In the second part of our SEO guide we will present few good practices you can use to boost your website’s ranking.
Search engine optimization can be rather logical and straightforward, if you understand how the search engine bot works. The basic idea behind effective SEO is that the content is interesting, relevant and accessible for humans, and clear and understandable for bots.
Factors to consider include, for instance, content management, HTML source code, titles, page structure, internal links and metadata. Page loading time and popularity in the social media also play a part.
In addition, the website’s ranking is affected by how many (and what kind of) sites to back to it. The site’s administrator can encourage others to create backlinks by offering interesting and relevant content, but overtly advertising your website in all possible places will probably backfire. The worst case scenario is that others people and bots begin to regard your links as trash and your site as suspicious.
In this article we will present certain improvements administrators can independently do to get better SEO ranking. In the next part of our series we will, in turn, present things damaging to SEO that one should avoid.
Selecting the right CMS
First of all, selecting the content management system for your website has a huge impact on the search engine visibility. Why? Mainly because the CMS is responsible for providing many of the technical features discussed below. But how can one select the right CMS? We recommend you use the services of a third party technological provider or consult to make a right decision in this regard.
The website should provide fresh and relevant high-quality content. This means the kind of content that will make people spend long periods of time on the website and browse many pages. Google, for instance, monitors the time people spend on sites and uses the information to calculate the relevancy and quality of the content located there. You can follow user behaviour by installing the Google Analytics tracking code to your website.
Websites acquire visitors by including potential keywords in their content to draw in the visitors using those keywords in search engines. The old way to do this was to use the keywords meta tags, but it has since become obsolete. One should, however, definitely use keywords in the text content. So, you should study the best possible keywords and use them in your website’s content pages.
Keywords can be added to any text element on the site: page title, headers, paragraphs and links. It’s probably wise to add the keywords near the beginning of the title and header, rather than to the end. You should try to keep the keyword density (amount of keywords compared to the rest of the text) around five percent – although this is a controversial issue and there might not be any kind of “right” percentage to use. Yet it is certain that if keywords appear too often, bots will label the page as spam.
Please always remember that even text written for optimum SEO is ultimately targeted for humans, not just for machines. So keep them readable. If visitors find your texts annoying or boring, your organization’s brand will suffer.
Fast load times
Page loading time also affects SEO. The slower the page is to load, the worst ranking it will yet. You can test the speed of your website by using various free speed test sites (search “website speed test” on Google). Loading times can usually be improved rather easily by changing the configuration of the CMS system or web server.
Clear page structure
Whatever content management system you use, it should come with a clear page structure. Under all the bells and whistles a website is really just a collection of text files, pictures and maybe video. The better the search engine bot can grasp the logical structure of the website, the better SEO ranking the site will eventually get.
In the worst case, a website that is fancy and cool for human eyes, appears as a blank slate for the search engine bot. There are various services available for checking how your website displays to bots.
Sitemaps are a one way to make the page structure more clear. Sitemap is basically a list of pages on your website. XML sitemaps can be used to give search engines such as Google information about the site content and speed-up search engine crawlers. XML sitemap makes life easier for search engines and it is especially important on new sites which do not have many backlinks on the web. In order to create an XML sitemap you can use a generator like XML-Sitemaps.com. Just enter the URL of your website and create the sitemap.
You should also create an ordinary sitemap for human visitors. Basically this would mean creating a dynamic website that includes a list of all the pages available on your website, with links to these pages. Add a link to this sitemap to your website’s front page.
Human-readable URLs are good clean readable URLs with minimal parameters. Clear and rational URL structure should be part of a normal web experience.
This kind of URL might look something like this: /category/sub-category/product
As opposed to messy non-readable URLs like: /xyz/T01MYP82KJHF9BEBMX/product/WCatSectionView.process?Section_Id=833
Human-readable URLs should be used because they get indexed better by search engines, they add context and they are easy to control. Furthermore, URLs should not change but stay the same as long as the same information is available on the site.
Image names and alt texts
Image file names play a role in SEO, as search engines use the file names to collect contextual information about the content. This is often forgotten and images are not named to optimize website rankings.
How should images be named, then? If the website has an image titled asdf63434436.jpg the search engine crawler doesn’t get any relevant information about what is in the image. However, this image does seem to give a little bit more information: hackers-from-finland.jpg. When someone searches images on “hackers finland”, the picture will be displayed in the results.
Images on websites are coded with HTML using the IMG tag. The tag has several parameter, with one of those being ALT (”alternative”). ALT provides alternative text when images cannot be displayed. If an image is broken, the text will be displayed instead. ALT text is also read aloud by screen reader software.
The most intriguing aspect of the ALT text is the fact that it is used by search engines when indexing the content on the site. Search engines use the text to get a better idea what the page is about. Hence it is important to have the right kind of ALT texts for your products. In addition, your product images are also more likely to show up in image searches when someone searches for the product.
ALT texts are usually specified to product images in the product information page on your e-commerce platform.
Title tag included the HTML source code is a basic element of any website. Properly written tags are essential for SEO. For the average user titles do not matter much, however, and seem pretty trivial. You can see the title in your web browser tab or on a bookmark name etc. Title tags are prominently used when you search something on search engines.
Title tags are part of the meta tags that appear at the top of your HTML inside the < head> area. Titles are used to tell people and search engines what the page is about. Titles should include SEO keywords and be concise and relevant to page content. It is a good principle to include the company or domain name in the title. For instance ”Product XYZ | Example.com” is better than just ”Product XYZ”.
Meta descriptions are short snippets of text (no more than 155 characters) which provide an overview of a website’s core message and purpose. They are used, for instance, in search engine results and with links shared on social media. You can add meta meta descriptions to page HTML as <meta name=”description” content=”This is a meta description”.
Meta descriptions are no longer very important for SEO. Even so, especially the raise of social sharing has made meta descriptions very important for companies. You can use meta description to communicate your brand to your customers. If the website doesn’t have meta descriptions, search engines and other services use the first couple hundred characters on the page. This might be just fine, but it is hardly optimal all the time.
When crafting a good meta description, try to give people some reason to visit your page. You can also include keywords in your meta descriptions, but, as we said, these descriptions do not play a major role in SEO nowadays.
During the early days of the web, websites used so called meta keywords to identify what the site was about. Keywords provided useful information for search engines indexing sites. Later websites started to abuse this feature and meta keywords became associated with spam.
Nowadays meta keywords are considered obsolete. Google and Yahoo have ignored the keywords meta tag for years. Microsoft Bing is the only major search engine that looks at the keywords tag – and they do it to help detect spam.
So, there is absolutely no need to use meta keywords. Best option is to never add this tag to your website.
Site’s reputation and popularity in social networks (Facebook, Google+, Twitter, etc.) also affects its search engine ranking. Consequently, the website should have social media profiles that link back to the website’s content. In addition, social sharing should be made as easy as possible. In other words, users should be able to easily “like” content released on the site.
Google’s own Google+ plays an important role in SEO, even though it’s struggling to compete with Facebook. The more popular some website content is in Google+ (more +1’s and shares the content gets), the better the website’s ranking will be in Google Search.
SEO Guide: An Introduction