No matter what your content management system (CMS) is you will find that they all have several things in common that can help you achieve a great search engine optimization (SEO) for your website. Google has very clearly stated that content is king, links rank right next to the king, and that they utilize machine learning artificial intelligence (RankBrain) as the third most important ranking factor. With all of this public knowledge of how Google works can we take advantage of this information to better promote our website? Today, we are going to look at some core ways to improve your SEO to increase your website traffic.
Content is King
Google has clearly stated that content is king and ranks at the very top of determining how well your website ranks. This doesn't mean you write your content, throw it up there, and hope someone comes around to it. The content needs to be clear, concise, targeted, and answer the questions that your users have.
Links are tied with Content Being King
In a recent Google roundtable discussion, they stated that content and links are ranked #1 and #2 when it comes to search engine positioning. Links are more than just external links coming to your website. Linking internally within your website is equally important in achieving search engine optimization success. Finding the right external links is crucial.
Many web designers will add a link to your site. The question is why do they do this? They do this for a few reasons. Bragging rights that they built your website and our proud of what they built. The other and often more important is to increase their search engine optimization for their own website. As you traverse the web one item you'll notice that our Valparaiso web design firm does not do that. This effectively hurts our SEO efforts. We feel though that a company's website is to promote and support their business and not to pay us money and increase our SEO. If your website is promoting your web design company, or template, ask it to be removed and if they refuse ask at a minimum they have a link back to your website and shows as much on their website as it does yours.
Coming up with high-quality links to your website can be a daunting task. One link that works well for us may not work well for your business. When you start talking about quality links you need to find links in your particular trade. Do your research and when you get a link from a credible source share a link back to them. This reciprocation goes a lot farther than you will ever realize.
Images Can Say a Lot
Images are text and images are often said to say thousands of words. Beyond the image clearly communicating and defining what it is there are other aspects of images to consider.
The first item of images is the filename. Anyone with a modern day camera will notice the name is non-description (e.g. CAMERA001.jpg). Rename your images, without spaces (spaces are bad), and using camel case, dashes or underscores when renaming your files. Camel case? What is that? Let's say you have a picture currently called CAMERA001.jpg and it's about your "Primary Widget X". A more appropriate name would be PrimaryWidgetX.jpg. You will notice that there are no spaces and that the first letter is UPPERCASE. This is what is meant by camel case. You will also see people using a dash or underscore in the name. Both are also acceptable and the spaces in the name are replaced with the dash or underscore.
Alternate text takes the information of your page and adds a very short and brief description of what the image is about. One important aspect of your alternate text behind the image should tie in with the name of your actual image. Going off of our previous PrimaryWidgetX.jpg file name our alternate text might be "Our latest version of our Primary Widget X product line within the Widget Y category". Here you redefine the filename within the alternate text and add other pertinent information that this is page of the Widget Y category. You are tackling SEO in many aspects here without being misleading. You are also showing those that utilize screen readers the base information without filling it with SEO keywords to try and rank better even though that is your ultimate objective.
Logical Link Structures
When it comes to building and creating your site you want it to be easily understandable not only by your visitors but the search engines. There are many best practices in keeping menus at the top, links in the footer and the core content in the middle which will also have links. There are two types of pages. You have dynamic which are dynamically generated (often the case for eCommerce sites). When you structure your page correctly you can include SEO within the path of the URL. Rather than showing http://mydomain.com/DynamicPage?123xyz you can instead show http://mydomain.com/AboutUs/OurTeam/. Like image filenames above you can refrain from using spaces. Camel case or dashes are the preferred name for URL's. Keep everything logically grouped together and understandable so if a user looks at your URL they intuitively know where they are.
An important part of SEO is having an updated and current sitemap. A sitemap informs the search engines what pages exist on your site. For many sites, especially eCommerce sites, this can be in the thousands of pages' category. There are also two types of sitemaps. The best solution is to have both types. There is an HTML sitemap which is easily human readable and the other is an XML sitemap which is still human readable (to a degree). Google has clearly stated if you can have both great. If you can only have one and not the other to always use the one that benefits the human visitor the most. In this case the HTML sitemap.
Minification for Speed
In our modern lives going fast will result in fines and penalties. When it comes to the Internet you will be rewarded. You want to make certain that your images are as small as possible (while retaining a clear quality for your users) and your pages and resource files are minified to be as small as possible. Minified files remove excess spaces and information that slow down a website. Image can routinely be minified by 20-30% (or more) making your web page load 20-30% faster. Minifying your pages and resources are typically already small but when minified can gain another 3-5% (or more) in your page load time. We have seen a 1% difference on very close sites be a deciding factor between position 2 and position 3 on the search engines. These small percentages can pay your business great dividends when optimized correctly.
Google does not use keywords. Let's be very clear about that. Google does not use keywords in its search results (it will use keywords in its enterprise search appliance). People have spammed those keywords too much. This is why the first item of content being king is so important. This doesn't mean you should ignore keywords entirely. Other search engines will still use this information. The next meta is the description and every search engine uses it. They do state they have the option of ignoring it if they feel it is spammy. Make certain your description pages are accurate, complete, and do not appear spammy. Other tags that are important to include are OG tags which is a core item for Facebook and then utilize JSON meta data which provides a vast amount of information to the search engines about the purpose and intent of your webpage.
Social Media Matters
Having just a social media account is bad for your business. Equally true is having just a website and not having a social media page. You need both and both need to work appropriately together. Facebook is the obvious answer for everyone as it has the largest and most diverse audience. This may not be the right choice for your business. If your business is all about pictures Facebook is decent but not the best choice. For pictures Pinterest is a great option if the other demographics for that social media site fit your target audience. Tying your social media and your website together so that they complement each other will garner your website greater results than just having one.
We've run into too many sites recently wanting, no demanding, our information. Whether it is a PDF download from a news organization, or just browsing a site we see too many requests to gain our information. Take on top of advertisement sites where they are flooded with advertising that we don't know what is an advertisement compared to the actual content. The search engines do not reward sites that push stuff down user's throats. This hurts the content is king impact of a website. Instead these types of sites state content is king IF you give us your information.
Flash Is Out
Apple started by not supporting flash and now Google has stated it is removing it as well. Google doesn't crawl flash sites and your website rankings will diminish for having it. Additionally, to flash is balancing value of animation. We go all too often to sites that amaze us with their fancy animation. The first time we immediately reload to watch the "wow" factor and then immediately become bored with the site. Often never returning as it isn't selling us what we wanted.
Following the Rules
We pride ourselves in not following the rules on many things; like price. When it comes to the search engines we have no recourse but to follow the rules. If we don't we are hurting and lying to our customers (violation of our company rule #1 of "No lying"). When you are working on your site make certain to adhere to all of the best practices and stay clearly away from all of the worst practices.
These are only a few of the core items that you need to do. Doing the above though will take a moderate site and turn it into a very good, even great, website. Take your time, do what's right, and you will be rewarded by each and every search engine. Search engine optimization is truly a marathon and not a sprint. When you do a sprint you can get quick results but will ultimately lose the battle of being the best that you can be.
Does this seem overwhelming? Do you want to spend time growing your business rather than maintaining your online employee (e.g. your website)? If so, JM2 Webdesigners from Valparaiso Indiana is here to assist you. We have plans that will give your business a fixed price, great results that exceed expectations, and an entire team dedicated to helping your business grow. You can reach us at 219-229-1633, email at sales@BusinessYETI.com, or through our contact form here.
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