Tips in Setting up an SEO Friendly Website
With Google’s incredible market share in today’s digital world, it has become increasingly important for any business, whether start-up or new, to have a strong focus on Search Engine Optimization or “SEO.” That said, what most people don’t know is that SEO is not just about the copy written for your site or the “content.” In fact, although secretive, Google seems to put a lot of weight on many other items in your website’s make-up. Things like how fast your site loads and whether or not you have “alt-tags” to your images can have a major impact on where you rank in the search engine rankings or “SERPS.”
With this understanding, we’ve created this very basic 10 step guide to setting up an SEO friendly website that will help you in gaining higher rankings in the SERPS. While this is not an all inclusive guide (Google is secretive and does not express all that it takes into consideration when giving rank), it is a fantastic start to helping your business structure your site in a way to aid in your rankings.
1. Start with a good domain name
While we do not know exactly what Google thinks about domain names in general, it seems pretty apparent that they are giving precedence to domain names that are either keyword friendly or relative to what you are trying to accomplish. In other words, creating the website johnsmith.com for selling specialized paper airplanes will be a lot harder sell to Google than creating the site specializedpaperairplanes.com.
If you put things into perspective this makes sense. Google likes to know that your domain is relative to what is on your site. The more relative it is, the more credibility Google may give it.
2. Choose a good web hosting company
There are many many web hosting companies out there. It is vitally important that you pick one with good bandwidth and one that has great reviews. Many times a webhosting company can make or break you, either by price or by how they handle your site. For instance, Google gives a lot of credibility to how quickly your site loads as this may impact your user’s experience on your site. If your site loads slowly due to a poor hosting company, you may find your rankings drop.
More specifically though, make sure that your hosting company provides you with the following:
Static IP address – Ensure that when visitors search out your site, your hosting company assigns the same IP address every time to your site. For obvious technical reasons, Google prefers an IP address that stays the same. Thus, it shows Google that this site is this site and not many potentially different sites with the same content.
Enough bandwidth to support a growing site/speedy load time – As mentioned above, site load time has a big impact on SEO rankings. If your hosting company cannot support a site with room to grow, you may experience slow load times and/or site crashing, which obviously is bad for customers coming to your site. And this can affect your rankings.
3. Stay away from Flash, make sure that pages are static and not dynamic, and keeping code clean
Flash – Flash overall, is not read by Google’s spiders as of yet. As such, it’s better to not use it much on your site. With HTML 5, many things you can do in Flash can now be done in HTML. Thus, we suggest staying away from it for now.
Static vs. Dynamic Pages – Some web developing software offer ways to organize content that for you as the user becomes quite useful. We suggest being careful and really making sure that you understand how the software can impact SEO. For instance, some content organizing software makes it easy for users to search for anything on your site. If you have a lot of different categories sometimes this may seem great. User types it in and poof there’s a page of new content.
What most people don’t know though is, if you’re your site has dynamic content; Google is far less likely to find, crawl, and rank a completely dynamic created page. Thus, the newly created dynamic page will not aid and could potentially hurt your rankings.
Keeping code clean – Without getting too technical, keep your sites coding clean so that when the crawlers come to your site, they don’t have any issues finding your content and keywords. In other words, if the crawlers come to you site and find a lot of java scripting code and have a rough time finding your content, they may end up leaving without giving your site the credibility it deserves. We suggest having some scripts be called from an external source to make this easier on the Google’s spiders.
4. Pick the keywords that you want to rank for
Now that you’ve got the domain and a good hosting company, and you’ve got the correct software to set up your site, it’s now time to figure out words that you want to rank for. In other words, it’s time to choose the words that people would type into Google to find you.
The best way to do this is to come up with a list of words, phrases, and even short sentences that you think people would use to find your site.
Next we suggest using Google’s Keyword Tool to find out how many average monthly searches each keyword has and what the competition looks like. Specifically to do this, just search in Google for Google’s keyword tool. Note though, when using the tool, make sure to set the search on the left side bar to exact match. This will ensure that this is exactly what people are typing in, not something near it (as broad search would do).
Once you’ve done this, you should be able to see what you’ve inputted as keywords and phrases as well as Google’s like terms below it. You should base the keywords you choose on relativity to your site and to your budget. Obviously it will take a lot more input (time and money) if the words you’re after have a million searches with high competition as opposed to something with a thousand searches and medium competition.
After you’ve done your research and you make a list of words that you like, choose 1-4 to be your main keywords for each page you are optimizing your site for. We also suggest choosing 5-10 (based on a small to medium sized site) other secondary keywords that you could use throughout your site as well. All in all though, your keywords should make sense for your site and for your users. Furthermore, they should be somewhat relative to each other as well.
5. Writing good, unique content
You’ve chosen your keywords, so what is next? In general we suggest using them as natural as possible throughout your content. Specifically, you should use your primary keyword for the page 5-6 times (based on 350-500 words) and your secondary keywords 2-3 times each. If your articles are longer or shorter, you should adjust the keywords accordingly, but the above is the typical length for most web pages.
This step may be the most important step of all. When you write the content for your site make sure that the content is unique and original. We cannot emphasize this enough. Google’s algorithm is quite robust and can recognize if things are borrowed from elsewhere.
Next, as you’re writing this content, think about other keywords that are relative to what you are writing about. For instance, in writing your specialized paper airplanes home page, you should think about adding keywords about specialized paper, flying techniques, proper folding, etc. All in all, think of words that would allow a computer to make sense about what exactly your page is about (because that’s what Google’s crawlers are trying to do).
Furthermore, make sure to use your keywords in your title and H1, H2, etc. headings tags of these pages. It does seem that if you’re giving such importance to these keywords, Google recognizes this and transfers this importance to the page/site for its rankings.
Finally, add relevant content over time. Google seems to give more credibility to a site with a thousand quality pages than it does to a site with only 8.
**Special Note** this section has laid out how to write and set up content page by page. That said, if you’re focused on something specific or if there is something that you want to rank for that may not be on your home page (new item, or is on an interior page), we suggest creating a link from your main menu to a static page for it. In other words, let’s say that you are going to start selling high-end paper for your specialized paper airplanes. This is relative to your site, but it’s not anywhere on it yet. The best way to approach it is to link from your home page (preferably on the main menu) to a new static page about the high-end paper with which you have your keywords properly optimized for on the page.
6. Make sure that your Page Title, Permalinks, Meta tags, Meta title, and Meta descriptions are keyword friendly
This is another important step that most people fail to do. We’ll take each in turn.
Page title – As expressed above, the page title should be keyword friendly and preferably one of the main keywords. Furthermore, Google generally only shows 65 characters for your title and thus you should stick to this number.
Permalinks – The permalink is the actual URL for each page. Each permalink to each page should be keyword friendly or at least relevant to the page. For example, for your specialized paper page, it should be specializedpaperairplanes.com/high-end-paper as opposed to specializedpaperairplanes.com/464654dsa9
Meta Title – Your Meta Title is the title that will actually show up in the search results. If you haven’t figured out the trend by now, we’ll help say it again. This should be keyword friendly as well. So our high end paper page could be entitled (if the keyword was high end paper airplane paper) High End Paper Airplane Paper.
Meta Description – The Meta Descriptions are the little description next to the title in most of Google’s SERPS. There are 2 things to keep in mind when writing your Meta descriptions – (1) It needs to be keyword friendly (2) Make it inviting and somewhat salesy. This is what somewhat might read to choose whether or not they will click on your site. For example for our high-end paper page, we could write something like – “Want to find the best high end paper airplane paper? You’ve come to the right page. Our paper airplane paper will make sure your planes always fly perfectly.” Further, if you have more than 1 primary keyword, you should try to fit it in as well.
Meta Keywords – Your Meta keywords are simply the keywords you are trying to optimize for.
Tags – Your tags are generally not seen, but are a way to organize content for your site. We suggest making them keyword friendly as well. A simple route of coming up with tags is to actually use the keywords.
7. Optimize Images –
While Google cannot see the images on your page, there are ways that they can aid in your SERP rankings. We’ll take each in turn.
Image name – When uploading your image, make sure that the image name is either keyword friendly or at least relevant. For instance, if you have an image of a paper airplane, name it paper airplane.jpeg not 1316546.jpeg.
Image title – This is the actual title of your image. It should be keyword friendly. You can think of this as another heading for your page.
Alt-Text – The original idea for Alt-text was so visually impaired individuals could scroll over your image and be told what it was. This is still in place today and Google takes these very seriously. Make sure to write a short, keyword friendly description of your image.
Description – This is an area where you can write a description of the image. It is another area to use keywords, but it’s only relevant if you plan on ranking for that image specifically.
9. Interlink pages, setup a physical sitemap, an XML sitemap, and a Robot.txt file –
All of the above are ways to make it easier for your user and Google to navigate your site. We’ll go over each here:
Interlink Pages – By linking your pages to and from one another (in a relevant way), your site becomes easier to navigate. Furthermore, by linking pages together that are relative to one another, you give each of those pages a little more credence that it is about what you say it is about. This again, gives Google another item to use in deciding the relevance to your site.
Physical Sitemap – In general, this is simple to set up, it gives your user an easier route through your site, and we think that Google prefers you have one. Basically, from our experience, anything that you do to make life easier for your user, Google seems to give credence to.
XML Sitemap – The XML Sitemap differs from the HTML or physical sitemap in that it is specifically set up for the crawlers to crawl. This sets up a direction for the crawlers to go through your site and recognize updates. In terms of SEO this is very important. And bluntly, anything that you can do to make sure that it is easy for Google to go through your site the better. Thus, we strongly suggest ensuring that this is set up and especially make sure that it is set up at the root directory (e.g. domain.com/sitemap.xml).
Robot.txt File – Google seems to give a lot of credence to just sheerly having a Robot.txt file. In general, this is set up as a place to put information that you do not want the crawlers to crawl (test pages and duplicate content) as well as a place to disallow certain crawlers from crawling your website at all. Even if you have nothing to put in this, we suggest just setting up an empty file.
10. Register with Google Webmaster tools and submit your XML site map as well as register with Google Analytics –
Webmaster tools and submitting your XML site map – Registering your information with Google’s Webmaster tools is an important step in your SEO efforts and it’s free. Not only does it give you the place to setup your XML sitemap for the crawlers, but it also gives you the following:
- Lets Google know that you are the site owner. (You are given a piece of code to put on the site).
- Gives you information about your internal and external link.
- Lets you know if the crawlers are finding errors on your site that won’t allow them to access all content
- And much more
Register with Google Analytics – Registering with Google Analytics is also free and very easy to do. By registering with Google Analytics, you give yourself access to things like:
- Most visited pages
- Bounce Rate
- Conversion info (if you have a goal set up)
- And much more
What not to do -
While we’ve included a top 10 list of tips to “do” to create an SEO friendly site, there are many things that you shouldn’t do. And trust us when we tell you that if you do any of these items, Google will find out and your rankings may not only fall significantly, but you might actually be taken off of Google’s search entirely. What we’re talking about is known as “Black-Hat” activities. These could include things like:
Over-optimizing text – If you stuff keywords into your page (as in putting in paper airplane 40 times in a 400 word page), you are over optimizing the page and Google will not like this. Your pages should be natural and something your reader would appreciate, not just there to aid in rankings.
Don’t hide text – If you hide text in a white background to help with rankings or elsewhere on your site, Google will find out and question why your users and crawlers are seeing two different things. This is not just wrong for your rankings, but unethical in general.
Don’t make your font so small that user cannot read it – If you’re trying to add content for crawlers by making font so small that a human cannot reader, Google will figure this out and you could lose rankings. This again is a way to make Google feel like you are trying to deceive it and this makes you lose credibility.
While the above three is by far not an all inclusive list, in regards to this article it is a few things for you to look out for. We do suggest reading up a bit further on “Black-Hat” optimization and the things you should not do when setting up a website.
With all that said, now that you’ve established your site in the most SEO friendly way, you’re still not done. It’s important now to focus on what is called “off-page optimization.” This involves building links, social media sharing, writing blogs, etc., etc. There is much information out there on this and its scope is a little bit out of reach of this article. We do suggest doing a little research on this as it is another key part of helping your rankings with Google. That said if you would like to contact us to find out more information or to see how we can help you make sure that your site is SEO friendly, please either call at 1-800-613-7105 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’d be more than happy to go over anything you need to know.
We hope that this guide was informative and easy to follow. And if you would like to link to this article that information is held below. Thank you.