Practice make Man Perfect…..!!!
Over 12 years Web Marketing has identified and established its own search engine optimization best practices to ensure that a website not only meets, but exceeds minimum levels of search engine optimization.
These include all the “on page” items such as HTML coding (META tags, etc…), content creation and optimization, navigation style, call to action and more.
These include all the server related items such as analytics & tracking, redirects, site load times, directory/URL structures, SEO plugins & extensions and more.
These are all the external items, such as social media profiles and posting strategies, link profiles, Maps/Local Search, Google+ and more.
On Page Optimization Items
Keyword List Creation
META Title & Description Tags
1.) Content Strategy
Before content creation begins, thought needs to go into organizing and prioritizing what content should be created. This plan should line up with what the ranking objectives are. If attempting to rank for blue widgets, then content on blue widgets needs to exist. How much content is required, largely depends on how competitive the keyword/category is – the more competitive a topic is, the more content is required.
2.) Regular Content Additions
New content should be a daily, weekly or monthly occurrence. Fresh content not only provides signals to search engines that the site is current and relevant, but it’s also something that users expect and helps increase key metrics such as time on site, reduces bounce rates and other metrics.
3.) Related Content Creation
Content needs to be on theme and based on what keywords the copy is designed to target. Keep the topics focused on the target keywords.
4.) Content Optimization
All content will need to be optimized for maximum SEO impact. Optimization includes ensuring the content contains the appropriate keyword density, that there are keyword rich links to other sections/pages and that keyword rich headers & sub-headers are used. Never use graphics for content – all copy should be text based to ensure bots can crawl and read it.
5.) Avoid Duplicate Content
All content must be unique – duplicate content of any sort cannot be used. Search engines go to great lengths to exclude sites that use duplicate content from their search results. Using duplicate content will not only cause ranking issues with the page using the copy, but can cause site wide ranking & indexing issues.
Every effort must be made to re-write content coming from other sources. If content needs to be duplicated across multiple sections/categories, then the use of canonical tags to identify the main page is required.
6.) Content Organization & Location
Content needs to be logically organized on the site, not just so that search engines can crawl and index it, but also so users can easily navigate and search the content. Use the site to house content and video, not social media sites.
7.) Spelling & Grammar Errors
Ensuring your site is free of spelling and grammar errors is an important task that can’t be overlooked. Regular crawls to identify and correct issues must be performed – failure to do so can result in lower conversion rates and reduced rankings if the problems are significant enough. Nothing makes a site look more unprofessional than obvious spelling and grammatical issues.
Technical Optimization Items
Technical optimization items include how your content management system is configured and what plugins are installed, as well as various server related settings & configurations that can impact SEO performance.
Select either a www, or non-www version as the main site URL and setup appropriate 301 redirects to handle the desired configuration. Without these 301 redirects in place, search engines treat the two versions as two separate sites, which can have undesirable effects with search indexing.
Ensure that there are no unnecessary redirects on the home/entry page of the site. Some CMS or server configurations have default redirects that can cause major problems with how search engines crawl and index the site. Keep things simple, only use redirects when they are actually needed, and remove unnecessary, outdated and possibly damaging default redirects.
If pages are moved, ensure that 301 redirects are in place to redirect search engines to the new version of the page. 301 redirects also pass along the link authority of the page to the page the redirect points to, as well as making sure that users are finding the appropriate content.
If pages are removed and there is no new version available, use custom 404 error messages to manage the user experience. Ensure the server response is 404 so that search engines remove the page from the index.
Be aware of the impact that removing and renaming pages has with search engines. If a page on the site is ranking for a high value search term, and it’s suddenly removed without the use of a 301 redirect, significant traffic to the site can be lost, and regaining the ranking can be difficult, time consuming and costly.
Things change on a website all the time and it’s surprising how easy it is to wind up with a site that’s full of outdated broken links and 500 server errors.
Broken links and server errors impact conversion rates as users struggle to find what they’ve come to the site for, and search engines will devalue a site, or remove it from the index completely, due to broken links and server errors.
Running regular crawls to identify and repair outdated links is a vital maintenance task.
Ensure that all code passes basic error checks. Having an error free site ensures that search engines will be able to easily crawl and index the site.
Ensuring that the site works across Chrome, IE, Safari and FireFox may be challenging and time consuming, but is worth it to provide users and search engines with a predictable and stable experience.
For Joomla, WordPress and other content management systems, plugins, modules or extensions are available that create dynamic HTML and XML sitemaps. For large custom sites, development will be required to create dynamic HTML and XML sitemaps. For smaller sites that don’t have many changes to pages, static HTML and XML files can be used.
HTML sitemaps make it easy for users to find and navigate sites with large volumes of pages, they also give search engines one single page with links to all main sections.
XML sitemaps provide search engines with a document that contains links to all pages. XML sitemaps are then submitted via Google & Bing Webmaster Tools, which they then re-index on a daily/weekly basis.
Site load times greatly impact conversion rates, and have become an increasingly important factor in search engine ranking algorithms. Slow loading sites are devalued in favor of faster loading sites due to the increased user experience faster loading sites provide.
Depending on the website, there are many ways to increase page loads, some examples include image compression and image hosting, loading fewer external objects, allow unconditional caching, and minimizing code bloating.
Regular server monitoring should be performed (on a simulated slow connection) and developers should be pushed to provide lean, fast loading pages.
Nothing can kill rankings as quickly as a server that’s down regularly. Search engines devalue sites that have constant uptime issues.
Monitoring server uptime is essential so that issues can be identified and solutions implemented immediately.
Page and folder names should be optimized using keywords and unnecessary folder depth should be avoided. Keep everything as close to the root level as possible, and when folders are required, use logical keyword oriented folder names. Eliminate session IDs and other parameters that effect URLs.
Each URL is treated by search engines as a separate page, so make sure that pages aren’t being replicated, and aren’t available using multiple URLs. If this can’t be avoided, used canonical tags to tell search engines which version is the master.
File names for images should be chosen logically, using keywords where appropriate. The names for images should provide an indication of their content.
As with the directory structure, keep folder depth to a minimum for images – and name sub-folders using keywords where possible.
All images should have an ALT and Title tag, this helps users with accessibility issues (which may be a legal requirement for your organization), and also gives search engines with another signal as to the theme/topic of the page they are crawling.
Sites that provide PDF document downloads should ensure the following optimization elements are being used:
Minimal sub-folder usage
Keyword rich folder names
Keyword rich file names
Keyword rich document titles
Keyword rich descriptions
META data fields should be completed on all documents
Leverage tags and accessibility features
Use Alt tags for images
Link back to the site within the document
Enable write protection on all documents
Provide HTML versions of all documents
Being able to track all key metrics and ensuring the accuracy of analytics tracking is vital in being able to make informed business decisions.
Evaluation of what key metrics are important is required, as is testing and confirmation that analytics is accurately tracking is required. Read more about SEO Campaign Key Metrics.
Off page optimization is all about link building. Since the number and quality of links pointing to your website has the largest impact on rankings and overall search engine visibility, a great deal of attention should be spent on this area.
Since Google invented PageRank, a system that analyzes a site’s inbound links, and determines a site’s authority based on these links, all search engines have implemented similar systems to rank the billions of pages online today.
A site’s link profile is important because link-based factors have such a huge bearing on how a site ranks. Through links, search engines can analyze the popularity of a given page based on the number and popularity of pages linking to them, as well as identify metrics like trust, spam and authority.
Links should be built three ways:
1.) Social media – posts on social media channels that link to content residing on your site.
2.) Natural links – develop naturally when other webmasters link to your site.
3.) Blog links – carefully planned, natural and non-promotional posts on blogs.
There are pros and cons to each method, but a sound link building campaign should take all three into account.
Link campaigns should be monitored over time using tools like SEOMoz to track growth of links, coupled with other SEO reporting tools like ranking and analytics reports.
Social media campaign can provide a positive impact to SEO performance, provided the following rules are followed:
1.) Use social channels to promote content that lives on your site.
From an SEO standpoint, your goal is to build as many links as possible. You won’t be building links to your site if the content you generate lives on a social media URL. Make sure contests, videos and content lives on your domain, and then use social media channels to promote it.
2.) The more viral a social media campaign is, the bigger the impact to SEO.
The more your campaign is shared, the more links it builds. Even if the share links are being built to the social media channel you used to promote it, all these links increase the value of the link back to your site from the original post, resulting in increased rankings for your page.
Social media channels also provide another listing in the search engines, leverage this. Other social media elements can be leveraged in search results – these include using the author tag that’s used to identify your content, as well as review snippets which allow you to show user reviews directly in search results. These two items require code insertions made to the site’s HTML, which then change the description used in the search results for the page it’s implemented on.
Over the last 12mths Google has begun to show Google+ listings in the main search results area, so making sure that your organization is setup with a G+ profile is important. This requires the G+ account be tied to the site via a verification code snippet that’s inserted into the site HTML.
Ensuring that your organization has a Google Places account setup, and that it’s optimized and linked to the site will provide significant additional exposure for users performing geographic related searches in both Google web and map search.