An Essential SEO Guideline for Web Designers and Developers
Every web designer and developer wants his website to excel in the SEO arena and draw in a larger traffic. Perking up your website to meet the desired SEO standard is quite imperative to develop your brand identity, increase visibility in relevant search engine results and expand the horizon of your accomplishments.
SEO is a must-have tool in a web developer’s toolkit that needs to be put on use from the embryonic stages of a website. Unless you optimize your website for SEO, your website will fall behind the ranks of your rivals.
The factors responsible for your website’s search engine performance are manifold. So, it’s quite natural to get the wrong end of the stick if you don’t have a well sorted out list of SEO preferences. We have compiled a checklist that would save you from the chaos identifying the potential items that need to be attended on a priority basis to harmonize your SEO approach.
1. Making your site more accessible
You need to draw the search engine’s attention towards your indexed pages. Index pages are the landing pages of a website and its categorized contents, and it’s the first thing a visitor will see when they access your website or a specific folder on it.
Recheck your robots.txt files: Double check the robots.txt files used on your website that restricts access to confidential and incomplete pages. Robots.txt files are instrumental during the developing phase to isolate the domain before it goes live. Often developers completely forget about these set of codes which might lead the website to an involuntary quarantine. You must also confirm that there is no disallow directive in robots.txt which could hinder search engine crawling and damage your website rankings in the process.
301 or 302 redirects?
Use 301 redirects instead of 302 redirects to draw traffic from an external source because 301 redirects are a much more stable way of transferring one URL to another with better SEO results. Even though 301 and 302 are said to be given an equivalent treatment in Google’s search engine algorithms, it is highly recommended to use 301 redirects which are more efficient across multiple search engines and browsing platforms.
Fix your 404 errors
404 errors are the Grim Reapers of all types of SEO endeavors. 404 errors usually refer to an expired or broken URL that fails to lead the visitor to an active page. Here’s what Google’s Webmaster Central Blog has to say about 404 errors–
“404s are a perfectly normal part of the web… In fact, we actually prefer that, when you get rid of a page on your site, you make sure that it returns a proper 404 or 410 response code (rather than a “soft 404”).”
So, the message is quite clear here: fix your 404 errors and boost your SEO ratings. 301 redirects are the perfect tool to eliminate your code 404 problems as it permanently moves your broken URL to an active one.
Mobile friendly interface
Last but not the least, you need to make your site more mobile friendly since internet users nowadays are becoming more and more reliant on their handheld devices to access the internet. Use mobile-first responsive design and choose a narrow screen width that also keeps your contents readable in the desktop versions.
You can avoid fancy fonts to ensure faster loading on smaller devices, but that will compromise the distinctive aesthetic flair of your website. Is that a trade-off you should go for? I’ll leave that to you!
2. Not underestimating (or overestimating) the sitemaps
What are sitemaps?
Before we get onto this, let’s see how Google defines sitemaps–
“Sitemaps are a way to tell Google about pages on your site we might not otherwise discover. In its simplest terms, an XML Sitemap—usually called Sitemap, with a capital S—is a list of the pages on your website. Creating and submitting a Sitemap helps make sure that Google knows about all the pages on your site, including URLs that may not be discoverable by Google’s normal crawling process.”
What can sitemaps do or cannot do?
As Google says, sitemaps are nothing but a well-organized list of your site’s contents. Submitting your index pages to Google lets them know about your site, and its contents but, opposed to the popular theory, it doesn’t guarantee your web pages being indexed.
That being said, sitemaps are still a powerful tool to utilize and using sitemaps increases the probability of getting noticed by search engines. Search engines gather necessary information about your website from the submitted sitemaps and if you have quality and relevant content on your sites-you will hit the SEO jackpot!
3. Structure your URLs
Make it straight-forward:
The ideal structure of URLs and domain names are the core discussions of SEO 101. Search engines have evolved over the years and are now more capable of conducting a thorough search for relevant websites but why not stay on the safe side and make things easy for them?
Use similar structure internal and inbound links:
Pick any one of the www or non-www formats to ensure both internal and inbound links are of the same structure. Google Webmaster tools can provide you a subtle guideline to choose the preferred version.
Use readable and easy to remember names:
Use readable names as your domain names. Using gibberish names will confuse both search engines and visitors. Throw in a relative keyword in the name for better results. Keep them short, preferably within 70-80 words. If you have a target demographic, who are same country residents, it would be wise to use a country-specific domain extension to achieve higher rankings.
4. Using well researched keywords efficiently
Use the right research tools:
Another basic building block of SEO is the appropriate use of keywords. First of all, you need to conduct an extensive keyword research with the help of assistive tools like Google Trends, Google Adwords Keyword Planner and Key Word Tool. After determining keywords with high traffic potential, place them on strategically important areas like meta tags, headings and image names.
Overstuffing is not a good idea:
Avoid overstuffing keywords in your contents. Always maintain a reasonable keyword density that keeps the content intriguing. Don’t target multiple keywords on a single page, keep your focus on a single one.
5. Writing Quality Content
This step falls in a rather nontechnical area. Google has always been rewarding to quality content writers. What’s the exact definition of a quality content? Does it need to be X words long with Y keywords?
The answer is rather an old school: write something genuine, something that serves the need of the reader and connects with him. The SEO tricks are necessary, but it will get you nowhere unless you generate something meaningful. Add value to your work and give the visitors a reason to come back. If you can’t, you will only see your site falling down the pecking order.
6. Using Social Media Plugins
Social media is the Holy Grail of online marketing. Having a strong social media is mandatory for any business which is seeking to flourish in the virtual arena. Social media allows you an easier path to your target audience and helps you build an online reputation.
So, integrating social media buttons into your website could be a game changer regarding your online visibility which would ultimately result in higher search engine rankings.