8th August 2012
Search engine algorithms are changing all the time, so sometimes it’s good to go back and give your website a little SEO health check. Here is a short check list to help make sure you’re still covering the basics.
NB: I’ve taken it for granted that you’ve already got a pretty good idea what keywords and phrases you’re targeting and that you understand the acronym SEO
It may seem obvious, but making sure your content stays on topic and isn’t repeated across different pages is essential.
Page titles are important not only in terms of influencing rankings but also in getting users to actually click through. No one wants to see a string of keywords used in the title and search engines are becoming savvy to website owners who try to manipulate them. Each page should have a unique title, around 9 words in length, which accurately describes its content and purpose.
Whilst the value of meta keywords seems to be next to nil at the moment, serving only to let your competitors know what you’re optimising for, meta descriptions are still very useful. Again, users will see these in the search results so they should be enticing to people as well as robots. Try to write a well formed sentence of around 160 characters which accurately describes the content of the page, and in doing so you should naturally find that you include your primary key word or phrase.
Heading tags are pretty easy to master, you just need to maintain the hierachy. <h1> should always be your main heading, <h2> a subheading of <h1>, <h3> a subheading of <h2> and so on. It’s also important not to waste their prominence – don’t make the main heading of your page ‘welcome’ or ‘thanks for visiting our site’, because it’s a wasted opportunity. You should be highlighting section headings and trying to include relevant key words and phrases.
The content of images can’t be read by search engines or screen readers, but they can pick up on the alt tag. Make sure it’s an accurate description of the image to aid indexing and to make your site more accessible to visually impaired users.
NB: You also need to provide alt attributes in order to validate your code
Keep your URLs succinct and descriptive. Make sure you use dashes rather than underscores to separate words.
Ideally your site should have both an HTML and XML sitemap. The XML sitemap should be submitted to search engines. In the case of Google, you can do this easily using Webmaster Tools.
I’m seeing very few new sites built with flash navigation, but if you have an older site still using flash for links and other navigation then I’d recommend finding a replacement that search engine bots can actually crawl.