I run a few different client sites and some personal ones and wanted to share with the greater community different tips on how to improve your search engine ranking. Alot of different sites offer this information with big price tags and most of it is just common sense.
what is it?
Search engine optimization is a methodology of strategies, techniques and tactics used to increase the amount of visitors to a website by obtaining a high-ranking placement in the search results page of a search engine (SERP) – including Google, Bing, Yahoo and other search engines.
web page titles
Your title tag should contain between 10 and 70 characters.
Make sure your title tag is explicit and contains your most important keywords.
Be sure that each page has a unique title tag.
Ideally, your meta description should contain between 70 and 160 characters (spaces included).
Meta descriptions allow you to influence how your web pages are described and displayed in search results.
Ensure that each of your web pages have a unique meta description that is explicit and contains your most important keywords for each page
(these appear in bold when they match part or all of the user’s search query).
A good description acts as a potential organic advertisement and encourages the viewer to click through to your site.
Check your Google Webmaster Tools (Search Appearance > HTML Improvements) for any warning messages to identify meta descriptions that are too long/short or duplicated across more than one page.
Make sure your website uses h1 to h6 headings.
Use your keywords in the headings and make sure the first level (<H1>) includes your most important keywords.
While it is important to ensure every page has an <H1> tag, never include more than one per page. Instead, use multiple <H2> - <H6> tags.
Repeating Keywords in Content
You should run a count of the amount of times the top words appear on a page. For example if you are running a blog using the keyword ‘blog’ alot will help the search engine understand that your page is about blogs.
It’s important to carry out keyword research to get an understanding of the keywords that your audience is using. There are a number of keyword research tools available online to help you choose which keywords to target.
You want to also make sure that the keywords that you use in your text also appewar in your page description and also title.
Make sure all your images have alt tags. This allow search engines to understand what the image is.
Remember that search engine crawlers cannot actually “see” images, so the alternative text attribute allows you to assign a specific description to each image. They are also used by screen readers to help provide some context for the visually impaired.
Adding alternative text can help to reinforce how relevant a page is to its target keywords, while also making images more likely to be displayed in the Google Images search results.
Check the images on your website and make sure effective alternative text is specified for each image.
Restrict the number of characters in alt text to 150, including spaces, and minimize the size of images to optimize your website’s page load times.
Make sure your Text to HTML code ratio is higher than 15 percent.
A ratio between 25 and 70 percent is ideal. When it goes beyond that, the page might run the risk of being considered spam.
As long as the content is relevant and gives essential information, it is a plus to have more of it.
This is the number of pages on your website that are indexed by search engines. It’s important to aim to have all of your web pages crawled and indexed by the search engines, as this gives you more opportunity for your website to be found.
A low number (relative to the total number of pages/URLs on your website) indicates that there is an issue, whether it’s due to a bad internal linking structure, or you’re unknowingly preventing search engines from crawling your pages.
Make sure your website’s XML sitemap is present and you have submitted it to the major search engines. Building backlinks to your website’s internal pages will also help bots to discover, crawl and index them, while building authority to help them rank in the search engines.
Check Google Webmaster Tools under ‘Google Index’ and ‘Crawl’ to keep track of the status of your site’s indexed/crawled pages.
It’s also a good idea to ensure you have a rel=”Publisher” tag for linking to your Google+ Page. This type of authorship markup is great for your brand. It ensures that your company is featured in SERPs, as opposed to only individual authors as is common with rel=”Author”.
Make sure your webpages have links to other parts of your site to make it easier both for the crawler bots to find your content and also your users. Using clear navigation to the major sections of your site and also having sub-navigation to find your content is a must.
While there’s no exact limit to the number of links you should include on a page, best practice is to avoid exceeding 200 links.
Links pass value from one page to another, but the amount of value that can be passed is split between all of the links on a page. This means that adding unnecessary links will dilute the potential value attributed to your other links.
Using the Nofollow attribute prevents value from being passed to the linking page, but it’s worth noting that these links are still added to the equasion when calculating the value that is passed through each link, so Nofollow links can also dilute pagerank.
Broken links send users to non-existing web pages. They are bad for your site’s usability, reputation and SEO. If you find broken links in the future, take the time to replace or remove each one.
Backlinks are links that point to your website from other websites. They are like letters of recommendation for your site.
Since this factor is crucial to SEO, you should have a strategy to improve the quantity and quality of backlinks.
Make sure you redirect your web users to a single host. Don’t allow the site to be resolved from multiple locations ie www.dodwell.us and dodwell.us
Pages that load successfully both with and without www. are treated as duplicate content!
Be sure that www.dodwell.us and dodwell.us are not running in parallel.
Redirecting requests from a non-preferred hostname is important because search engines consider URLs with and without “www” as two different websites.
You should first set your preferred domain in Google Webmaster Tools, then use a 301 redirect to divert traffic from your non-preferred domain.
Your website’s IP address should forward to your website’s domain name.
To check this for your website, enter your IP address in the browser and see if your site loads with the IP address. Ideally, the IP should redirect to your website’s URL or to a page from your website hosting provider.
If it does not redirect, you should do an htaccess 301 redirect to make sure the IP does not get indexed.
You should setup a robots.txt file to help describe how your website should be crawled.
A robots.txt file allows you to restrict the access of search engine robots that crawl the web and it can prevent these robots from accessing specific directories and pages. It also specifies where the XML sitemap file is located.
You can check for errors in your robots.txt file using Google Webmaster tools by selecting ‘Robots.txt Tester’ under ‘Crawl’. This also allows you to test individual pages to make sure that Googlebot has the appropriate access.
A sitemap lists URLs that are available for crawling and can include additional information like your site’s latest updates, frequency of changes and importance of the URLs. This allows search engines to crawl the site more intelligently.
It is also good practice to specify your sitemap’s location in your robots.txt file.
It’s important to only include pages that you want the search engines to crawl, so avoid any that have been blocked via your robots.txt file. Check the URLs to ensure that none of them cause redirects or return error codes. This includes being consistent with your URLs, for example, including your preferred URLs (with or without www.), including the correct protocol (http or https) and making sure URLs all end with or without a trailing slash.
Consider rewriting your URLs.
Your site’s URLs should not contain unnecessary elements that make them look complicated. A URL must be easy to read and remember for users. Search engines need URLs to be clean and include your page’s most important keywords. Clean URLs are also useful when shared on social media as they explain the page’s content.
Underscores in the URLs
Underscores (these_are_underscores) in this URL and/or in your in-page URLs should be avoided. You should instead use hyphens (these-are-hyphens) to optimize your SEO.
While Google treats hyphens as word separators, it does not for underscores.
Flash should only be used for specific enhancements. Although Flash content often looks nicer, it cannot be properly indexed by search engines.
Avoid full Flash websites to maximize SEO. This advice also applies to AJAX.
Frames can cause problems on your web page because search engines will not crawl or index the content within them. Avoid frames whenever possible and use a NoFrames tag if you must use them.
Domain age matters to a certain extent and newer domains generally struggle to get indexed and rank high in search results for their first few months (depending on other associated ranking factors). Consider buying a second-hand domain name.
Do you know that you can register your domain for up to 10 years? By doing so, you will show the world that you are serious about your business.
In this tough and competitive internet marketing world, content marketing rules. While publishing your content on other sites might be a good strategy, publishing it on your own site garners more benefits.
Starting a blog is a great way to engage with your audience and increase your online visibility by attracting qualified traffic from new sources.
Use these tips to optimize your blog and improve performance.
If you don’t feel that a blog is right for your business, consider other ways to build useful evergreen content, such as online guides and whitepapers.
The number of people using the Mobile Web is huge; over 75 percent of consumers have access to smartphones. Your website should look nice on the most popular mobile devices.
Tip: Use an analytics tool to track mobile usage of your website.
Make the most important buttons/links large enough to be tapped easily.
Ensure that your tap targets are large enough (at least 48 pixels in height and width) so that your visitors can press them easily. It’s also important to provide extra spacing both horizontally and vertically around your tap targets (at least 32 pixels) to prevent users from accidentally pressing on the wrong target.
Your website should not embed any special types of web content, such as Flash, Silverlight or Java, so your content can be accessed on all devices.
Font Size Legibility
When viewing the site on a mobile/tablet device the text needs to be legible.
You can find additional font recommendations for mobile devices in Google’s typography guidelines for Android.
Ensure that your content fits within a specified viewport size. Using frameworks like Bootstrap helps you design websites that render well in mobile devices.
Keep in mind that since the width (in CSS pixels) of the viewport may vary, your page content should not solely rely on a particular viewport width to render well. Consider these additional tips:
- Avoid setting large absolute CSS widths for page elements.
- If necessary, CSS media queries can be used to apply different styling depending on screen size.
- Ideally, serve responsively-sized images.
Ensure that your webpage loads quickly. Do this by the following:
- Optimize images
- Leverage browser caching
- Minify HTML
- Avoid landing page redirects
See Google’s PageSpeed Insights Rules for more information on how to improve each of the elements in this section.
Keep your URLs short and avoid long domain names when possible.
A descriptive URL is better recognized by search engines. A user should be able to look at the address bar and make an accurate guess about the content of the page before reaching it (e.g., http://www.mysite.com/en/products).
Keep in mind that URLs are also an important part of a comprehensive SEO strategy. Use clean URLs to make your site more “crawlable” by Google.
Resource: Search for a good domain name. If no good names are available, consider a second hand domain. To prevent brand theft, you might consider trademarking your domain name.
Ensure your website is setup with a favicon. Make sure this favicon is consistent with your brand.
Custom 404 Page
Take advantage of the opportunity to provide a beautiful 404 Error Page for your visitors.
Add a conversion form for repeat visitors. It could be used to sign up for a subscription, get an email address of a visitor or close an online sale.
Converting visitors into prospects/clients is probably the most important goal for your website.
After adding a conversion form to your site, it is important that you optimize your website to boost conversions.
Above the Fold Content
Place the most important content above the fold line (what is rendered on the screen when you first load the page without scrolling).
When designing your homepage, make sure that your most important content is placed above the fold (the top section, which is visible without scrolling).
Google’s ‘Page layout algorithm’ was built around feedback from users after many complained that they were having difficulty finding the content that was relevant to their search queries when arriving on webpages.
This means that Google pays attention to your ‘above the fold’ content, so try to add useful content and avoid including too many ads.
Tip: Check Google Analytics to find out what the most common screen resolutions are among your site visitors.
Page size affects the speed of your website; try to keep your page size below 300 Kb.
Tip: Use images with a small size and optimize their download with gzip.
Site speed is becoming an important factor for ranking high in Google search results and enriching the user experience.
Resources: Check out Google’s developer tutorials for tips on how to to make your website run faster.
Monitor your server and receive SMS alerts when your website is down with a web monitoring service.
Use the META Language Attribute to declare the intended language of your website.
Tips for multilingual websites:
Define the language of the content in each page’s HTML code.
Specify the language code in the URL as well (e.g., “dodwell.us/fr/mycontent.html”).
This is a special CSS style sheet which ensures that unnecessary interface designs and images are left out when printing pages from your site, saving the user a lot of ink.
It is just another way to provide a rich user-experience.
Structured Data Markup microformats rel=”home”
Structured Data Markup is used to generate Rich Snippets in search engine results. It is a way for website owners to send structured data to search engine robots; helping them to understand your content and create well-presented search results.
Google supports a number of rich snippets for content types, including: Reviews, People, Products, Businesses and Organizations, Recipes, Events, Videos, and Music. If your website covers one of these topics, then we suggest that you annotate it with Schema.org using microdata.
Register the various extensions of your domain to protect your brand from cybersquatters.
Register the various typos of your domain to protect your brand from cybersquatters.
Malicious bots scrape the web in search of email addresses and plain text email addresses are more likely to be spammed.
Ensure that your domain isn’t used for any malware or phishing attacks. Once a domain has been used for either of these things it’s very hard to recover. Ensure server and website security by activily reviewing code and site setup.
Your server’s IP address/location has little impact on your SEO. Nevertheless, try to host your website on a server which is geographically close to your visitors. Search engines take the geolocation of a server into account as well as the server speed.
Website speed has a huge impact on performance, affecting user experience, conversion rates and even rankings. By reducing page load-times, users are less likely to get distracted and the search engines are more likely to reward you by ranking your pages higher in the SERPs.
Conversion rates are far higher for websites that load faster than their slower competitors.
See Google’s PageSpeed Insights Rules for more information on how to improve each of the elements in this section.
Web analytics let you measure visitor activity on your website. You should have at least one ‘3rd party’ analytics tool installed, but It can also be good to install a second in order to cross-check the data.
It also can be used down the road if you ever wish to sell your website to someone as proof of it’s popularity.
Use valid markup that contains no errors. Syntax errors can make your page difficult for search engines to index.
W3C is a consortium that sets web standards.
Specifying language/character encoding can prevent problems with the rendering of special characters.
Prevent visitors from browsing your directory by accessing it directly, this is excellent from a security standpoint.
Turn your server signature off. This is excellent from a security standpoint.
Using an SSL certificate creates an encrypted connection between your visitor’s browser and your website’s server adding an extra layer of security. In 2014, Google announced that HTTPS would become part of their ranking algorithm. When moving to HTTPS, follow these best practices for a smooth transition:
- Use a serious issuer to purchase your SSL certificate
- Redirect all of your HTTP pages to the HTTPS version of your website
- Use a Security Token Service (STS) in your headers
- Renew your SSL certificate every year, before it expires
- Make sure that all of your content (CSS, etc.) is linked to HTTPS
- Update your XML sitemap to ensure the URLs include HTTPS and update the robots.txt file to reference this version
- Register the HTTPS website in Google & Bing Webmaster Tools.
Take care of your listings in local directories; since maps are now an integral part of search results, your G+ Local page may have more visitors than your website!
It is important to make sure that your business details are correct in each directory where you are listed. Find the directories in your country (USA, UK, Spain, France, Canada, Australia, Brazil, and India) and enhance your listings with pictures, video, schedules and as many customer reviews as possible.