You may or may not have seen our recent post about the nose hair waxing event at SEO.com. Yes it is just as painful as it looks on the video. And yes that is my wife doing the torture. Which leads perfectly into our subject at hand: How well groomed is your website?
While "man-scaping" may be a painful experience, "seo-scaping" certainly is not.
Here are a few simple guidelines to keep in mind when trying to SEO-groom your site. Whether the site is in its infancy or well seasoned, the items we will cover here will remain applicable.
Usability -- Your website's purpose makes no difference if visitors cannot find it, view it correctly, or if the site takes any longer than a few seconds to load. Here are a few tips:
- See what the search engines see. Use a text browser like Lynx and examine your website. What you find will likely be similar to what the majority of search engine spiders do, too.
- Utilize the robots.txt file on your server. This will communicate to crawlers which directories can or cannot be crawled. As long as this is current with your preferences, you will be in control with what will be crawled and indexed.
- Test each Web page in the various Web browsers for both visibility and functionality.
- Pay attention to your website performance and optimize load times. The goal of every search engine is not only relevancy, but also a great user experience.
Navigation and Content
Site Navigation -- While nearly every website will approach their navigation with slight differences, one thing should always remain: keep it simple and straight forward. Here are a few tips:
- Link Structure -- Every top level page should have at least one link directing to it from each of your pages.
- Site Map -- This is a great way to show the search engines the extent of your website and also help your users find what they are looking for when all else fails. A combination of both a plain html formatted map for users and an XML sitemap will do the trick. For a clear walk through on the standards for your XML sitemap visit the protocol.
- Overall Linking -- A commonly held idea is to stay below 100 links per page. Anything more than this typically will not be crawled.
Content -- The content placed on the page will be a main driving factor in who arrives and how they will interact once landing there. The first question that should come to mind when creating content is "does the page clearly communicate the subject and goal at hand?" This is often achieved by keeping your subject matter down to one topic per page. Here are a few tips:
- Make sure the page is actually useful and provides quality information.
- Check for broken links and correct the HTML.
- As much as possible use text over images to display prominent content such as headings, addresses, names and links.
- Brainstorm words people would commonly use when searching for your website, and make certain the website actually includes those words. (Go here for a more in depth walk through on choosing keywords wisely)
- Keep your URL structure simple. Remember when using URLs that are dynamic (for instance if it has a "?" character in it), not all spiders crawl dynamic pages. It helps to keep the dynamic parameters to a minimum or to write them completely out where possible. The following format is ideal for a URL:
With competition always on the increase, now is the time to show your true colors. And just this once, it does matter if you are black or white, otherwise you might experience what JCPenny did. Keep your website on the search engine good graces with these tips:
- Keep your links in the right neck of the woods: avoid links to Web spammers, which commonly have an adverse effect on the website.
- The best page is a natural page. Search Engine Optimization does not have to be forced. Make sure your pages are created primarily for users, not for search engines. Refrain from "cloaking," or displaying content different to search engines than visitors.
- Avoid tricks solely dedicated to manipulating search engines. A test is to ask is, "Does this help my users?" SEO and website usability can play nicely together.
I feel confident in saying the best Search Engine Optimization is found in natural processes. Make sure the content you create is unique and worth sharing and then create lots of it. Do this and follow the above guidelines and you will end up with one handsome website.
Here's the video: