Most people who build a website are looking to attract visitors, but achieving that simple objective can be challenging.
As the majority of surfers use search engines to locate websites, how your site interacts with Google, Yahoo, Bing and others is critical for success.
Success in this relationship will see your site listed higher in the page rankings, and failure might see it not listed at all.
A question that you need to ask is: How SEO (Search Engine Optimization) friendly is my site? Because if the answer isn’t a positive one, that’s lots of potential traffic bypassing your site.
How to be a better SEO player
The subtle ways that search engines crawl a website is at the heart of making a site rank higher. When a website is indexed and ranked, the search engine will look for certain things, and if it doesn’t find them it will invariably rank the site lower.
Here are 10 ways to make your site work better with all search engines, and enable more people to find you easily.
1. Use Robots.txt
This file contains a list of the files that the search engine shouldn’t bother crawling, making it faster at indexing the site. And, by definition, it excludes from search those parts of the site that might be for partners or internal use.
2. Use XML Sitemap
Another way to help the indexing function is to have a sitemap created in XML for it to digest. Many web building tools will automatically generate these, and it’s also possible to give special pages greater importance within the structure.
3. Perform image optimization
Having images that are sized and labelled appropriately is important to the speed of your site, but it also impacts on how the search engines functions. Images should adhere to a naming convention, have ‘Alt’ tags defined, and they should also be in a suitable format (JPG or PNG). If the same image is used in multiple places, don’t duplicate the file.
4. Be careful with keywords
Having the best selection of keywords for your business is vital, as they’re often the triggers for search connections. However, the excessive inclusion of keywords that aren’t unique to your business or sector can backfire, as the search engines will assume you’re trying to game the system and reduce the page ranking.
Using the names of all your competitors can also lead to problems, even if it is a common practice.
5. Use a forum
If you have a customer forum, then make sure that someone is responsible for representing the company on that platform. Replying to customers’ questions and interacting with them is an excellent way to create dynamic content that can elevate the page rank.
6. Use short URLs
Once you’ve got a visitor to your site, you can make links to content with relatively long URLs – but don’t do this. The shorter a URL, the quicker a search engine can index it, and the faster that page is likely to be found.
Therefore addresses like www.mysite.com/about are good, and ones such as www.mysite.com/All_About_the_Company are bad.
If you must have a multi-word URL, use a hyphen, not an underscore.
7. Check all links work
Having links that lead nowhere or to pages that have nothing on them is a bad plan, and your site will be penalized accordingly. Also, make sure that you don’t have pages defined that aren’t accessible from any other page, or don’t have a reverse link to the homepage.
8. Define a title tag for every page
This point might seem pedantic, but each page should have a title that explains what it contains. Without it all your pages aren’t about anything in particular, and visibility will suffer. While Meta descriptions aren’t as important these days, adding them does have some value on some search engines.
9. Avoid paid links
It’s a common practice to promote your site using bought sponsored links, but there are some important rules that go with doing this. You must use the ‘rel nofollow’ attribute on the links, or the search engines will work out that your backlinks are paid for and heavily adjust your ranking in the negative direction.
10. Spy on the competition
There are numerous online tools that can reveal all the good and bad backlinks for any site – not only yours, but also your rivals. This is very useful information and allows you to repeat what works for them without the experimentation.
Try MonitorBacklinks, as it’s offering a free trial at the time of writing.
A moving target
What’s interesting about SEO manipulation is that the topology of search analysis is forever changing. Tricks and methods that worked well a year ago are mined out, and new SEO strategies have evolved to replace them.
It’s worth considering that the search engine designers are adapting their models constantly, aiming to make more money from the results, or rather, how they can be manipulated for cash. Therefore, a site that was SEO-friendly a week ago might be less so as time goes on.
This is why a professional service run by those who understand the background changes is always preferable to less experienced people who don’t focus on Search Engine Optimization on a daily basis.
Achieving the best page ranking for your site is a battle you can’t ever truly win, but with the right support, it is one where you can punch above your weight.