Developing an SEO Friendly Website
Implementing good SEO practices is one thing. Knowing how they perform is quite another. Even if you are confident in a boosted ranking, the proof is in the pudding. It is not safe to simply assume a ranking, as an increase in your efforts might have inadvertently breached an important SEO guideline and received a penalty.
The first step is ensuring the website is accessible to the search engine crawlers. Web developers need to leverage the pros and cons of these software programs so as to deliver a perfectly optimised SEO website.
Search engine crawlers perceive websites differently from humans. As a result, site architecture plays an important role in a websites SEO.
Making Your Site Accessible to Search Engines
Having a website visible and navigable by the crawlers is an important factor of successful SEO. The beautiful website theme you have had your eye on may be incompatible with the crawlers.
All the major search engines follow a protocol of XML Sitemaps. This is a process which allows users to provide search engines a list of all the pages they want indexed.
Unfortunately, this practice does NOT guarantee an indexing, but it does increase the likelihood for crawling.
So what is the point of sitemaps?
- Confirmation of an XML Sitemap practice possibly produces a sign of credibility.
- For your already indexed sites, crawlers will be better able to appreciate quality signals such as content modifications and updates.
An XML Sitemap is essential for websites with a large bulk of pages which are unindexed by the search engines.
Site Architecture Design Principles
Every time a new visitor comes to your website, they will be forced to learn how to navigate it. Depending on how the site is designed, this can be an extremely easy or annoyingly difficult process. Websites with good SEO tend to make their websites as compact as possible while promoting an easy-to-navigate network of links. A user should be able to be an expert at a glance.
Figure 6.0 by kissmetrics.com, displays a SEO friendly website structure. The homepage links to the categories and they link to the posts. A distinct internal link network exists among the categories and posts which will allow users to find their way around the website. Internal links are good, but overusing them can result in a SEO penalty. Always ensure that links are naturally implemented and connected to relevant content.
Unfortunately, perfect site architecture is not enough to ensure a top rank. They will certainly be favoured by the search engines, but SEO simply has too many components that need to be satisfied. The negative impacts of neglecting this avenue are far greater than any positive gains. Sites with poor design are more likely to be penalised and suffer higher bounce rates.
Designing Site Architecture
A website’s architecture has long term SEO impacts. Fortunately, all outcomes can be positive if you:
- List all the content pages
- Illustrate those pages using top-level navigation
- Reverse the top down approach by starting with the content and working up
- Create a structure for sub navigation to connect top level pages with detailed content
- Include non-essential pages such as contact info
- Build a visual hierarchy
Search engine crawlers have built an incredible library of data that they utilise to better understand the semantic relationships between keywords and subject matter.
Figure 6.1 from seo-advisors.com visually demonstrates how info crawlers are constantly at work storing information in their database. From this repository they are able to derive data that will better enable them to sort the pages of a website.
A logically organised website stands to better engage humans and search engines (The latter because your content will be properly categorised based on relevance).
The relevance of your content versus the structure of your website. It is common for creators to build their websites with the broader content at the forefront and the niche content just behind. There is nothing wrong with getting creative however, so long as the website is navigable.
The purpose of SEO is to make life easier for search engines so they can drive traffic via SERPs. There are multiple components that come together to form a high rank such as updates and links. However, keywords remain a crucial, win-or-lose factor.
To optimise keywords for your business, determining the most commonly utilised queries and phrases of searches in your market is a must. This can be achieved by utilising keywords in a way that flows naturally with the content of each page. If you are new to keyword targeting, practices such as keyword and link stuffing should be avoided(any form of SEO stuffing, really). Today’s search engines are smarter now than ever before and are quick to penalize shady or unscrupulous keyword stuffing.
Keywords work best when utilised into title tags, headlines and subheadings designed to grab audience attention. Not only does this nurture relevance among the search engines but it cultivates clicks and staying power.
Having an SEO friendly website requires prominent usage of strong keywords in prime areas.
Keywords in Title Tags
Having a keyword in the title tag should be priority one. The title tag, in a nutshell, is the title element of a page and typically consists of an engaging description of the content on a page. For example, the title tag for a blog post could be; Cupcake Decoration; A Beginner’s Guide. From this example we can see two prominent key phrases in ‘cupcake decoration’ and ‘beginner’s guide’ that will perform well in SERPs for members in that market.
Besides including keywords, title tags and meta descriptions need to appear attractive to users in order to increase the click through rate (CTR).
Of course, keywords should not be relied on alone to bring success.
Here are some quick and easy tips to help you become a title tag expert:
- Place keywords at the beginning of title tag.
- Limit length to 60 characters. If your tag is too long, then it will be truncated and look messy in SERPs.
- Determine searcher intent. Imagine yourself in the customer shoes. If you were looking for your page, what query would you use to get here? By moulding your tags around popular terms, you can control the traffic.
Meta Description Tags
A Meta Description tag is a 160 character snippet that summarises the content of a page. These can be better recognised as the black descriptive text beneath the blue links in SERPs.
Meta descriptions are good for funnelling your ideal market to your page while minimising spillage. This is because search engines utilise the keywords in these tags to better mark your content for relevance. Writing a good meta description tag is a tough job but the gains are worth it, especially if it is keyword optimised.
Eliminate all the hassle and become a meta master with these handy tips:
- Be wary of character limits (that includes spaces). Different search engines have different limits, but you are best sticking to Google’s 160 character maximum.
- Think of it like an ad or a piece of copy. Your meta description needs to display the product, the features and benefits and provide a strong call to action. Don’t forget the keywords.
- Be honest. Being truthful is absolutely essential, even if it costs sex appeal. But there is no reason why you can’t have both.
- WordPress users should use Yoast. Yoast is a free plugin that WordPress users can utilise to improve their meta descriptions, title tags and overall site optimisation.
- Write for traffic intent. There are a variety of reasons people use search engines: To look up information, buy something, talk to someone. For example, if you are writing a description tag for a page which allows users to buy headphones, including terms like ‘Buy’ or ‘Great deals’ in the meta description should be extremely effective.
Heading Tags, H1, H2, H3
Heading tags help search engines determine the hierarchy of a document. H1 tags serve as the primary headings, H2 are the subheadings while H3 are a rank below that. Keyword optimising your heading tags, especially H1, is rumoured to boost ranking with search engines.
Sometimes a title tag and a heading H1 tag may contain the same copy, or very similar. It can be considered okay to utilise both but it is more effective to differentiate the latter from the first in some small way. Employing compelling headings sends a good relevancy signal to traffic, telling them they have reached the right place.
Long Tail Keyword Targeting
Long tail keywords make up 30% of search traffic. This is a considerable chunk but, because of the uniqueness of these terms, they are typically used very rarely. As a result, it simply does not make sense to write content based on keywords that might be used only once a year, even if such traffic is most likely to convert.
But it is possible to target long tails without wasting effort. Sites like BuzzSumo can help you determine trends in your industry while Quora can display the more unique questions asked by your market.
The key to effective long tail marketing is staying on top of the unique needs of your target audience.
How to Find Long Tail Keywords
Any good SEO will tell you that a strong, long tail keyword will comprise of four words or more. Knowing what they are and knowing how powerful they are, however, can be two completely different things.
By logging in to the Google Search Console, a free to use program that can be easily accessed with a Gmail account, users can discover which long tails do and do not rank and determine how to best utilise the former.
To find brand new long tail keywords, a costless and effective means of achieving success is to use the search engines own autocomplete function. In Figure 6.2 we see what the search engines suggest when ‘I want to buy a bike’ is input. Notice that in all but one of the results, synonyms for bike are used, such as motorcycle or bicycle.
Further suggestions can be generated by scrolling down to the bottom of SERPs, see Figure 6.3.
Having a list of long tail keywords will not do a great amount of good if you do not know how powerful they are. Fortunately, that is why SEO keyword tools exist. See Chapter 10.
Generating quality content is a great SEO practice and while there are many ways to do that, not every content improvement you make will boost ranking. Still, it may indirectly improve SEO as beauty is an important component of the visitor experience. If your content looks good, you are more likely to attain reputable links and drive traffic.
Structure of Content
Formatting your content to meet user need is an important component of good SEO. If your text is too small, then users will struggle to read it. Too large and it will look untidy. Getting everything surrounding presentation, layout and so on is absolutely critical. The needs of those with vision impairments also need to be addressed. Ensure your fonts are clear and do not clash with the colour of your background.
Content Length and Word Count
For a long time, SEO experts have debated over whether short content ranks better than long. In reality, however, size does matter and the longer, the better as far as SEO is concerned. If your content is high quality and engaging, users will want to consume it regardless of how long it is. Aim for somewhere between 1,500 and 2,500 words.
Do not fret if your content is not nearly so long. Short content is still very much capable of ranking high in SERPs. The same can also be said for work that exceeds the count.
The same applies for online videos. Some of the highest ranking clips can go for hours at a time.
n Figure 6.4 The top ranking video for ‘How to Learn French’ is almost five hours long. None of the other placements shown last even 10 minutes, but still rank highly. It is also very likely that number of views is also a strong indicator search engines look for in videos. Places 1 to 3 have all attained over a million views.
When it comes to websites, what’s on the outside really does count. Visitors will be turned off by a page that looks ugly to the eye, is riddled with ads or is horrendously difficult to navigate. Having a sexy website that is easy to use and provides good service will invoke trust in your audience and grow rates of conversion
Having a sexy website invokes trust in visitors. This can be achieved as long as it looks clean, is accessible and is easy to use.
Figure 6.5 conveys a well-designed website main page. The keywords are strong and prominent in the title tag, ‘insights and revenue’. The categories are not overused and very clear. In addition, the page manages to also include testimonials, a list of features and even a high quality image, all without looking cluttered.
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