April 1, 2012
You may know the basic information needed to search engine optimize your website, but it’s easy to get sidetracked by the latest SEO trend and a short while later begin to feel overwhelmed by information overload. What I want to do for you right now is simplify SEO and put you back onto the path of tried, true, and ethical search engine optimization practices that will help you to focus on what works and what will stand the test of time. What I’m about to lay out for you are best practices. Forget everything else for the moment. Grab a cup of coffee and read on for a road map to SEO success.
Focus on your visitors. Make their satisfaction your objective and make sure to structure your website and develop it around content that is most relevant to your audience. SEO is really about working hard to strategically gain high quality and valuable links pointing at your website. It’s also about creating unique content that is useful and targets the correct search terms. Those two tasks – done correctly and continuously with care and attention to detail – will position your website to outmaneuver your competitors over the long term.
Follow these guidelines for every website or web page that you work on and you’ll be optimizing better than 96% of your competitors.
Source Code Standards
The content that is positioned within the upper or top portion of the source code of your web page will be given the most prominence with respect to SEO. Use absolute positioning (CSS) as a way to move visual elements, i.e. image SRC tags, lower in the source code while maintaining their position within the visible on-page content. In this way you can place the spiderable keyword optimized text in the upper portion of your source code, while having less important elements lower in the source code. This gives your optimized SEO copywriting the prominence that it deserves when a search engine robot spiders the web page.
Click around on the web page and try out all of the ways that you can interact with the web page. Click on links, lightboxes and execute any action that displays new content on the web page. Confirm with Firebug that new HTML content has been added to the page. Keep an eye on the URL and take note if any additions are made to the URL using a hash (#). Copy and paste the AJAX URL into a new browser tab or window and confirm if content is displayed. If no additional content is being introduced then you need to redesign your AJAX so that additional content is displayed when accessing it through HTTP using the AJAX URL.
Images are great on a web page and can help to convey an idea or a message, but if you don’t have any relevant text surrounding your image or if you fail to use the ALT attribute within your image SRC tag the search engines have a hard time determining how an image is relevant to your content or what your images are about. View the source code of your web page and identify all of the IMG SRC tags that do not contain an ALT attribute. Write a concise, short descriptive snippet of text that contains a keyword relevant to the image and place it into an ALT attribute within your IMG SRC tags.
Validated Source Code
Just as you would check for spelling errors within a document of text, you also need to check for and repair any errors within the source code of your web page. This is known as validating your source code. You can and should validate your code using the free validator at validator.w3.org and then fix any errors that are discovered. If you have errors and your source code doesn’t validate, you not only run the risk of cross browser compatibility issues and display problems, but you could also be inadvertently creating roadblocks for the search engines by rendering text that is not properly marked as content. It’s worth mentioning that the W3 validator may display warnings and that although warnings are still considered successfully validated, you should still investigate those warnings to see if you can find ways to fix them.
The file size of your web page source code should be below 100KB. If it’s over 100KB you might have some unnecessary code in the file. Sometimes it’s not possible to reduce the file size of your web page. Whenever possible you should aim for a file size of less than 100KB. You can use this free tool to check the size of your page.
Meta Description Length
While it is true that search engines will read up to 250 characters of the content within your Meta description tag, Google only displays the first 160 characters of the content found within your Meta description tag. For that reason it makes sense to keep the contents of that tag to a maximum of 160 characters. Write your Meta description to be short, keyword rich and in a way that will incentivize people to click on your search result.
Meta Description Uniqueness
When writing the contents of your Meta description you’ll find that the best performing contents are those that are unique and accurately summarize the content of the page.
The Meta keywords tag is largely ignored by most search engines today. However, this tag can still have a small impact on search engine rankings. The content of your Meta keywords tag should be approximately 3 to 5 keywords relevant to the page.
Tables in Markup
HTML table-based layouts are not nearly as efficient as a CSS-based layout. The presence of HTML tables within your source code is not going to have a significantly negative impact on your search engine rankings, but they do create more code than a CSS-based layout which impacts the file size of your page. CSS-based layouts are also more beneficial because they present your content in a format that makes it easier for search engines to understand the relationship between all of the elements on your page.
Title Tag Length
Your title tag content should be no longer than 70 characters in length. Search engines only display up to the first 70 characters of the title tag in your page.
Title Tag Uniqueness
The title tag in your page carries a lot of weight in the search engine algorithm. For your title tag to perform at its best it should be unique and clearly indicate the content of your page.
This article is part 1 of a 3-part series. To be continued.
Brendon Turner is co-founder of WebDevCompany.com. Feeling overwhelmed by all of this SEO stuff? Leave it to the Pro’s at Web Development Company Inc.. Request a Free SEO Analysis and receive a detailed report of your website, including tips to improve your SE rankings and traffic.