• March 20, 2012
  • SEO

The Goal of SEO

The goal for SEO is for web pages to be easily and accurately indexed. Search engine spiders continually crawl the web from URL to URL, indexing information and storing it in massive databases. Search terms are then matched to the most appropriate references in the database. A clear record of a site means it will more likely be visible in relevant searches.

1. Focus on Framework

Develop a site structure that is easy for spiders to crawl including:

  • Clean code—Create clean code, following standards for separation of file type. Having HTML separated from CSS and javaScript code facilitates updates, but it also clarifies your content for indexing.
  • File system—Use a simple, flat file system for websites with levels no more than three deep.
  • Structure—Pages with a clear, organized structure, which use HTML tags properly, offer spiders a framework to crawl and accurately index content. The foundation of an optimized site is based on clean, semantic code that validates to W3C standards.
  • Site map—Including one provides a great overview with internal links. Assists site visitors, both human and bots.
  • CMS permalinks—Use a descriptive permalink structure for content management systems or open source platforms. For example, in WordPress a custom structure that uses the page or post’s name for the page URL is ideal for SEO.

2. Prioritize Pages

It’s critical to for all site pages to be optimized and include call to action areas, which encourage visitors to further explore. Improve SEO by being accurate in all text fields including:

  • Titles—Create descriptive titles, including keywords appropriate for the specific page. A well written title tells search engines and prospective visitors what will be found on a site page.
  • Meta tags—Although their SEO impact is likely minimal, some search engines do include up to 140 characters of the meta description tag in search results to describe a page. Past misuse of meta keyword tags to unfairly influence search rank have made them of little value. Most search engines ignore them.
  • Internal links—Include hyperlinks within copy to link related site pages. It offers a way to associate site content for site visitors and creates bridges for spiders to crawl.
  • Home page—Advances in search engine algorithms, have made all site pages a potential entry point.

3. Media Matters

Search spiders index text, so be simple and descriptive with your tags, captions, and media labels including:

  • File Names—Using descriptive file names for media will impact SEO, since search spiders don’t index media but do index the words you use to describe it.
  • Alt Tags—A must for accessibility for those using screen readers, alt tags offer another way to add meaning to your media files and another possible way to get content indexed appropriately.
  • Captions—A brief caption that text search engines can crawl will enrich the content’s message, offering a nuance beyond the alt tag.
  • Video—Write transcripts for important video content to have it indexed.
  • Speed—Optimize media files for the web by ensuring the best compression for load speed. Visitors have little patience for waiting, and slow loading pages are penalized by the major search engines.

4. Content is King

Nothing improves stickiness like insightful, compelling content that resonates with your audience. Keeping content fresh and updated will bring return visitors. Content is increasingly scrutinized for depth and merit by search engines in order to ensure the accuracy and value of results. In-depth reports and thoughtful analyses on topics relevant to a site’s theme boost search rank while always taking into consideration:

  • Quality—Craft copy that accurately reflects the theme and keywords identified for the page. Also, be as concise as possible using 500-word page copy as a benchmark.
  • Keyword Placement—Search engines give greater importance to content on the top of the page. Prominently include page appropriate keywords in the first sentence and introductory paragraph. Keyword frequency also impacts SEO, but avoid overuse. Copy should be succinct, valuable, and trustworthy.
  • Keyword Variety—Use a variety of associated keywords while concentrating on optimizing each page for specific content and keywords.
  • Headings—Break-up copy with HTML headings to increase readability and create hierarchy and meaning. This will also increase the accuracy of indexed content.

What tips would you share for SEO?

For more information on how to improve search rank, see  SEO Off-Page & Social Signals   or   SEO & Blogging.

Jon Whitbeck
As a web designer and developer, I have managed, built, launched, and maintained websites that meet my clients' objectives. I develop dynamic websites with content management systems based on the latest design trends. My background as an educator and instructor helps me create user-friendly interfaces and teach my clients how to update their own sites.

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