SEO has changed significantly over the years, and some people have even gone as far as to say that it’s dead. Don’t underestimate the power of SEO, though, as it still plays a major role in how your website ranks. Old tactics that worked well in the past won’t do you any favors today, so it’s essential that you move along with the latest SEO trends and know which practices to apply to your site. Paying attention to SEO will help your website rank well for certain keywords and bring traffic to your site.
Though many webmasters think their websites function perfectly, underlying issues that affect SEO are not uncommon. That’s why it’s important to make sure your website pages follow Google Guidelines. Let’s take a closer look at technical SEO practices that every webmaster should be familiar with.
One of the metrics that Google uses to understand the quality of your website is user behavior, particularly how long a user spends on your website. The longer a user spends on each page, the more your website interests and engages visitors. Here are a few issues to be aware of that could break this interest.
Broken Links/Images: One of the best free tools to use to identify broken page links and images on your website is Xenu’s Link Sleuth. Use this tool on your website to get a full report. Fix any broken links or images that you may have.
Broken Functionality: Look for functionality issues that could make your website frustrating to use. The website’s internal search should return the right results, the contact form should fulfill the query and all forms (registration, login, feedback) should work properly. Also, the shopping cart should run smoothly.
404 Pages: Sometimes you can’t help those pesky 404 pages from surfacing, but you can make the experience more positive for the user. Try interactive 404 pages that will keep the user on your site by redirecting them.
More webmasters are investing money in usability to gain engagement, which yields higher conversion rates. Usability makes the user experience better, and this is what ultimately keeps visitors on your website, interacting with your brand and following through with the desired goal. Here are a few things to look at.
HTML/CSS Issues: HTML and CSS issues can be frustrating when you’re designing a page and realize that your formatting isn’t right, but these issues need to be dealt with before they create problems for users. Here’s a great blog on identifying and fixing common HTML and CSS issues.
Page Speed: Google will penalize your site if it’s slow, and users will be more likely to jump off if they have to wait more than a couple of seconds. Both Google and users love when pages open smoothly and quickly, so make sure your site runs as such.
Navigation: A website that has complicated navigation will bore or frustrate users. Arrange a quick-and-easy navigation display that keeps users on track.
Flash: Flash issues are common because if a user doesn’t have an updated Flash player, they can’t view the content. Also, Flash is not compatible with all search crawlers, and it decreases web performance. It’s best not to use Flash, but if you must, do so cautiously.
Formatting/Alignment: Formatting issues will make your website look messy and unprofessional. Keep your formatting and alignment clean, simple and effortless.
Responsive Design: It’s recommended that you have a responsive design for your website because it ensures your site will show up the same on every device, giving users a consistent experience.
Browser Compatibility: Just because your site shows up well on one browser doesn’t mean it will on another. View your website on various browsers to make sure it looks the same across the board.
Content is the new SEO. It’s one of the most relevant parts of your website, and it has the power to make or break your site. Not only should you be contributing fresh material regularly, but also the content should be high in quality, contain good keywords and links and have engaging headlines. Here are some factors to pay attention to.
Duplicate Content: Don’t get penalized for having duplicate content on your site. Remove anything that is a duplicate or even a close match. The risks aren’t worth it.
Thin Content: Google doesn’t like thin content either, which can be described as low-quality content that doesn’t have much substance. Either remove this content from your site or beef it up with real information.
Grammatical Issues: We’re not talking just spelling and English grammar here. Your content should read smooth, be broken down into easy-to-read blocks of text and have a clear beginning and end.
Google crawls through your website through the page code, so it’s very important that you analyze your website’s source code so you can see what Google sees. This will allow you to pinpoint issues that Google may be experiencing on their end. Here are some issues to check out and fix immediately.
Keyword Stuffing: Refrain from adding keywords in the code that you can’t see in the front design. Though this is so 2008, there are some websites that haven’t removed them. Don’t be one of them.
Canonical URL Tag: Only use the canonical URL tag if you know what the end result will be, as it could destroy your SEO if you’re not careful. (You can also hire a professional to do the job for you.) If the canonical URL tag is implemented correctly, it’s a simple and helpful way to deal with duplicate content.
iFrame: Remove iframes so that the content is accessible to search crawlers. Otherwise, they can’t differentiate whether a particular section is built under an iframe or not until the source code is viewed.
Meta Keywords: You shouldn’t need meta keywords for rankings, so they don’t need to be included in the source code. This is more for Google, as Yahoo! and Bing consider meta keywords for rankings.
For more information about running an SEO audit on your source code, check out this practical post.
A Few Other Pointers
The purpose of this post isn’t to call attention to all the imperfections of your website, but instead to remind you that a few basic SEO practices can go a long way in improving your site. As you clean up your website, keep these other points in mind. They are sure to increase traffic and make your website more visible in the search engines.
Company Blog: Don’t underestimate the power of a blog. Blogging is one of the best ways to contribute fresh content, share your company’s expertise and increase user engagement.
Separate Pages: Write separate pages for your key services using good keywords. This way, you’ll generate high quality links for these pages. Do NOT write new pages just for the sake of ranking well on certain keywords, however.
Internal Links: Don’t overdo internal links, but do include some. These reference links will add authority to your content and maximize website interaction.
Robots.txt: This file tells robots, typically search engine robots, how to crawl and index pages on your website. Make sure the file is managed properly so your site is crawled correctly.
Sitemaps: Google wants you to have a sitemap, so create one for both HTML and XML. Sitemaps are necessary and inform search engines of what web pages are available for crawling.