9 Must-Haves to Help Optimize Your Site – SEO made easy to understand. Part 2.

I explained briefly in an earlier post what search engines look for and how they rank pages. Part of that explanation revolved around the importance of keywords and your sites’ association with those keywords. Here are 9 simple (and necessary) programming tips you can actually apply to your web site that will help with your SEO.

1. Keyword infused titles tags.

This is what appears in the “Title” portion of your site. Make sure that each page of your site has a different title, and that each title has keywords relevant to that particular page. Search engines don’t like pages with the same title. In fact, it could hurt your ranking if you do that. Also, put your keywords at the beginning of the title – search engines give that location more relevance. Many companies put their name first but if you do that, consider putting it last within the title.

2. Well written, keyword infused descriptive tags.

This is the portion of text that shows up in the search engine results page below the title. Any keywords that were typed into the search box will appear in bold in this area. This is also seen and read by the searcher, that’s why it is important for this to be concise, descriptive and as attention grabbing as possible – but most importantly filled with keywords. Keyword tags were once an important factor in SEO coding, however, the descriptive tag now holds much more importance and relevance to search engines.

3. h1 headline tags.

This is an important coding issue. It’s easy to do, but often isn’t. If the code <h1> is put around a phrase within your source code (think of that phrase as a subhead on your page) search engines will look specifically at that phrase and give it high ranking priority. That phrase can appear anywhere on your page – it doesn’t necessarily have to be the first line of text. Only one h1 code is “allowed” per page, but utilizing it on important pages of your site will help optimize those pages to a higher degree than if they weren’t incorporated.

4. Hierarchical / drop-down menu navigation.

Besides the organizational ease of navigating your site this type of menu structure offers (you’re never but one click away from any page), drop-down menus offer another benefit. Search engines read all those navigation words so if some of those words are keywords, that helps with your relevance. Plus, if a search engine sees a keyword of yours linking to your site, they give that very high relevance and ranking. Since all your navigation words link to your site –– voila!

5. Using Customized Style Sheets (CSS).

If your site isn’t utilizing CSS it should for two reasons. One, search engines like very little code to read on a page. It will stop reading and indexing a page if there’s too much code on it. And if your page doesn’t get fully indexed some important keywords may be missed. A web site’s source code has lots of “general” information such as page width, fonts to use, colors, navigation information, image location etc. All this information is often the first code to appear on the page and usually appears before the information you really want a search engine looking at shows up (such as text and h1 headings). Very often that “general” information will run dozens of lines deep. Basically a CSS is a bunch of code located on a separate page in a separate location. Your actual web page is directed to find that CSS page using one or two lines of code. In a nutshell, you’re replacing dozens of lines of code with one or two lines. Search engines love that. The other benefit is that CSS allows for global changes. From a designer or programmer’s stand point this is a time saver. Change something within the CSS and it changes on every page utilizing it.

6. Image naming.

Here’s a little secret. Search engines “read” the names of image files. Rather than name files generically (topimage.jpg for example) use this opportunity to infuse some more keywords. So use keywords when naming files. You can use multiple words but make sure you use a hyphen (-) between those words because that’s how search engines understand separate words. Don’t run your words together or use underscores.

7. Build an .xml site map file.

Basically an xml site map file is a text file of your whole site that search engines can easily read and index. Part of this code can be made to tell the search engines how often to crawl your site. In my earlier post I mentioned the importance changing the content on your site has to good ranking. So if you follow that advice and regularly change your content you can tell search engines to regularly visit your site and it will see that you have in fact changed content. Beware though, if you tell search engines to come back and you haven’t changed content that could work against you.

8. Links back to your site.

In my earlier post I mentioned the importance of links back to your site for high ranking. Remember above (in #4) I talked about the positive effects of keywords linking to your site. Now apply that tip to any external sites linking back to your site. It’s not always possible to do – but if it is – have a keyword or two link back to your site rather than your site name. For example, I may have a listing somewhere that says: rbauerdesign.com – graphic design services. I would much rather have the actual link to my site on the words “graphic design” than on “rbauerdesign.com”.

9. Domain registration.

Search engines don’t like it when domains are coming up for renewal (spammers typically don’t keep a domain for very long). If you only renew annually, you may want to consider a 3 or 5 year renewal for your domain name. That makes the search engines happy and in the long run actually saves you a few bucks on renewal costs.

By no means are these all the optimizing tactics that are available, but they are some of the most basic, easiest and strongest things that can be done. Any one of them by themselves may be no big deal, but start adding them up together, over time, and you’ll definitely start to see your ranking steadily increase.

About Ray Bauer

I am an independent designer and marketer operating my own enterprise, rBAUERdesign, based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, I have an understanding of, and dedication to, the design and marketing process of firms in need of communication solutions. I bring my design, layout, creative and art direction experience and knowledge as well as applied and tested marketing applications from the advertising agencies and marketing firms I've worked at for over 25 years to every job I touch.
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