Domain Name – Your domain name should be brandable (example: Google, Amazon, Yahoo!, etc.), easy to say, and even easier to remember. Don’t worry too much about stuffing keywords into your domain name. Keywords in domain names no longer have the punch they used to.
Simple Design – Don’t reinvent the wheel. If your design is complex, chances are it will hinder your visitors’ ability to navigate and view the site plus it will slow down development. The simpler the better.
File/Directory Names Using Keywords – Your filenames and directory names should contain keywords. If your page is about Guitar lessons then the filename should be guitar-lessons.
Static URLs – Static URLs are URLs that are not dynamically generated. A static URL looks like http://www.c-flo-enterprises.com/directory/file-name.htm and dynamic URLs look like http://www.c-flo-enterprises.com/index.htm?page-name=. Dynamic URLs can be indexed by search engine spiders but getting some things indexed with static URLs will help your SEO.
Think Small – The smaller your Web pages are, the faster they load. Pages should be small ideally less than 1MB, and the entire page including graphics should be less than 2MB(unless absolutely necessary). Remember, not everyone is on a high-speed Internet connection; there are still people with a 56K modem. Crazy I know but in rural areas this is true.
Hyphens – Use hyphens ( – ) and not underscores ( _ ) to separate words in directory and file names. Most search engines parse a hyphen like a reader would parse a space. Using underscores makes what_would_you_do look like whatwouldyoudo to most search engines. You should definitely separate words in your URLs. I know I could be burned at the stake for saying it’s OK to use hyphens in page names, but clarity is key, if you are human or a robot. 🙂
Navigation on Every Page – You should place consistent navigation on every page of your Web site. Your navigation should link to the major sections of your Web site. It would also make sense for every page on your Web site to link back to the home page. I know, I know, like duh right? you would be surprised at how many sites I find when doing audits that have horrible navigation. You just want clear and easy to navigate pages and menus. One caveat here would be a squeeze page or landing page to drive sign ups for your newsletter. Those pages get a hall pass, and only need a form one big button with the proper call to action when it comes to navigation.
Site Map – You should create a site map that links to the major sections and sub-sections of your Web site. The site map should be linked to from your Web site’s home page at the very least. Preferably the site map should be linked to from every page. Recommend file names for your site map are “sitemap.html” or “site-map.html.” This page can be linked to in your footer section, or a sidebar.
Title – The title of the page should be used in the TITLE tag and at the top of every page. The title should be keyword rich (containing a max of 7 to 10 words) and descriptive. I know again, THANK YOU CAPTAIN OBVIOUS! There are so many folks that overlook this though that it is necessary to mention it here.
Description META Tag – Some people say META tags are dead but some search engines will actually use them underneath a pages title on search engine result pages (SERPs). Use no more than 150 characters including spaces and punctuation. Your description should be a keyword rich, complete sentence. This is where someone performing search functions decide if they are looking at your site or Joe Competitors site. It is imperative that you spend some time here and hone in on what your ideal customer is looking for.
Keyword META Tag – A listing of keywords that appear in the page. Use a space to separate keywords (not a comma). Arrange keywords how they would be searched for or as close to a complete sentence as possible. Some people say this tag is basically dead but it is still a good practice to create it when you create the page. It allows you to come back eons later and realize what keywords you were specifically targeting. If the keyword doesn’t appear at least twice in the page then it shouldn’t go in the Keyword META Tag. Also, try to limit the number of total keywords to under twenty. Keywords do not have the effect on search that they once had, but using them sparingly in an article of say 1,000 words will not alert the Panda to penalize you for stuffing your article, and can help your article get found by someone looking for your help in a given subject.
Robots META Tag – Some search engine crawlers abide by the Robots META Tag. This gives you some control over what appears in a search engine and what doesn’t. This isn’t an essential aspect of search engine optimization but it doesn’t hurt to add it in.
Heading Tags – Heading tags should be used wherever possible and should be structured appropriately (H1, H2, H3, H4, H5, H6). You shouldn’t start a page with a H2 tag. If H1 by default is too big then use CSS to style it effectively. Remember that most search engines like to see a heading tag then text or graphics; not H1 followed immediately by H2.
TITLE Attribute – Use the A HREF TITLE attribute (example: <a href=”page.html” title=”This page contains links to other pages.”>). The TITLE attribute improves usability/accessibility. Be sure to include keywords as you see fit but remember it should tell your visitors where they will go when they click the link.
ALT Tags – Every image should have an ALT tag. Use a keyword rich description of what the image is. If the image contains text use the text in the image. This is also a usability/accessibility tool.
More text than HTML – A page should have more text content than markup language. Remember CONTENT is Gold, but VALUE added to your reader is Platinum. Add just enough markup to split and style the page properly. The bulk of any web page should be value rich content.
Anchor Text – Anchor text is the text used to link to a page. Using keywords in anchor text is a very good idea and will improve a page’s performance in SERPs.
Use Text Links, Not Images – If you’re going to link to something use text. Text in images can’t be read by search engines. The only time this rule doesn’t apply is when you’re linking to something with a well known logo. Even then it’s still better to use a text link. If you must use an image as a link then make sure you give it a good ALT tag.
Gobs of Great Content – The more content, the better. Having pages upon pages of original, relevant content is the best form of search engine optimization. If you get this right your SEO will all but take care of itself.
Add New Content Often – If you can add a new page of great content often, then your site will stay fresh and give search engine crawlers a reason to keep coming back.
Use a robots.txt File – Every good crawler looks for a robots.txt file in your root directory. I would highly recommend creating a valid robots.txt just to appease these search engines and at the very least eliminate 404 errors from building up in your log files.
Validation – Every page on your Web site should adhere to W3C standards as closely as possible. Some say page validation can help your ranking in SERPs (the jury is still out on that one). But, standards compliant Web pages do help with cross browser compatibility.
Analyze Traffic – Read your log files often. Make sure you’re not getting traffic you don’t want and getting traffic you do want. Keeping a pulse on your traffic allows you to better optimize your pages.
NO FRAMES – Don’t use frames, ever. You can and should use markup to contain anything you want to add to your site.
NO BROKEN LINKS – Linking to pages that don’t exist is a very bad thing. Search engines and people alike hate that. Keep up with the links your site is linking to. Make sure that your reader doesn’t find Tumbleweeds when they are clicking that link that YOU sent them to.
BONUS(Remember This next one if you don’t remember any of the others. )
NO TRICKS – If it doesn’t seem ethical, then it’s a horrible idea. If it doesn’t help your visitors, then don’t do it. You are doing all of this work to build your reputation, and rapport with your readers. Anytime you think just this one quick trick, just this one time, you risk losing that work.