Search engine optimization is a constantly evolving practice. As one variable is assumed to retain more value by search engines that variable soon becomes exploited by poor SEO’s. So, how do you approach SEO? Often times it ends up being a well balanced portfolio of various fulfillment tactics. At other times, “slow and steady” with establishing proper structures within your website never seem to go wrong.
1 – Diversity
By far, the biggest issue that SEO’s face is diversity. All too often, a website utilizes the same keywords and phrases too many times. What this results in is Google (or other search engines) flagging the website as being spammy, which means your website won't show up when a search would otherwise result in your site being deemed relevant.
2 – Title Tags
Title Tags have been through some serious trends. Found many times throughout any given website (they tell search engines what each page is about), Title Tags have been over- and under-emphasized over the years. Amazingly, during consultations, we'll often find both extremes: attempts to cram too many words in, and even completely empty Title Tags.
Our recommendation is to approach Title Tags as if they were an abbreviated, one sentence summary of what the page is about. That way you focus on what is most important to represent in the Title Tag, which helps limit saying too much. While Title Tags play a huge part in search engine algorithms currently, advances in technology may render them less meaningful over time in terms of importance in search rankings, but they can still help generate clicks. By displaying a summary of what the page is about, it increases the possiblilty that someone will click on that text if your page shows up in the search rankings.
3 – Fluff
Unnecessary fluff is everywhere on websites. From the excessive title tags mentioned above and unnecessary meta tags, to scraped content and old Flash, websites are going through a rebirth. Stuff from a few years ago is now often considered tacky. Much more importantly, a lot of the items from years ago use outdated and slow processes.
How does this impact SEO? As older things like Flash is slowly overtaken by HTML5, and other coding improvements come along, a lean, mean, quick-loading-website machine is what search engines want to see. User experience means a lot to Google, so if your site loads slower than a competitor whose site has the exact same information, your site will lose because your competitor's load time is better.
4 – Scaled Images
A big issue with pages loading slow is that the images are often not served at proper size. A good example would be if a business owner wanted to display a 500px x 500px sized image of their storefront. They'll take their own picture, download the pic to their desktop, then upload it to their website and scale it to 500px x 500px. However, they didn’t resize it - they just scaled it. Now their website has to load a 3500px x 2500px picture, but display it at 500×500. Even though it is displayed smaller it still has to load the full size image. Why not resize it before loading so the website can quickly serve the smaller image instead?
5 – Compressed Images
Another fix for images is to take advantage of lossless image compression. This method of compression retains the quality of an image while downsizing the actual file size by as much as 90%. Either compress images individually or use available plugins for popular Content Management Systems, like WordPress. There are also API’s available from popular compression tools for those that would like to integrate compression into custom website backends.
6 – Search Engine Friendly (SEF) URL’s
While it may be true that dynamic url’s/pages should get indexed with no problem, that doesn’t mean that pages with search engine friendly url’s won’t rank higher. All popular Content Management Systems like WordPress these days have the ability to enable search engine friendly url’s. Use it.
7 – .htaccess
The .htaccess file is a text file that is in the root of a website’s hosting directory. This is pretty technical stuff that only those who deal in the nitty gritty of web dev will totally follow, but it's still important to be aware of. This small, single file can literally make or break a website. With just a line or two of code it can help you add redirects when necessary, set caches and expires headers for quicker page loads, mitigate hacking, block IP addresses, all sorts of goodness. Or, it can crash you entire website because someone accidentally left an extra comma on a line. Use the files when you feel comfortable doing so, but don't push it.
8 – Understanding your own site’s structure
This is basic housekeeping, but is often neglected. You need to keep up on what's actually in your website. Running a thorough audit with a program like WebMeUp will help webmasters know how many pages their website has, what pages have gone missing, where broken links are, what pages have empty Title Tags, etc. The simple task of understanding (or better yet, fixing) a websites structure can be one of the easiest to fix, because you can run audit programs, but is often one of the most rewarding for search engine gains. Treat this like Spring cleaning - occasionally take the time to check on the state of your site.
9 – Content
Unique content isn't just a fad. In fact, it’s always been important. The issue that website owners face is knowing what to write about and how frequently. There is no right answer that applies to everyone. We'd be happy to help you figure out what's right for you, so feel free to reach out for a little guidance. Creating compelling content to generate returning visitors is more important than keyword stuffing.
10 – Outreach
Now that you've got an awesome website and you've began to generate content, how do you spread the word? Outreach. Outreach is one of the slowest, yet most rewarding parts of SEO. Get involved in the local community. Go to business conferences. Offer free tutorials. By getting involved you will generate outreach without all of the awkwardness. Plus, you usually end up feeling good about getting involved with your peers. Be wary of those so-called SEO experts touting getting you backlinks quickly. It's usually just garbage you'll end up with. Developing mutually beneficial connections with partner websites (businesses with similar clientele as you, against whom you don't directly compete) will go a long way for you.
11 – Buyer's Remorse
We've talked a lot about this here, but just know that there's a lot of snake oil salesmen out there, claiming to help you conquer SEO instantly and with little effort. There is no "secret sauce" to SEO, and there certainly is no shortcut to awesome organic rankings. Don't believe in the hollow promises of these fly-by-night agencies.
While SEO methods and tactics will always change, it seems that many of the most impacting variables are the same as years ago, and will continue to be so well into the future. To be successful in SEO, focus first on the important website variables that don’t change so that you establish a solid foundation for your other efforts. Once you have the foundation in place, you can test the waters with other search engine optimization methods to increase your website’s exposure.
About us: Level 11 Online Marketing is a fast growing digital advertising agency that is becoming known for disrupting the status quo. We specialize in digital advertising, video production, SEO, SEM, advanced analytics, custom web solutions via website design & implementation, social media strategies and conversion optimization. Headquartered in Utah, you will find Level 11 team members throughout Utah, Nebraska, Arizona, California, Idaho, and Colorado. We have the best creative minds in the industry backed up by the most talented software developers and video production teams, resulting in powerful, efficient advertising campaigns.
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