SEO Best Practices – Make Your Website For People, Not just Search Engines

No matter the size of the website I’m providing SEO advice for, many of the same standard SEO principles apply to ensure the best return on investment for clients. After all, at FirstClick we specialise in making businesses money!

This post covers just a few of the broader SEO best practices, from the basics of simply having clean URLs to the more involved task of gaining valuable back links to your website.

Navigation & URLs

  • Use words in URLs rather than parameters or symbols. This helps to quickly identify the nature of the content on a page
  • Separate any words with hyphens (“–“) rather than spaces or underscores. This makes it easier for both people and search engines to read
  • Ensure every page on your website is accessible from at least one static text link on your website.

Content

  • Any content on your website should be legible and presented in HTML format in order to be accessible on various devices (desktop, laptop, mobile phone etc), as well as search engines
  • Search engines are unable to read Flash, so if your website is built entirely of Flash, consider building a HTML version
  • Focus on providing information-rich pages on your site that fully describe your products or services
  • You’ll enjoy increased traffic and sales by producing your own content for pages rather than copying or repurposing from elsewhere. Search engines frown very heavily on duplicate content and users too don’t enjoy reading content that is found elsewhere
  • Do consider the keywords that people will use to search for your products and services but don’t overdo it. Stuffing keywords into a paragraph won’t read very well for either people or search engines. In fact, a search engine might even impose an ‘over-optimisation’ penalty if you really go to town on listing nothing but keywords! Mentioning keywords, and variations of, 2-3 times in content is usually enough for search engines
  • Consider starting a company blog with useful information related to your industry. Ensure you contribute to your blog regularly and promote it via social channels, emails and word of mouth
  • Publish remarkable content. Yep, remarkable. Do you have some specialist information or insight that the world would love to learn about? People love to share great things and more sharing means more links.

Images

  • Ensure that you resize any images you add to a page to ensure they don’t take a long time to load
  • Ensure that you add an ‘alt’ attribute to every image on your site. This is useful for people and search engines that are unable to ‘see’ the image and need an ‘alternative’ description of what the image is.

Title Tags

  • Ensure every page on your site has a unique and descriptive title tag
  • Keep your title short and preferably under 68 characters, including spaces. Search engines only display up to this number of characters in search results
  • Use your keywords in your title tag at least once. Try to add your keywords towards the start of the title tag, as this helps to quickly identify the content on the page.

Meta Descriptions

  • Ensure every page has a unique meta description. This includes product variants and even seemingly unimportant pages such as a privacy policy
  • Ensure your meta description effectively describes the content of a page. If the page describes a product or service, use your meta description as a two sentence opportunity to pitch. This can help increase click through rates, resulting in increased traffic!
  • Including a keyword in the meta description won’t directly result in a better ranking, but it will bebolded in search results and can also help improve click through rate.

Keywords Field

  • Avoid using the meta keywords field altogether! It is synonymous with low value spam websites (that search engines hate!) and has not had any positive impact on rankings for several years.

Speed

  • As part of the overall user experience of visiting a website it’s important that pages are fast to load. You can assist this process by ensuring that all pages are a reasonable size and are not bloated with large images or unnecessary javascript files
  • As a rule of thumb, try to keep any page under 1mb in size. You can use tools such as Google Page Speed and Yahoo YSlow to help troubleshoot as well as get information about page speed from your search engine Webmaster Tools account.

Links

  • When building links to your site, always be conscious of whether the link will provide you withlong term value
  • Try to build links to your site that will drive traffic/enquiries as well as benefit SEO
  • Avoid listing your site on a site that exists solely to link to other websites. These are generally shorter term in nature and flirt with search engine guidelines (if not now then in the future)
  • Utilise your existing business relationships for links. Got a supplier? Ask them to link to you! Got loyal customers who love you? Ask them for a link/testimonial!
  • Leverage every facet of your Digital Marketing Strategy as a potential link opportunity
  • Use a combination of both your target keywords as well as your brand name when building links to a website. Ensuring you are seen as a trustworthy brand by search engines can benefit your rankings.

And finally… a golden SEO secret…

If you build a website that is accessible and useful, your chances of being seen in a positive light by visitors to your website, including search engines, increases greatly.

Be awesome and you’ll be rewarded for it :)

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