Friendly Disclamer:) Before I go too much further, I should point-out that there are 200+ factors to be considered when doing a full optimisation campaign. Every industry and website is different, so one technique that might work well for one business may not have the same results for another.
On top of that, it’s also important to understand that whilst applying the steps in this article will help make the search engines crawl and index your site more effectively, you’ll still need to incorporate off-site techniques like link building and utilizing social media and other forms of online and off-line marketing etc. to achieve the best possible results.
1. Content, Content, Content and Content!
The most important part of any website is it’s content. Without interesting and compelling content you won’t be able to gain inbound links and more importantly you won’t be able to make many sales.
The more content you have the more authoritative you’ll appear to your clients and the more information the search engines will have to index.
It may seem daunting trying to come-up with new things to write about and add to your site on a regular basis, but it can be easier than you think. Try starting a blog or a regular newsletter. If you’re really struggling, you can always delegate the task to a staff member or hire a professional copy writer. It will be well worth it in the end.
2. Navigation Structure
Keep your navigation structure as simple and text-based as possible. While shiny, animated navigation buttons might look nice, they can make it hard for the search engines to effectively crawl your site. What’s the point in having a flashy looking website if it never gets indexed and no one can find it. More importantly, why spend the money on a site that cannot be found by search engines and, as a result, humans?
If it’s important in your industry to have a site that has all the ‘bells and whistles’ then at least use a text-based navigation menu in the footer of your pages, try and use bread-crumbs throughout the site and be sure to have a sitemap.
It’s also a great idea (if possible without making it look spammy) to incorporate some of your keywords into the anchor text in your footer navigation menu. For instance, if your site is about blue widgets, instead of making the link back to your index page say ‘home’ you could change it to say ‘blue widgets homepage’.
One final side-note on navigation - when linking back to your index page make it link back to the full URL of your site instead of index.htm as this can help prevent canonicalization.
3. Don’t Flash
As mentioned above, having a Flash website might look very impressive - but what’s the point if no one will ever find it when they do a search.
I try to avoid flash at all possible costs, but if you have to use it, make sure you read - How to get Google’s attention if you’re a Flasher
4. Title Tags
Title tags are one of the most important on-site SEO tools a webmaster has at their disposal.
Here are some Do’s and Dont’s for structuring your title tags:
- Don’t use the same tags on every page
- Don’t put your company name (unless you’re main purpose is branding) at the start of your title tag
- Do put one or two keywords in your title tag, but don’t overdo it otherwise your site will look spammy to both humans and search spyders - just make sure the tag is both readable and relevant to your site
Aaron Wall has a great video on Google & SEO Friendly Page Titles
5. Meta Description Tag
Strictly speaking, this tag has no SEO benefit - but it is still important. Why? Because a good description can be the difference between someone clicking on your site instead of your competitors that may appear above or below you in the SERPs.
Be sure to include a call to action! I often tell search marketers to think of their meta-description as an Adwords ad with additional character space.
6. Heading Tags
Well optimized heading (H1, H2, H3, etc) tags not only help the search engines determine what a page is about, but it can also help make your page more readable by breaking-up the topics into appropriately titled sections.
Try and mix mix things up so that you don’t have the same keywords mentioned in your Title Tag and Heading Tags.
7. Keyword Density
There have been many statistics thrown around over the years about what is ideal number of times to mention your keywords throughout the body of your text. I personally don’t aim for a certain percentage and instead encourage my clients to come-up with great content that focuses on their business’ core products and services. By doing this, you’ll naturally incorporate your keywords throughout the text without it looking overdone.
If you want to go one step further, you can also highlight your keywords by making them bold or in italics, but once again, it’s important not to overdo this as it can make great content start to look spammy.
8. Image Tags
Use the ALT attribute to apply meaningful descriptors to your images. This can help your site rank for image searches and makes the site more usable if people are viewing your page via a mobile browser and have images disabled.
9. Keywords in Domain and URL
Having your keywords mention in your domain name or in the names of your pages can be a great way to ensure people use your keyword in the anchor text when they link to you, plus they will appear in bold in the SERPs when someone searches for those terms.
With saying that, it’s far more important having a memorable, concise domain than a name consisting of 20 keywords held together with hyphens with a .net at the end (eg. www.this-is-not-an-ideal-looking-domain-name.net).
10. Be sensible about everything
All the points above can help, but you can also easily go overboard by using the same keywords over and over again in your page names, titles, headers, meta tags, in bold throughout your content etc. etc.
Just use your common sense - try and read through your page objectively (or as a customer) and if it flows well and looks good you really shouldn’t have anything to worry about. If you have trouble being objective about your own site, get a friend or family member to have a read and give you feedback.