Quick SEO Tips Your Web Designer Needs to Know

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1 19 Quick SEO Tips Your Web Designer Needs to Know

2 Yet Another Publication By: Cloudrock.sg Cloudrock.asia Go Digital or Go Home e t w / / Fairuze Shahari Fairuze Shahari is the principal consultant for Cloudrock SG. He handles content creation, SEO and PPC and supervises the web design team..

3 11 Ways to Turn Your Website Into Your Best Salesperson Go Digital or Go Home Cloudrock is a startup digital marketing agency with a presence in both Singapore and Malaysia. We offer services such as website design, SEO, pay per click and analytics. We create and implement strategies that drives qualified visitors to your website; convert those visitors into leads and customers; measure the results achieved and develop improvement plans to make it even more successful. Your digital marketing journey starts here. DRIVE CONVERT MEASURE Drive traffic to your website using SEM and other inbound marketing tactics Convert that traffic to leads, customers and revenue Constantly measure and experiment to do it even better What We Do

4 1 Site Must Be Indexable This might seem like a very obvious point to bring up, but Google you d be surprised by how many relatively new websites have content that cannot be indexed. For example, take a look at this site which was designed just three years ago: What You See doesn t do a very good job of crawling Javascript, so don t code your entire website with it (especially after the introduction of HTML5). Ajax presents a problem to the search engines as well. Since it loads content dynamically, it isn t spiderable by search engines. Also, the URL doesn t change so your user is unable to bookmark the page or send it to a friend (or tweet or like or share the page). What Search Engines See

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6 2 Ensure Your Site Navigation is SEO Friendly It s not uncommon to find website navigation built with Flash or using images. The problem is that Google isn t very good at crawling Flash and can t even read images. Sure, you can put in the alt text, but it still passes less link juice than text links and these are the most important pages on your site. The links in your navigation bar helps Google understand what your website is about and which pages are the most important so you want them indexed properly. CSS is your best bet here. If you are using Javascript, look at your navigation with it turned off to see if it s still indexable. And never, ever use mystery meat navigation. PRO TIP

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8 3 Plan Your Site Structure Properly One of the ways Google determines the importance of a particular page in relation to the site itself is to look at how far away the page is from the home page. The further away it is, the less importance it gives the page. If it s a large site that requires a deeper structure, try to group your pages thematically. How you link internally is very important as it determines how PageRank flows through your site. It is always preferable to have a flat architecture, rather than a deep one. This improves not only SEO, but your user s on-site experience as well.

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10 4 Use Appropriate Anchor Text for Internal Linking Make sure you use the appropriate anchor text for your internal linking as well. This helps search engines understand the content on the page. Of course, don t go overboard with it. If you want your website to rank for the keywords SEO Malaysia, then use those anchor texts to link back to your page.

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12 5 Use Human-Readable URLs Your URLs must be descriptive of your content. Human-readable URLs are useful not only to the search engines but to your users too. Which of the following would you prefer? example.com/cloudrock-seo example.com/?p=12356 Having your keywords in your URL will help in your rankings as well as make it easier on your reader. 6 Choose Static Over Dynamic URLs A static URL doesn t change so there aren t any parameters. For example, is a static URL. A dynamic URL typically occurs when content is pulled from a database. In this case, the site serves as merely a template for the content. Dynamic URLs usually have characters such as? or #. PageRank flows similarly to both static URLs and dynamic URLs. However, try to limit it to 2 or 3 parameters to make it easier on the search engines. While Google has said that dynamic URLs are fine, Rand Fishkin of SEOmoz came up with a terrific counter on why static URLs are still the way to go. A quick summary: More memorable Better for use in offline media Higher click throughs Better keyword relevance Search engines handle static URLs better The only caveat is that you have to be able to do the rewrites properly (so pay attention in class!).

13 7 Use Unique Meta Data & Page Titles PRO We always see websites with the same meta data for every single page. Ever since Panda came along, duplicate content has become a huge issue especially for e-commerce websites. TIP You have to help Google tell that every page is unique and the page title <title> is one of the first indicators. It appears in the SERPs, so a well-written one will help increase your clickthrough rates. Keep it to around 65 characters so that it doesn t get truncated. Meta description tags are also largely ignored. Granted, they don t affect rankings but they are important when it comes to your click-through rates. A well-written meta description help users decide if your page is worth visiting. Also, keywords found in the meta tags are bolded in the search engines. This makes it more obvious to the user, who then can judge the relevance of a particular web page more quickly.

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15 8 Stuffing the Meta Keywords Tag is Not SEO PRO The meta keywords tag is basically useless for SEO (unless you re doing SEO for the dominant search engine in China, Baidu). Still, we see Optimize Meta Keywords in a number of designers web design packages in Malaysia. TIP The worst part is that they keyword stuff the meta keywords tag. Not only is it useless, Bing uses it as an indicator of spam so they are possibly harming their clients websites.

16 9 Block Pages You Don t Want Indexed This is especially important during the developmental stage. You do not want a search engine indexing your half-built web pages. Also, some designers we ve worked with have been really sloppy and do not delete unused or unwanted folders. You can block pages with a Robots.txt file or use a developmental environment like XAMPP. PRO TIP Creating a robots.txt file is a very easy process. A robots.txt is a simple text file that can be created with Notepad. If you are using WordPress a sample robots.txt file would be: User-agent: * Disallow: /*?* Disallow: /iframes/ Disallow: /wp-admin/ Disallow: /wp-includes/ This informs all search engine spiders (user agents) not to crawl the listed sub folders. Upload the robots.txt file into your root directory and that s it.

17 10 Splash Pages are Not Cool Flash is attractive to web designers because it gives the impression of high-production values, sophistication and cinematic grandeur. But from a search engine perspective, a splash page could stop its spiders right in their tracks. A splash page is typically made with Flash and this could mean your website won t get indexed beyond the first page. From a usability perspective, splash pages just means another step a user has to take before reaching the content they are looking for. Here s a great quote from Jared Spool of User Interface Engineering at Macromedia (the company that made Flash): When we have clients who are thinking about Flash splash pages, we tell them to go to their local supermarket and bring a mime with them. Have the mime stand in front of the supermarket, and, as each customer tries to enter, do a little show that lasts two minutes, welcoming them to the supermarket and trying to explain the bread is on aisle six and milk is on sale today. If a usability expert from the company that made the product tells you it s not a good idea, then yeah, it s not a good idea.

18 11 Choose WWW or Non-WWW Now This is a very common oversight. Search engines treat the www version (a subdomain) as a separate website from your non-www version. If you don t choose between one or the other, you re just splitting your PageRank between the two. Also, don t forget to go into your Google Webmaster Tools account to tell Google which domain you prefer being shown in its search results (next page). PRO TIP

19 PRO TIP Let s say that you have already verified your website (we ll assume you verified the www version) in Google Webmaster Tools. Now, verify the other version (non-www) as well. You ll find the Gear button on the top right-hand corner. A dropdown menu will appear. Click on the option marked Site Settings. Choose which domain you would prefer to be shown. Google will then consolidate links to both domains to the one you prefer. This simple fix helps prevent your PageRank being split among the different versions of your website. Remember, you ll need to have verified both versions of your website before you can actuate the change.

20 12 Always Use 301 Redirects 301 and 302 are both HTTP status codes that are returned to the browser when you request a page from the server. 301s are permanent redirects. They tell search engines that you have permanently moved the page to another location. They would then transfer any link juice from the current page to the redirected one. 302s are temporary redirects. They do not pass any link juice (although after a while Google can learn that the page has been permanently moved). Always use 301s when you change the location of a page.

21 13 Use a Sitemap Provided that you have good on-page navigation, search engines would have no problem crawling through your website even without a sitemap. Even so, John Mu from Google states that they do still use sitemaps so you wouldn t do yourself any harm by submitting one. And let s not forget that Bing (and by extension Yahoo), is not as advanced as Google, so submitting your sitemap would definitely be helpful. If your navigation is complicated or for some reason there are orphaned pages, then you definitely should submit a sitemap. PRO TIP Cloudrock.sg Cloudrock.asia

22 14 Use the Heading Tags Properly Your heading tags help tell search engines what your content is about so use them properly. There shouldn t be more than one H1 for each page. Use the H2-H6 tags to show the hierarchy of your content. Try not to use the font tags to create your headings. If you need to stylize your heading tags, do it in your CSS file. 15 Don t Neglect Image Alt Attributes While Google can download images, search engines can t make sense of images nearly as well as humans can. The Alt text passes anchor text and helps search engines makes sense of the image. Do not leave it blank especially if your site uses a lot of images. While you re at it, fill in the image descriptions and add a caption where appropriate. Captions are read even by skimmers.

23 16 Page Load Speed Matters Although not a major factor, Google does use the page load speed as a ranking factor so it s important you ensure your website loads quickly. A common mistake we see is websites with a lot of code in the section which slows it down. You can use this free tool to check your load times: PRO TIP Cloudrock.sg Cloudrock.asia

24 17 Install Google Analytics It takes about ten minutes to sign up for a Google Analytics account and to place the code in the <head> section of your website. You don t even have to do any customizations at all at this stage. Even if your client doesn t request for it, you ll be doing them a huge favour by implementing it and teaching them how to read the data. Remember, the main value a client derives from their website is how much money they make out of it. This means traffic and conversions. How would they know you did a good job if they can t measure that? While you re at it, don t forget to connect Google Analytics to your Google Webmaster Tools.

25 PRO TIP A 1,000 visits a day becomes less valuable when you find out that more than half of that comes from your own office (or ours). One of the first things you ll have to do when you set up Google Analytics is to exclude such traffic so as not to skew your results. This is especially useful when your site is new and not attracting much traffic (you know, when you re still obsessing over the 50 visits you got today). A branded RegEx is an advanced segment that tracks the number of visits occurring from branded searches (those that search for you by your company name in the search engines). This allows you to analyse the number of branded searches against the number of non-branded searches (those that reach your website using natural keywords) and provides a good indication of how well your online marketing efforts are at capturing organic traffic. Google Analytics Intelligence Events are a great way to keep track of the major changes that s happening on your website. For smaller companies that don t check their analytics program daily, these alerts can help avert possible disaster.

26 18 W3C Validation Is Not Critical for SEO This is not a SEO tip per se, but we have been hearing this myth being bandied about quite a lot lately so we re going to put an end to it here. W3C validation has little importance to SEO outside of ensuring proper rendering to your website visitors. Visit the website of any billion-dollar company (Amazon, Twitter etc) and chances are you will find a website that doesn t validate. Heck, even Google.com itself doesn t validate. Validating your code is good, and it would have definitely scored you points with your professor, but don t claim that it does anything at all for rankings.

27 19 If Your Client Wants SEO, Bring a Specialist in from the Start Just because you have followed the tips above doesn t mean you ve done SEO. At the most, you re offering SEO-friendly web design, which is already great in our book. There are only a handful of local designers we ve met who can do that (despite what they claim). Sure, some designers have managed to rank their own websites (they are the subject matter experts themselves and have no problem coming up with tutorials and other great content), or for their clients in less competitive markets. And working alongside a knowledgeable SEO consultant would be an interesting learning experience for you as well. God knows we ve learnt a lot from the talented web designers we ve been lucky enough to work with. And by the start, I mean even before you buy the domain name or send in the wireframes. Bringing a SEO consultant early on will benefit both you and your client. For one thing, you won t have to do any rework to accommodate SEO concerns which I know is something web designers really hate. But they usually come up short when it comes to more competitive verticals where links are hard to earn organically, the clients don t have great (or any) content, don t know how to create any and the designers themselves are not familiar with the subject matter. This is common especially in the B2B markets in Malaysia. Here are just some ways how a SEO consultant or Inbound Marketing Specialist can help you and your clients get more traffic : Persona discovery and creation Keyword research and keyword mapping Content strategy Content creation Analytical framework Cloudrock.sg Cloudrock.asia

28 Yet Another Publication By: Cloudrock.sg Cloudrock.asia Go Digital or Go Home e t w / / Fairuze Shahari Fairuze Shahari is the principal consultant for Cloudrock SG. He handles content creation, SEO and PPC and supervises the web design team..

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