This is a guest post from Michael Tomlinson of A Small Orange, a web hosting company.
Here are 15 quick pointers on SEO that will save headaches down the road. Whether your site is with a Ruby on Rails hosting provider or PHP-based, these tactics are proven to enhance visitor experience. Matt Cutts of Google agrees.
1: Make sure title tags reflect appropriate page topics to the search engines. Set the title of the homepage to the company name and related company data, such as location and business type. Avoid being wordy or too descriptive. Each page with a unique title tag stands out as distinct to search engines.
2: Some absorb written information fine without visual aids, while others benefit markedly from visual stimulation. An estimated 55% of the population constitutes the primarily visually-oriented, so embed pictures for context where possible, but not to excess.
3: Easy to read URL structure. Lengthy addresses containing unreadable stretches of characters are an eyesore. Using human readable addresses tells search engines what a page is about. It helps to maintain a directory structure that is easy to remember, in case a 301 redirect is ever needed.
5: Use a static HTML sitemap to direct visitors to the most important destinations on your site, and use an XML Sitemap to appease the search engines.
6: Tweak the robots.txt file to disallow search result-type pages from being read by search engines. Disallow search engines to crawl URLs established by proxy services.
7: Good products and services generate their own buzz. Offer compelling content and your traffic is sure to increase. Employ synonyms and keyword variations on pages.
8: Image optimization is critical, and can reduce the size of a webpage by as much as 50% or more in some cases. Do not use a photo that is larger than what is called for; this results in the higher resolution image appearing smaller, scaling to fit its defined space. Use the ‘alt’ attribute for internal and external image files. This displays text describing the image in case a visitor cannot display it.
9: Tailor page content for users, not search engines. Visitors who read a passage of keyword-stuffed text that makes little or no sense will leave and probably not return. Deceptive tactics, like coloring keyword text the same as the color of the page background is discouraged, are discouraged.
10: Link to pages using anchor text. Clicking a link whose content is relevant to a topic, while reading, results in a better visitor experience than scrolling to the bottom of the page to find the links. Search engines benefit from anchor text, so anchor internal links as well. Make sure link color stands out from surrounding text.
11: Categorize directories in such a way that they are memorable. Avoid having image files scattered over twenty folders; keeping the directory tree short and organized translates to friendlier URLs.
12: Use the ‘description’ meta tag. Its content ranges from a couple of sentences to a paragraph, and ideally gives a page summary. Google states it is good practice.
13: An image sitemap is of value. It can tell search engine spiders what images are at your website. This works similar to an XML sitemap for web pages.
14: A nonexistent or unhelpful 404 page contributes to negative user experience. Eliminate that by taking time to setup a 404 page that directs visitors back to the home page, and to other areas of interest.
15: For comment pages, set the ‘rel’ attribute to “no follow” so that search engines ignore link spam.
Editor’s Note: Thank you to Michael for his guest post! These are some great tips to keep in mind when conducting our search engine optimization! If you are interested in writing a guest post to appear on the eMarketing & New Media Blog, feel free to send an email to me, Erica, so we can discuss a potential topic. Thanks again, Michael!