There is a lot of talk about Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and there is an expectation that every website will be searchable by Google right away. I have heard SEO described as mysterious or voodoo-like. The simple truth is that before an SEO project can start, your web site has to be developed in a manner that is Search Engine Friendly (ready for SEO). There is no mystery or voodoo involved - as a matter of fact, Google tells you exactly what is needed for a Search Engine Friendly site and it is a good standard coding practice.

From Google's Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide, here are the six most important items that are required for your website to be built as Search Engine Friendly:

  • Create unique, accurate page titles

    • You see title tags every time you do a Google Search. They are the blue links returned in the Google Search results.
    • Best practice for Title Tag Naming
      • Title tags accurately describe the page's content - Choose a title that effectively communicates the topic of the page's content.
      • Create unique title tags for each page - Each of your pages should ideally have a unique title tag, which helps Google know how the page is distinct from the others on your site.
      • Use brief, but descriptive titles - titles can be both short and informative.
      • The title should not be longer than 65 characters.
  • Make use of the "description" meta tag
    • A page's description meta tag gives Google and other search engines a summary of what the page is about.
    • A page's description meta tag might be a sentence or two or a short paragraph.
    • The description meta tag is also placed within the <head> tag of your HTML document.
    • You see description meta tags every time you do a Google Search. They are the snippet returned below the blue links in every Google Search.
    • Best Practice for Description Meta Tag
      • Accurately summarize the page's content - Write something that would both inform and interest users if they saw your description meta tag as a snippet in a search result.
      • Use unique descriptions for each page - Having a different description meta tags for each page helps both users and Google, especially in searches where users may bring up multiple pages on your domain.
      • The maximum length is 150-160 characters.
  • URLs Structure
    • Best Practice for URL structure
      • Use words in URLs - URLs with words that are relevant to your site's content and structure are friendlier for visitors navigating your site. Visitors remember them better and might be more willing to link to them.
      • Create a simple directory structure - Use a directory structure that organizes your content well and is easy for visitors to know where they are on your site. Try using your directory structure to indicate the type of content found at that URL.
      • If possible, place your keywords in the domain.
      • Keywords (maximum 2-3) should be separated by hyphens.
      • Remember that you have to communicate the domain, so try to keep it as short as possible.
      • "Older is better": Search engines admit old domains greater value.
  • Site Map - make your site easier to navigate
    • Best Practice for site navigation
      • Create a naturally flowing hierarchy - Make it as easy as possible for users to go from general content to the more specific content they want on your site. Add navigation pages when it makes sense and effectively work these into your internal link structure.
      • Use mostly text for navigation - Controlling most of the navigation from page to page on your site through text links makes it easier for search engines to crawl and understand your site.
      • Put an HTML sitemap page on your site, - A simple sitemap page with links to all of the pages or the most important pages on your site can be useful.
      • Use an XML sitemap file - Creating an XML sitemap file for your site helps ensure that search engines discover the pages on your site.
  • Use heading tags appropriately
    • Best practice for heading tags
      • Imagine you're writing an outline - put some thought into what the main points and sub-points of the content on the page will be and decide where to use heading tags appropriately.
      • Use headings sparingly across the page - Use heading tags where it makes sense. Too many heading tags on a page can make it hard for users to scan the content and determine where one topic ends and another begins.
      • h1:-Headlines have a strong semantic value. That's why you should place your keywords inside them.
      • Use H1: only one time and be sure to use H2 and H3 in correct hierarchical order.
      • H4-H6 have a weak relevance.
  • Optimize your use of images
    • Best practice for images
      • Use brief, but descriptive file names and alt text
      • Supply alt text when using images as links
      • Store images in a directory of their own
      • Use commonly supported file types JPEG, GIF, PNG, and BMP image formats.
David Brown

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