Today, we hear lots of buzz about SEO (search engine optimization). Generally the goal is to increase your keyword ranking in google, yahoo and bing. This is certainly important. However, basic website optimization is the starting point. It’s a must, if you have a website, whether personal or business. The best thing you can do is make it search engine friendly. Forget about buzz words, link building strategies and quick fix SEO and online marketing companies and first focus on the basics. Not to say those things are not important, rather start with the basics and build from there. I like to refer to it as basic website optimization. Make it easy for the search engines to “read” and understand your website. There numerous tips regarding moving up your rankings and building an online presence, both of which are other topics.
Here are 10 basic tips to optimize a website. Remember, a website is virtually worthless if a search engine can’t read it or has trouble indexing it.
- Set up a Webmaster Tools Account: Set up a google webmaster tools (GWT) account and submit your site map. Bing and Yahoo also have their own versions of this. But for the basics, go to where the big fish is first, then to bing and yahoo as you move forward.
- Make Sure Every Page has a Unique Meta Title: Make sure every page has a very clear and correct meta title. This is first thing shown in a search result by the search engine. Capitalize the letter of each word, just like you would for a title of a page. Don’t have any pages with the same title. Google webmaster tools can help you find duplicate titles, should you have a large website. Ideally no more than 65 characters.
- Every Page Needs a Meta Description: Each page should also have a unique description. This is generally what is displayed under the title in a search engine result. It should be about 150 characters and tell the reader what they will find on the page. GWT can tell you if you have any duplicate meta descriptions. Meta keywords are not very important, but I still add a couple very descriptive ones to each page.
- Original Content is a Must: This is critical. Your content should be original and should be focused on what the page is about. The more the better. Keep in mind, your content should be organized, which will be covered in site structure.
- Have A Clear Site Structure: The hierarchy of your site should be clear cut. Main pages and sub-pages. It’s hard to have an exact rule here, but be consistent. If it’s a product website, then product categories are on top and products that fit the category below the category. If it’s a blog, you can use categories and/or tags. But, don’t over do it.
- Descriptive Image Names: A search engine can’t see what the image is, they can only read the file and image names you provide. A search engine is processing data, so name your images to be reflective of what the image is. If the image is of a blue frog then the image file name should be blue-frog.jpg. The alternate text should be Blue Frog and the Caption should be Blue Frog. Alt text is what a search engine reads, caption is seen when a user hovers over an image. Search engines take all 3 into account. It’s even better, if this image is also on a page that is about blue frogs.
- Organized Breadcrumb Trail: A breadcrumb trail (links on the top of the page below the header should be used if possible to help the user understand the site structure. These text links should support the page(s) they are linking to. For example; Home >> Shoes >> Outdoor or Home >> Articles >> How-To.
- New Content & Page Focus: Each page should have a purpose and fit into the site structure. Duplicate content is never a good thing. Search engines love, new content. Add it regularly.
- Descriptive Internal Text Links: Text links in your site are a huge thing. Every page in your site should be linked to. The text link should indicate what you will find on the page. Click here doesn’t help a search engine know what it will find of the page. If the page you are linking to is about blue frogs, the text link should be blue frogs. Anytime you are linking to the blue frog page, the text link should be a version of blue frog, such as big blue frog, blue frogs etc. You can add more descriptive text to the link if it is on multiple pages such as big blue frogs, but all text links in your site with blue frog in it, should always point to your blue frog page. Don’t ever have the same text link, link to 2 different pages. As that will dilute its’ value.
- Set up a Site Map: Set up a site map with links to all the important pages in your website. These text links should support the page you are linking to. You also need to set up an XML site map. There are plug-ins you can get for this or have your developer do it. (any good web developer can do this for you.). The XML site map should automatically update when pages are added, updated or re-directed. See http://www.sitemaps.org/ for more info on this.
Once you give the basic web site optimization in place and your xml site map is being regularly pinged to the search engines, then you will have much better success trying strategies to improve your search engine rankings. Additional do’s and don’t can be found at google’s webmaster guidelines.
Author: Scott Bintz
CEO of RealTruck.com