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Guide To Search Engine Optimization

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I can’t begin to tell you how many superb looking websites we come across in our business only to have the owner ask: “why aren’t people finding me on Google?” Therein is the problem, a beautiful website does mean squat to Google. We go under the hood of their superb website and make minor tweaks to optimize it for search. Within a short period of time, those same people who were wondering why they weren’t getting traffic from Google are loving their traffic and their rising search rank in Google.

This guide is meant to be a quick overview of ways you can integrate SEO techniques into the projects your working on. This saves time for both the designer and the client.

Website Structure

Website Structure

Navigation Structure – navigation made from javascript or – gulp – from flash are headaches for those trying to optimize your site. While many try and make the argument that fancy drop down menus and animated menu bars are great for the user experience, they do little to aid your SEO. A menu wrapped in code could prevent pages on your site from being indexed by the spiders crawling your site.

Javascript – the use of javascript should be selective at best. The Googlebot struggles to decipher and crawl long lines of unreadable code (read: javascript) to find the important information to index pages of your site. You want Google to crawl to the deep recesses of your site so don’t force it to stop before it gets started.

Accepted URLs – use the attribute to specify your desired URL for a page. Why? In cases where nearly identical pages appear on two different URLs (because of category choice, etc)  you want to be able to tell Google which one they should index and pass all relevant link value to. Failure to use this technique may actually penalize your content causing a loss in search ranking. This is a problem that should be easily avoided.

Unique Meta-Titles & Descriptions – changing a meta tag here and there on a site is not page optimization! You want a unique meta title and description on each page. While this may seem like 90s SEO, it is still very relevant (and overlooked) today. Keywords are all the rage today but giving your page proper meta titles and descriptions is far from a waste of time. Google may not always use the title and description you give it but at least you have told the search engines what’s on your site and if they do decide to use your supplied meta title and description, you have a leg up over anyone that doesn’t optimize their meta titles and descriptions.

Robots.txt – it is worth the time to make sure your robots.txt files doesn’t contain unnecessary code or directions for the search engine bots. In case you don’t know, the robots.txt file gives your site directions to the web robots on what it should find. A code slip could prevent the robots from reading any pages at all!

XML Sitemaps – this is not something many people get wrong nowadays. A sitemap should be available because it provides an index to search engines of all the pages on your site. This leads to faster indexing and better search results.

Website Speed – no one wants a site that is slow to load and navigate. But its more than that now. The growing importance of site loading speed is seen in the changes Google has made in monitoring it. It is easier for us to see so it must be more important to Google. In addition to providing the right information, Google is also trying to improve the user experience. This means providing sites that are clean and fast as opposed to full of content and keywords. This should play an increasingly important role in SEO and responsible coding is becoming very important.

Content Factors

Content Language – Google uses the language the content is written in deciding which content is relevant for the user. English speaking users will get English based content. This becomes important when designing the website for international clients: localize the content language for the country you are targeting.

Create Unique Content – this may seem obvious but its always worth repeating. Creating unique, quality content that people actually care about generates more interactions via comments, shares, etc. These send the right message to Google and can help boost your site in search rankings.

Amount Of Content – more is better, right? Wrong. The Google algorithm has changed the definition of the “right” amount of content. It is important to consolidate pages that are duplicates of other pages. Create a tighter, streamlined site that is a hub of information rather than a site with many similar pages.

Link Density – the link density of your content is important. If you have too many links, it could make Google think that you are nothing more than a link farm and penalize you for it. Links should appear naturally in your content. If it feels like a place for a link, add one. Otherwise, do without.

Grammar & Spelling – how important are these aspects to Google? Probably not that important but it does contribute to the overall user experience. If people have trouble reading your site or are annoyed and don’t wish to ever go back, Google notices. Keep the user experience clean with spell check and a second read-through.

Location & Repetition Of Keywords – Its widely known Google places greater emphasis on keywords and links that appear higher on the page. It is important then to mention the keywords in the heading and again in the first paragraph, provided it look natural. Then repeat those keywords periodically through the rest of the content. Google will pick up on this. If you don’t keep it natural, Google will pick up on this too and penalize you for it.

Internal Linking Structures

Quantity Of Internal Links – Wikipedia has an awesome internal link structure that help it garner high search rankings. It provides very convenient links that provide a good flow to the website. Ever go to Wikipedia and find yourself several pages deep and wonder how you got there? Take this internal linking philosophy and apply it to your website.

Source Of Internal Links – it is important to encourage a wide variety of link sources in any link building campaign. Make sure you have a good balance between breadcrumb, content, and navigation links or they will lose their power.

Quality Factors

Gorgeous Design – can Google tell how visually stunning your website design is? No, but it can gauge the reaction of visitors to your site. Chances are if you have a really good design, people will stay long, visit more pages, and come back more often. You don’t need to invest thousands of dollar in a web design to accomplish this either. Simply making a streamlined website that is easy to navigate will make an adequate design.

Cutomized Designs – using the basic template and doing nothing to customize it or make it your own sends a signal to Google that you probably aren’t creating high quality content either.

Business Info – adding things like addresses, a privacy policy, and a phone number show Google that you are a reputable business trying to create a reputable brand. These can make a difference in how well your website performs. Think of asking yourself this question: would you trust your credit card information to your website with the design and information on there?




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