user agents including “Googlebot-Mobile”
[i] Google. (2010). Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide. http://static.googleusercontent.com/external_content/untrusted_dlcp/www.google.com/en//webmasters/docs/search-engine-optimization-starter-guide.pdf
[ii] Sherk, A. (2008). 10 practical tips for SEO success. Publishing Executive, http://www.pubexec.com/article/10-practical-tips-seo-success-401360/1
[iii] Maclean, A. (2013). Do we need breadcrumbs? Pro Q&A Forum. http://www.seomoz.org/q/do-we-need-breadcrumbs
[iv] Coleman, B. (2013). Content isn’t King, Trust is King. The Daily SEO Blog. http://www.seomoz.org/blog/content-isnt-king-trust-is-king
[v] Publishing Executive. (2011). Study: Sites With Tweet Buttons Drive More Mentions. http://www.pubexec.com/article/study-sites-with-tweet-buttons-drive-more-mentions/1