Basic SEO Principles for your website

There are many strategies for optimising your website for better search results. Listed here is an overview of fundamental best practice principles which form the foundation for optimal SEO (Search Engine Optimization).

1. Copywriting

  • Keep it simple. Be relevant and reputable.
  • Don’t use paid or free tools to submit your website to Google, Yahoo, Bing or other directories (these services promise to submit your website to multiple search engines and listings).
  • Write content written for humans not for search robots (also known as spiders or crawlers, they are the tools many search engines use to build their databases).
  • Search engines reward quality, original and new content.

2. Keywords

Keywords are the words and phrases that internet users type into the search field of a search engine, such as Google, to find the websites that best match what they are looking for. It is important that your site contains keywords that are relevant and authentic to your business or organization and that reflect the information that users are looking for.

  • Relying on meta keyword optimisation to rank for search terms will fail because Google & Bing ignore meta keywords, or place no weight on them when ranking pages.
  • Use keywords in the page title (this is one of the most important on-page ranking factors and should be treated with care, this page title is in the source code and shows up in Search Engine Results).
  • Also use keywords in the meta description, content, links and on images (an image ‘alt’ tag is an alternative image description for screen readers) and in image filenames.
  • Avoid keyword stuffing.

Meta elements on your page (meta keywords, meta descriptions, meta author) are not visible to users. These represent extra information in the source code. This metadata can be used by browsers, search engines (eg. displaying the meta description in search results) or other web services.

3. Page titles and descriptions (meta)

  • Page titles must be limited to 65 characters or less. Any more than this will be cut off in search results. So keep it short
  • Load your page titles and heading with keywords so the reader knows what your page/article is about.
  • Create clean, focused, and optimised URL’s (these do not need to be the same as the title but should be descriptive) so users can see what the page is about before they click. This is also useful when they share, eg. yourdomain.com/how-to-create-an-account.
  • Google has made this easy by giving you tips on how to create good meta descriptions (a meta description describes for the user the contents of a page and it appears below the link of a search result). Make sure your description is accurate, clear, helpful and relevant to the page content. Google limits meta descriptions to 160 characters or fewer.
  • Each meta description should be different from all the other pages’ descriptions.

SEO

4. Reducing the noise on the page

  • To reduce the bounce rate (the percentage of visitors who enter the site and leave before viewing other pages) keep the page simple and put less content in sidebars (left and right content modules, eg. related articles, latest comments…) to avoid driving people away.
  • Reduce the ad space on your page (only one or two of them) and keep them below the fold (in web design, elements that are positioned “below the fold” are not seen when the page first loads and are only viewed if the user scrolls down: the location of the fold differs depending upon the screen size and how big the browser window is).

5. Social sharing

  • SEO experts agree that social links on the page level (in the layout and displaying on all pages, eg. in the header) will impact positively search results.
  • The number one rule as always is to produce great content worthy of sharing.
  • Make sure that the “share” buttons are easily visible.
  • Ask readers to share your content.

6. Links

  • Google ranks websites amongst other things by the number and quality of incoming links from other websites.
  • Use internal links (a link that points to another page on the same website) to important pages (eg. contact page, faq page) to encourage users to stay on the site and read more.

7. URL’s – Good Practice

  • User friendly URL’s can be assigned to each page (eg. we can use yourdomain.com/category/article-name instead of yourdomain.com/page.php?id=123&cat=34).
  • A descriptive URL is important, minimising their length makes them easier to use and ensures they will be fully visible in search results.
  • Keyword use is important in URL’s but do not overuse.
  • The best URLs should be easily readable without lots of parameters, numbers and symbols.
  • Use hyphens to separate words.