SEO is one of the most valuable tools in your Internet Marketing arsenal. Ensuring that your website includes all the necessary elements to make it Search Engine friendly is an absolute must. When optimizing your website for the Search Engines, you also need to keep in mind that in addition to making your site SE friendly you need to make sure that the SEO efforts do not leave your site users feeling wanting.
So here’s a Checklist of elements that are likely to assist your site in achieving better rankings, more traffic and as a result more leads and sales.
On Page Optimization
1. Keyword Research
Spending time on researching and selecting the best keywords for your website is of cardinal importance. Every step you take during the course of your Online Marketing strategy relies heavily upon your selected keywords. Targeting long tail keywords and phrases that will bring in those users that are geared to buy is at the order of the day. Getting your site in the rankings for more generic keywords will take more time and effort, so work on those over a longer period of time.
2. Site Architecture & URL Structure
A logical site structure that is easy to understand and navigate by both the Search Engines and users is an extremely important element in SEO. Ensure that you site architecture uses what I like to call a “Directory Type Structure”. Create an identifiable and useable category structure with main landing pages for each main category and sub pages within each main category.
Your site’s URL structure should contain specific and targeted keywords. Having your keywords in your URL’s goes a long way.
3. Canonicalization & Duplicate Content
Each page of your website must be unique and should not be duplicated elsewhere on your site.
- Use 301 redirect to point your non-www version of the URL to the www.example.com URL of your site.
- Use 301 redirect to point the .html, .htm, and .php versions of your homepage back to the root at, www.example.com.
- Make use of the Canonical tag introduced by Google to let the search engines know which of your pages should be considered the preferred version.
4. Meta Data
- The <title> tag – Add your targeted page keyword/s in the page Title. This will be the title that is used to display your page in the search engines. The Title tag should be descriptive with your keyword nearer to the beginning of the Title.
- The <description> tag – Each page must have its own unique description that accurately describes the content of the page. Use your targeted page keyword, don’t overdo it, and keep it short and to the point, (+- 150 characters or two sentences).
- The <keyword> tag – Google does not take the keyword tag into consideration as a result of all the keyword stuffing and spamming that occur in these tags. Populating this tag effectively however, won’t hurt your site. Another point to consider is that there are other search engines out there that still use the keyword tag for ranking and indexing.
5. Page Content & Keyword Density
Original and Unique content is the lifeblood of the online world. The main objective of the Search Engines is to deliver the most accurate and informative results for each user’s query. Add sufficient content to each of your site’s pages, 450-550 words of content should suffice in most cases. Ensure that your targeted page keywords are used in the first and last 25 words of your page content and keep the keyword density to an optimum. Don’t use the exact same keyword or phrase every time but rely on the Search Engines semantic skills to identify related keywords, synonyms and phrases, i.e. don’t force the keyword if it doesn’t fit.
Update your site with fresh content on a regular basis by creating a business blog or News/Articles section. This will ensure that the Search Engine spiders crawl your site more regularly and index your brilliant content.
6. Anchor Text and Internal Linking
Creating an effective internal linking structure for you site is of great value for your site, its rankings and for effective navigation by your site users. Use the targeted keyword in the anchor text of the page or content that you are linking to. Don’t just link to any old page just for the sake of linking, but rather take some time to create a linking structure that will effectively distribute the ranking power of your site to your most important pages.
7. Page Headings (H1 – H6)
Each page on your website should have one H1 heading. The H1 should contain your page’s primary keyword that you have targeted and the length must be kept to a maximum of 3-4 words. The use of the H2-H6 heading tags will differ from site to site and page to page. Use these headings to logically group certain sections of your site or sections of your page content.
8. Image Alt Tags
Search Engine spiders are unable to “read” images and therefore each image that you use on your site must be accurately named to describe the image. Try to use your page keyword in the alt tag if it fits and can be done naturally.
Your website should contain two versions of your sitemap.
- An HTML sitemap that is created for your users to assist in ease of navigation and to find specific information or pages.
- An XML sitemap for the Search Engines. The XML sitemap acts as a comprehensive list of your entire site’s page for the Search Engine crawlers. Including an xml sitemap also results in faster indexing of your site. Include your sitemap URL in your Robots.txt file and submit the xml sitemap to Webmaster Tools.
Create a robots.txt file for your site that will tell the Search Engine spiders not to crawl certain pages of your site, such as admin pages. Include the location of your xml sitemap within the robots.txt file.
11. Google Webmaster Tools & Analytics
Create an account with Google, Yahoo and Bing and track your site performance with their Webmaster Tools and Analysis software. Google webmaster tools allows you to check a number of search related factors such as, indexing status (how many of you site pages are indexed in google), backlinks (places that search engines have found links that point to your website), keyword searches (this includes keywords used to find your site and click through data) and any errors that Googlebot may have found within your site and content.
These are some of the most basic Onsite SEO Factors that should be optimized throughout your site.
Off Site Optimization
Once your site is Search Engine friendly, the real work starts. You will need to actively promote your site online to gain brand exposure and increase your site rankings. Link acquisition is still the most important factor in making in ways in the Organic Search Engine Results.
Link acquisition used to be easy and was therefore abused and search engine results were skewed. The Search Engines have made major updates to the factors that influence the validity and power of the links that point to your site.
- Anchor Text of Inbound Links – Try to use the page keyword that you are linking to on the site where you are building links. Each of these links act as a vote for your site, using keyword rich anchor text will assist in upping your position in the Search Engines for that specific keyword.
- Origin Of Inbound Links – Choose sites with a good reputation that do not participate in bad linking behavior.
- Links from Similar Sites – Links pointing to your site should be related to the industry or topic of your site.
- Quality Vs Quantity – The more links you have pointing to your site from others the better. Gain good quality links from editorial sites and industry blogs or authorities in your industry.
- Link Profile – Create a varied link profile with inbound links from many different sources and use varied anchor text in your links.
- Surrounding Text – Make sure that the content that surrounds the link to your website is applicable and related to your site theme. Ask yourself, “Does this link look artificial or does it flow naturally with the surrounding text?”
- Frequency of Link Acquisition – Gaining a large number of links over a short period of time looks unnatural and artificial if you can’t keep the pace up. Slow and steady works best.
- Directory Links – DO NOT submit your site to hundreds of directories. Directory submission can still be used affectively if you submit to niche or geographically targeted directories.
- Number of Links from the page – The more outbound links there are on the page that is linking to you, the less value you will get from it.
- IP Address of inbound links – Get links from different C-class IP addresses. Google denies that they discredit links from the same IP, but Yahoo and Bing may discard links from the same IP.
- Free for All Links – Remember one thing, link building is hard and links that are easily acquired are usually worth much less.
Social Media has become a fantastic tool for driving traffic and building your brand online. Social Media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube should be used to engage your target audience in unique and exciting ways. You may not be able to get links from the social media or Web2.0 sites themselves, but using Social Media to generate conversation in an industry may just get your posts or content published elsewhere on the web by users and bloggers. The web has gone social, get the conversation going.
Guest author Alek Jones is owner and Partner at Networth Media Internet Marketing at networth.co.za and writes about SEO, Social Media, Link Building and Online Marketing.