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11 Search Engine Optimization Tips

by Gerry McGovern

When it comes to optimizing your site for search and the search engines, it's important not to over-complicate your design and technical approach with things such as Flash, Java, frames and dynamically built websites.

Here are 11 tips for design that work:

The title tag is critical

The title tag is the single most important piece of content for people who search.

  1. Keep it short: Don't have more than 60 characters (with spaces), which is roughly 8–10 words.

  2. Lead with the most important "careword" for that particular page. Always start off with what is specific about the page and move to what is general. Many websites begin their title with their brand or organization name, and then follow with what is unique about the page (this is a very common mistake, so check out your own site).

The description tag is recommended

The description tag is not nearly as important as the title. However, it does have some value. Write it as a summary and keep it under 30 words. It should be written in a compelling, clear manner.

Light pages and lean, quality HTML

The less HTML code you have, the better, as it makes it easier and faster for the search engine to index your page. Aim for a total page weight of 50 KB for any page (that's including graphics). Certainly, anything over 100 KB is going to be slow, and some search engines don't like pages that are over 100 KB.

Have a site map/index

People like site maps/indexes, and so do search engines. Make sure that the site map is available from the home page, presented in a text-based format, and kept up to date.

Avoid Flash

I've nothing against Flash design except for the fact that I generally detest it. It's a waste of time; it's fourth-rate TV advertising by people who will never get the chance to do a real TV ad.

Search engines don't like Flash, either, and find it very hard to index Flash-based pages.

Build your website in static HTML

You don't need a "dynamic" website unless you have dynamic content, such as airline seat availability and pricing, which needs to be dynamically published from a database because it constantly changes.

You may store your website in a database, but you're better off publishing it as a static HTML site. It's cheaper, the pages will download faster and search engines will find it easier to comprehensively index your website.

Avoid PDFs

One of the sure signs of a badly managed website is that it has lots of PDFs. Publishing content in PDF is usually a shortcut. Search engines are now better at indexing PDFs but I still recommend that you publish a heading and summary in HTML.

Avoid frames

Simply said: Frames are a very bad idea.

Watch your JavaScript

Any links that you have in JavaScript should also be published in HTML; otherwise, the search engine won't be able to follow those links. Rollovers are cool, but they cause nothing but problems, so avoid them unless you have a brilliant technical team.

Alternative text

As a rule: you should have alternative text for every single image.

However, the only alternative text that search engines recognize is for images that are linked. Make sure you use descriptive, careword-rich text.

Keyword tags

Over the years, some sites tried to trick search engines by stuffing keyword tags with lots of popular words. Because of this, most search engines give very little value to keyword tags.

Gerry McGovern is a content management consultant and author. His latest books are Content Critical and The Web Content Style Guide. This is his website.

 

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Thursday, 14 Dec 2017 11:57 AM

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