I initially wrote this outline of SEO basics for a perspective client but I think it can bring value to everyone, so I decided to convert it to a blog post.
There is still a mis-perception that SEO is adding in some meta tags, dusting off your hands, and calling it a day.
It is not.
Improving your SEO is far more than implementing some outdated HTML tricks from the 90’s. Yes, some improvement might be made by simply updating your metatags, but to really get the most return on your investment, you really need to have a good foundation for your website that makes it effortless for your website’s success… What you really need it a website built on an SEO friendly framework as a start AND then you need to keep the momentum going with a comprehensive approach to your SEO from multiple strategies, to combine for better results.
It is not required, but building your website in WordPress or another Content Management System (CMS) can help nudge you in the right direction by allowing you to edit page title tags, the site name, alt tags, and human friendly URLs. If you are using a legacy system for your website, most likely you can’t update these. If your website is in flash still, then search bots are completely skipping over your website. (If your website is in flash, please contact a website designer/ development right now and get a search-able site.)
That being said, not all CMSs aid in SEO, some make frivolous and redundant coding. Some bloat page speeds down with a lot of scripts. Some give crazy alpha-numeral page names, such as instead of website.com/about, you get website.com/12m2kjl12391n1, so chose your CMS wisely.
Multiple factors play into SEO and they vary in importance by SEO provider, but by far the most popular web search provider is Google.
Things that play into SEO are (but not limited to):
Your website URLs
Human friendly URLs are also positive for a search bot trying to understand your page’s content and page hierarchy. For instance, the URL “http://www.demo.com/#!page2bj/cj2Xg9” does not hint at the content of the page and it’s relevance to the homepage. Conversely, a URL like http://www.demo.com/services/ is easy for a human to remember and share with friends, and helps the search bots figure out what type of content can be found on this page.
Mobile Friendly, Responsive Design
You may have heard of mobile-gedom as a hot topic last year but are not sure what it means to your own business. Google now gives a preference between two websites, everything else being equal, to the website that uses responsive CSS which allows for easy navigation of a website on your mobile devices, like an iPad or smart phone, will be listed first on a search results page.
I am not certain of your current website structure and it’s capabilities, but if your current website does not appear to resize to different screen sizes and is suffering a penalty from that in Google search results. Go ahead and try to adjust your browser window to not be the full width of your screen now and see if the layout adjusts, or if you now have to scroll left-to-right to view all of your content.
Another advantage of this is you can completely customize your website’s design to the user’s screen size. You really want to make a good first impression to your target audience by giving them the best web experience possible.
A blog is a great thing for SEO as Google prefers websites that give value to web searchers. Using keywords for the sake of using keywords actually is ‘punishable’ by search engines and can lower your rankings. By having a blog, you can boost your SEO with relevant and useful posts for web searchers that packed full of keywords and knowledge.
You an also use the blog to establish yourself as an expert in your field, giving you a marketing advantage that goes beyond just SEO.
There is More to SEO than What You Can See at the Surface Level
Those were tips that you can visually see that contribute to your SEO, but there a lot of things that you may not see. Imagine these like replacing knob-and-tube wiring for modern electrical wiring; even though you don’t see it in your face daily, it is really an upgrade worth investing in.
Your Image Names
Yes, even this can contribute to boosting the reliability of your keywords.
Alt tags on Image and Title Tags on Links
In addition to the file name, the alt tag and the title tags can help, if you are consistent and strategic.
These contribute to SEO and are appreciated by user with screen readers (such as people with poor vision). A search bot has no idea what is going on in a photo, and the only clue to it is your alt tag. The same goes for Title tags; they clue in search bots and screen-readers as to what happens with a link.This is another place to strengthen your keyword count.
Just be sure your alt tags to bring a valuable description to people with sight impairments, first, then contribute to SEO second.
Your HTML5 Outline
This is something that you won’t see visually, but it helps a search bot to understand the content of your page and it’s hierarchy.
Search for an HTML5 Outliner. There are add-ons for Chrome and Firefox, and there are websites that can outline your HTML. This will give you a good idea of how search engines are breaking-down your content.
If you are doing a DIY website, you most likely will not have a good HTML outline or have control to edit it.
It takes time
There is no magic pill to save all of your SEO needs. You need to constantly improve your website and add content. You need to add and adjust keywords as trends may change. You can be your competitors are taking the time to do this; will you be left in the dust or racing in front of them?
Your SEO tweaks won’t change your SEO rankings overnight in most cases. If you do a website overhaul, there can be massive improvements in your SEO if it is under the right circumstances.
Can’t I Just Use These Tips On My Own?
I am letting you know about these, because it is not just these techniques that help boost SEO. It is a comprehensive and cohesive approach to your programming, framework and content. Using just one technique alone is not enough. Using these, plus the tricks that I bring to clients that they don’t think to ask for, plus doing what is just right and in the best interest of the client for my own conscience, are combined to give the best overall result for them.
I can’t put my name on something that I am not proud of, and I don’t bother working on something I know I won’t be proud of. A complete overhaul is really what you most likely need to boost your web presence, anything less won’t bring in the results you want. Most websites I see are bad, some are okay, a few may be good. I will be honest with you and tell you if you need a new website or if the current one you have is money well spent; there is no point in re-designing a good website for my designer-soul.
Evaluate your website and ask yourself how it scores up against these guidelines. Remember, just because your website looks good visually, doesn’t mean it is primed for SEO.