Search Engine Optimization can be a complicated and time-consuming endeavor. However, there are some small practices that can be implemented that don’t take too much time and that can really help your website gain a competitive edge in its web rankings. This is a list of ten such things compiled for your pleasure.
1. SEO Basics
Implementing the basics of SEO are among the easiest of tasks, and will yield the greatest results for your website.
The Title Tag is probably the most important part of a website for search engine optimization. It is the first thing the crawler will look at to determine your site’s subject matter. Your title tag should include some keywords, but not so many that your site be flagged for keyword stuffing. The order of words in your title tag is also important, and the closer important keywords are to the beginning of the title tag, the better it is for your rankings (I recommend a natural sounding flow to your title text). Although it varies by SERP, Google usually displays the first 65 to 75 characters of your title. This however, should not be a deterrent to use additional words or characters. Characters will be counted for web rankings even if they are not visible on the SERP. If it is your goal to optimized for localized search, than it is important to include localized keywords in the title area. You may also want to consider including branding for your overall site somewhere within the title space with some sort of separator, such as a hyphen. Make sure that all of your title tags are unique to their individual pages.
The Meta Description is also very important. It less important for rankings than it is for improving clickthrough rate, as it is usually the text that the user will read on the search page to decide whether they should click or not. In some cases the search engine will choose to display text from the page and not the text of the meta description. In this case, you should treat this as an indicator to rewrite your meta description text. It is worth noting that search engines usually only display the first 160 characters of the meta description, so it is important to keep your main message within that character count. The inclusion of more characters will likely be displayed truncated, displayed with ellipses. Although the keywords in meta descriptions don’t really effect search rankings, it is advised that the meta description differ for each page, so that the search engines don’t confuse the page for a duplicate.
Heading Tags are a very important factor for SEO. Search engines put an emphasis on the contents of these tags for determining what the site is about. It is important to note that the heading tags function hierarchically and should adhere to the correct structure. An H1 tag should always be included on a page, and an H2 tag should be used to break your writing down into further subsections. It is not necessary to overuse these subheading tags. They should only be used if it makes sense within your writing structure.
Using a Static URL Structure for your webpage or Permalink Format for your blog is advisable as a good SEO practice (although Googlebot can crawl dynamic URLs quite fine contrary to popular belief). Matt Cutts, the head of Google’s webspam team and a go-to resource on SEO for Google, has mentioned that the use of keywords in your URL can effect search rankings (albeit only slightly). I recommend your URL be representative of your page title, maybe with some unimportant words like “and” or “the” omitted to shorten the URL, and separated by hyphens (this page: “/ten-seo-tweaks”). Where this practice really shines through though and where it will have the greatest impact is on your page’s click-through rate. The reason for this is that people dislike long, meaningless URLs and they are more likely to click on a shorter one.
Although it isn’t necessary to have an XML Sitemap, it is still a good idea and will improve the crawl rate and indexation of your website. It becomes more important for large websites, or websites that are updated frequently for this reason. The sitemap should be validated and connected to your Google Webmaster Tools account.
2. Image Optimization
Since search engines can’t see or understand what is depicted in a picture, it is necessary that your provide search engines with details about images. Make sure to include a description of the image in the alt attribute within the img tag. You can also provide context to an image by using a descriptive filename. I recommend that you optimize the file size of your image to load at a decent speed, as this will help for SEO.
3. Webmaster Tools
Using Google Webmaster tools is a must for a website. It gives you great insight and control over the indexing of your website. You can check errors, perform geotargetting, remove an indexed page, reviewing inbound links, and many more functions that are very valuable for SEO. The Google Webmaster Central Blog has a very informative video entitled Using Webmaster Tools like an SEO that I recommend you check out for more information. In addition to Google Webmaster Tools, I recommend you also use Bing Webmaster Tools. It has a great interface that was designed with SEO in mind.
The advent of Google+ and the +1 button has sent shockwaves through the SEO world. For sometime now, social signals have been effecting search ranking, but not in the way that Google+ does. Webpages that have been +1’d by people in your circles will usually appear at the top of the search engine results page above other organic results, making a Google+ essential to your SEO strategies.
5. Social Networks
Sharing on social network other than Google+ can effect your search ranking a little bit (not nearly as much as with Google+ of course), and social signals will likely become more and more important to the future of search. Even if it doesn’t impact your search rankings, it is still recommended because it will only add to traffic and conversions for your website.
6. Google Authorship Markup
You can use rel=”author” on your website or blog to display your picture and author information next to a page in the SERP. The picture is linked to your Google+ profile. It can be used to add authority to your name and even improve click through rate (it helps your page stand out in the SERP). Cyrus Shepard recently wrote about he was able to further optimize his author picture to increase web traffic.
7. Social Meta Data
The use of Social Meta Data is will not have a direct effect on SEO, but will help with distribution amongst social networks which in turn effects SEO. Social signals have become increasingly important to search engine rankings. When your link is shared on a social network like Facebook or LinkedIn, social meta data will dictate the thumbnail, title, and description that will be displayed. If these aren’t set, they display poorly by default and fewer people will click on the link or reshare it. This is probably the most difficult to implement of the SEO tweaks that I am mentioning, and I apologize if it is confusing.
To Be Used With Facebook / Opengraph
First, modify the attributes of your <html> tag to look like <html xmlns:og=”http://opengraphprotocol.org/schema/” xmlns:fb=”http://ogp.me/ns/fb#” xmlns:og=”http://opengraphprotocol.org/schema/”>
Then, add the following to following to the <head> section of your webpage:
<meta property=”og:site_name” content=”Name of Website or Blog, Not the Page Name” />
Can be “article” or “website” depending on type of page.
<meta property=”og:type” content=”article” />
<meta property=”og:locale” content=”en_US” />
<meta property=”og:title” content=”Title For Your Webpage (Similar to Title Tag)” />
<meta property=”og:description” content=”Description Text for Webpage (Similar to Meta Description Tag Contents)” />
Image should be representative of the page in reference. It will appear as the thumbnail image when posted to Facebook and some other social networks.
<meta property=”og:image” content=”http://example.com/url_to_representative_image.jpg” />
To Be Used With Twitter Cards
Add the following to following to the <head> section of your webpage:
<meta name=”twitter:card” content=”summary”>
<meta name=”twitter:site” content=”@twitter_handle“>
<meta name=”twitter:creator” content=”@twitter_handle“>
Should be the Canonical URL of the Webpage
<meta name=”twitter:title” content=”Title For Your Webpage (Similar to Title Tag, Maxium 70 Characters)“>
<meta name=”twitter:description” content=”Description Text for Webpage (Similar to Meta Description Tag Contents, should be less than 200 characters)“>
Image should be representative of the page in reference. Must be at least 60px by 60px. Images greater than 120px by 120px will be resized and cropped in a square aspect ratio.
<meta name=”twitter:image” content=”http://example.com/url_to_representative_image.jpg“>
Make sure to check your implementation of these tags with Google’s Rich Snippet Testing Tool.
8. Keyword Research
Keyword research can be a long and tedious process to complete in full, but doing just a little bit can go a long way. I recommend optimized for 2 or 3 keywords, but it isn’t necessary to go crazy with them. Whatever you write should be natural sounding, maintaing an organic flow.
Also keep in mind that it is likely that you will be competing with other high profile websites for search ranking for certain keywords (this is bad for you). You may want to try and optimize for long tail keyword or keywords that are less competitive at first. There are several free tools at your disposal that can help you with your keyword research:
- Google AdWords Keyword Tool
- Google Insights for Search
- Just go to Google and see what Google Instant comes up with when you start searching for something. Also look at what google suggests at the bottom of the SERP afterwards.
- Keyword Research Tool in Microsoft Advertising Intelligence
Note: Many of these tools are meant for PPC campaigns, but can also be used for SEO purposes.
9. Consistant Linking
Linking is factor which Google and other search engines use to rank your website. I won’t get into linking really, but would like to stress that it is important how that the link to your website be consistent across the internet. You can link to your website in your social networking profiles, email signatures, and beyond. Choose whether you would like to include the “www” or “/” at the end and be consistant everywhere you put this address. I also think it is worth mentioning that you should not spam the web with your website’s link.
Employing the use of an analytics package like the free Google Analytics can be very helpful. You can use it to easily see what is working and what isn’t working. Use it to test and improve your SEO practices.
If anyone has any questions, feel free to ask them in the blog comment bellow. I would be happy to answer.
Hey Paul, useful article. I particularly like the tip regarding social meta data. Not thinking about social is not a great idea any more!
I found this article through triberr as we’re in the same group.
all the best,
@ianmcleary Thanks for the kind words Ian. Social meta data is lesser known bit of markup that in my opinion can make a big difference. It can be a bit of a pain to implement for a blog (blogs or cms specifically) if you don’t know what you are doing unfortunately.
Hi Paul, great post. I’m going through them one by one and implementing them.
I see no reference to meta “keywords” in your list (unless I am blind). Are these not important anymore?
@tomfennelly Hey Tom, thanks for the compliment. Your assessment about meta keyword is accurate. They are unimportant, as almost no search engines use them. You can go ahead and implement them if you’d like, but they won’t affect the big players like Google, Bing, or Yahoo. On the other hand, they can’t hurt you either.
This is the most easy and simple SEO article. Big helps for newbie like me.