Never Forget the SEO Basics

20 Sep
2009

As you delve deeper and deeper into the wonderful world of SEO, it’s sometimes helpful to remember the basic tenets of successful on-page optimisation. It amazes me how often I see pages that have clearly been optimised, for example for main keywords plus geographic terms, yet omit to exploit the basic high value on-page elements. By way of a reminder, here’s a checklist of the things that you should ensure are covered off and revisited on a regular basis.

Create Accurate and Unique Page Titles
The HTML Title tag tells users and search engines what the topic of a particular page is. When your document appears on search results pages, the content of the Title tag will usually appear on the first line of your listing.
Always ensure that you create a unique title for each page on your site. Many WordPress installations are pre-configured to generate a fixed title, or one based on a formula. But there’s no substitute for well-constructed titles written by SEO experts. Titles that are too long are truncated by Google, so check the length against the current number of supported characters.

Make use of the “description” meta tag
The description meta tag gives Google and other search engines a summary of the subject of the page. Whereas a page title may be just a few words, a page’s description meta tag might be a sentence or a short paragraph.
Description meta tags are important because Google might use them as snippets for your pages. Note that we say “might” because Google may choose to use a relevant section of your page’s visible text if it does a good job of matching up with a user’s query.
Having a different description meta tag for each page helps both users and Google, especially in searches where users may bring up multiple pages for your site.

Ensure that you have structured URLs
Creating descriptive keyword inclusive filenames for your documents leads to better crawling by Search Engine robots and also creates easier, “friendlier” URLs for those that want to link to your content.
Visitors may be intimidated by extremely long and cryptic URLs that contain few recognizable words. And remember that the URL to a document is displayed as part of a search result in Google, below the document’s title and snippet. Like the title and snippet, words in the URL on the search result appear in bold if they appear in the user’s query.

Make sure your site is easy to navigate
The navigation of a website helps visitors to quickly find what they’re after. It
also helps search engines understand what content is important. Although Google’s search results are provided at a page level, Google also likes to have a sense of what role a page plays in the wider website.
All sites have a home or “root” page, which is usually the most frequented page on the site and the starting place of navigation for many visitors. The navigation from this page, or indeed irrespective of where a user enters your site, must make it easy for the desired content to be accessed within two mouse clicks. Your home page should also contain a site map to allow the search engines swift access to all pages on the website, particularly those PPC landing pages that woudl be otherwise invisible. A breadcrumb trail is also a winner in terms of usability.

Offer High Quality Content
Purported by Google to be the single most important factory and the holy grail to which all sites should aspire. When all said and done, Google want to return the website with the richest content in the majority of its efforts to match user queries with indexed web pages.

Write Good Anchor Text
Anchor text tells your users and Google something about the page you’re linking to. Links on your page may be internally pointing to other pages on your site, or external, leading to content on other sites. In both cases, the better your anchor text is, the easier it is for users to navigate and for Google to understand what the page you’re linking to is about.

Use heading tags appropriately
Heading tags (not to be confused with the HTML Head tag) are used to present
structure on the page to users. There are six sizes of heading tags, beginning with H1, the most important, and ending with H6, the least important.
Heading tags make text contained within them larger on the rendered page, thus providing a visual cue to users that this text is important and helping them to understand the type of content beneath. Multiple heading sizes used in order create a hierarchical structure for content, making it easier for users to navigate and also achieving a positive hike on page score for featured keywords.

Optimize your images
All images can have a distinct filename and also an “alt” attribute, both of which you should take advantage of. The “alt” attribute allows you to specify alternative text for the image if it cannot be displayed in the destination browser. And apart from your users, the better understanding a search engine has of what your images are about, the more clicks on them you will receive from image search results.

Make effective use of the robots.txt file
Robots.txt is useful if you do not want certain pages of your site crawled, for example if they might not be useful to users when found in a search engine’s search results. Managing this file, or files (plural) if you have multiple sub-domains, gives you a fine degree of control of your website within the search engine indices.

Take advantage of web analytics
If you’ve improved the crawling and indexing of your site, you need to know what the effect has been. You can use analytics tools to:
• gain insight into how users reach and behave on your site
• discover the most popular content on your site
• measure the impact of optimisation changes you have made

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