Bare-Bones SEO Basics
Site and Page Structure
Sites with proper structure — both overall and at the page level — make it easier for the bots to find their way around and note and catalog what is important. Make sure all your site’s pages link together. Generally speaking, web crawlers start at your Home Page and work through the site. “Orphan” pages will probably not be found, indexed or provide SEO value.
Relevance and Popularity
A lot goes into search engine rankings, but great content and are popularity (i.e., lots of users stay on the the pages longer) are two major factors in determining if a site is pleasing the users of the search engine’s results.
Pictures Aren’t Worth a Thousand Words
Most of us do not like text-heavy web pages; search engines do. Although search engines are getting better at image recognition, for right now they do a better job with text. Graphics, video, and audio are great for users, but if there is no (little) relevant copy to be indexed, your site may be deemed unimportant.
Use the “Voice” of Your Audience
Your website must have the words/terms for which people are searching to be found — and those words must be relevant. Don’t mislead the bots or audience with bogus words just to gain traffic.
Be Mobile Friendly
Sites that are not optimized for mobile devices (phones and tablets) receive lower rankings than those that are.
Better Safe Than Sorry
Starting later this year, sites that do not employ Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) will lose SEO ranking.
Don’t Dilute Content
A single webpage with great copy is better than many pages with duplicate copy. Saying the same thing over and over throughout a site undermines the site’s credibility.
People vs The Machines: Peacefully Coexisting
The search engine bots “see” sites differently than humans. Here are a few tips to help humans and machines to coexist peacefully.
- Images should have relevant file names and “alt text” to help search engines a text description of the visual content.
- When possible, provide text transcripts of video and audio content if you want it indexed.
- Keywords — the terms and phrases people are searching — need to be on your site. Use these terms in natural way — don’t have keyword Tourettes — here’s where too much of a good thing can hurt your page rankings.
- Use keywords strategically: in the URL, in title tags, early in the copy, in the alt text for images, in the page snippet. There will be a future post about keywords, how to find them, and use them.
- The bots can recognize when the human user is happy. Developing and maintaining great content is key to satisfying both humans and search engine crawlers.
- Links, to and from the site, are important. Outbound links should utilize anchor text, not simply “click here” and link to a reputable, useful site. Inbound links (backlinks) from trusted domains work in your favor; if the New York Times links to your site, it is more credible than the occasional blogger’s link.
- Use your social media channels to create excitement and engagement with your site.