How to Make Your Website Search Engine (SEO) Friendly

seo friendly handshakeYou’ve probably heard the term “SEO-friendly website” right? If not, here is what it means. It means to build and structure your website in a way that is optimized for search engine visibility. There are steps you can take during and after the site building stage to make sure your website is set up with the best on-site SEO practices.

If you don’t have experience with SEO, it can be a real challenge to properly set up a new website. SEO involves more than just simple link building and content writing. It can get downright technical depending on how detailed you want to get. I see so many small business owners thinking they’ve got everything figured out, and failing to realize that there could be many things working against them. For example, did you know that there is a file called robot.txt that may prevent search engines from crawling your website or parts of your website? Or, did you know that the page loading speed of your site can affect your search rankings?

Here are the basics of how to make your website search engine friendly.

Robot.txt

This file tells the search engine spiders and bots what they can or cannot crawl on your site. If this file exists on your web host server, make sure it is set up properly and not blocking anything bots that you want visiting your site.

Page load speed

This is a well known factor of Google’s algorithm. But more than an SEO factor, it plays a huge role in user experience. No one likes a slow loading website and most people wouldn’t hesitate to leave. Anyone who is serious about their online business, needs to invest in a solid web hosting company and don’t always go for the cheapest price. Dealing with an unreliable web hosting company is one of the most frustrating experiences. But, keep in mind that slow website speed doesn’t mean it’s always a problem with the web hosting service, it could be a problem with your website coding that could be the cause.

URL structure

URL stands for Uniform Resource Locator. This is the unique web address that is given to each webpage on the Internet. For example, https://www.sbwebcenter.com/what-is-seo/, is a URL. Set up the URLs so that they are easy to remember, not too long, and include keywords related to the topic. Also, separate each keyword with a dash (-), not an underscore (_). Google treats them differently.

Meta tags

These are keywords that go in the <head> section on each of your webpages. Each meta tag represents a certain type of data that describes what the website is about. In the early days of the Internet, meta tags were almost necessary for top rankings, but today, they have become almost obsolete with the exception of a few. The title meta tag is probably the only one that is necessary for SEO purposes.

Headings tags

These HTML tags are often used to not only increase the visual size of a font, but also to emphasize certain keywords within the content such as the title of an article. Include heading tags wherever you deem appropriate, but don’t over-do it.

Content keywords

This is pretty self-explanatory, but from my past experiences, not everyone understood the concept. When adding new content or articles to your website, it is important to incorporate your targeted keywords into the body of your article. This is what the search engines will look at to determine what the page is about. Remember to write for your visitors, not the search engines. Having unreadable content is bad because it will scare your visitors away and also look unnatural to the search engines. Also, pay attention to keyword density because stuffing your content with keywords will red flag your site.

Site navigation

Your site menu should be well-organized and easy to navigate. Frustrating your visitors with a confusing navigational structure will only send them running. Furthermore, Google prefers sites with a clean navigational structure.

Internal links

As you add new pages to your site, remember to make use of strong keywords within the content. This helps in a couple of ways. One, to direct visitors to pages of interest. And two, to build links for certain pages on your site. Yes, internal links do help, but be selective with your linking strategy and don’t over-do it.

External links

From time to time, you may want to link out to 3rd party sites. This is fine as long as you do it in moderation. Be picky about who you link to and avoid linking out to bad neighborhoods. When you link to an external site, you are essentially placing a vote for that site.

Linking out to a site that is considered spammy or illegal, may result in you losing credibility in the eyes of both search engines and users. This will ultimately hurt your search engine rankings and traffic.

Image alt tags

Alt tags allow you to assign keywords to images. The search engines take these keywords into consideration when analyzing the content on a webpage.

Check for broken links or codes

Keep track of the links on your site and make sure none of them are broken. Also, the HTML on your site should be properly coded without errors. It does affect how Google perceives your site. To check your HTML code, use this tool: https://validator.w3.org/. To check for broken links, use this one: https://validator.w3.org/checklink

Avoid flash, frames and JavaScript

These terms are a bit technical, but you should try to avoid using them when building a website.

What is flash? Flash is a type of graphic animation that you may have seen on some fancy websites. While it may be visually appealing to the visitor – it is no good for search engines. Images typically do not offer any SEO value because there is no text for the search engines to crawl or index.

What is a frame? Frames allow you to embed content from another file by inserting a piece of HTML coding. The reason why frames are no good for SEO is that the search engine only sees the HTML coding on your page, and not the actual content that is being rendered on your computer screen. An example use of a frame would be the iframe option when embedding a YouTube video.

What is JavaScript? JavaScript is a type of programming language widely used on the Internet. It’s used to perform functions on a website that HTML alone couldn’t handle. For example, JavaScript could be used on a site to display the current time on your browser, calculate math, or run a game. JavaScript is bad for SEO because most of the coding is not crawlable by the search engines.

Avoid duplicate content

Duplicate content has always been bad for SEO. There are two ways that duplicate content can happen on your site. One, when you have canonical URL issues. And two, when you have the same article or content appearing on more than one page. Although there is no such thing as a duplicate content penalty, Google will try to figure out which page is the original. The “copy” pages will simply be ignored or de-indexed.

What is a canonical URL? It’s somewhat difficult to explain, so let me show you with this example:

  • www.domain.com
  • domain.com
  • www.domain.com/index.html
  • domain.com/home.asp

At first glance, you might think that all of these URLs are different, but all of these URLs actually point to the same page, which in this case happens to be the homepage. These 4 URLs are just variations of the same page. Although each of these URLs point to the same page, the search engines will look at them as separate individual pages. In other words, you have 4 copies of the same page. In order to fix this issue, you can do a URL redirection, or set your preferred URL structure through Google webmaster tools.

As for avoiding duplicate content, don’t copy content from other websites, and don’t publish the same article on more than one page anywhere on the web.

Keep these things in mind next time you start planning out your new website. You’ll save yourself some headaches by implementing these upfront, as opposed to doing them later.

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