1. It is important to ensure that Analytics tracking is in place on each page so that it is then possible to analyse visitor type and their behaviour whilst on your site. Verification with Webmaster Tools should also be done to be able to monitor any technical issues or messages about the site’s overall performance.
2. A check should be carried out for the site’s URL to ensure there aren’t multiple versions of the same website. This is known as canonicalisation which is when a site uses multiple URLs for the same page. For example, if http://www.anysite.com and http://anysite.com display the same page but do not resolve to the same URL. In this instance, search engines may not know which URL is the correct one to index.
3. For the pages within your website, where possible, the keywords should be utilised within the filenames so that the URLs are search engine friendly, separated by hyphens rather than underscores since hyphens are recognised as spaces by Google whereas underscores are not. Short, well-structured URLs employing relevant keywords are liked by both search engines and users as they convey the meaning of the page and overall site structure.
4. The website should also include a robots.txt file which is a simple notepad file to inform Search Engines which pages or folders they can or cannot crawl when visiting. It is uploaded to the ‘root’ folder i.e. http://www.anysite.com/robots.txt.
5. An XML sitemap file should also be uploaded to the root folder. This includes a list of all the website’s URLs. A reference to the XML sitemap should also be included in the robots.txt file to help Search Engines crawl more effectively. The XML sitemap can be submitted to the search engines using Webmaster Tools.
6. In terms of on-page SEO updates, the pages’ title tags are one of the most important areas for SEO which you can influence to some extent. A title tag tells visitors and Search Engines what pages are all about. There is a limit for the number of characters allowed (approximately 65 characters) so the main targeted keywords should be featured for each page’s topic.
7. The meta description tags should also be optimised to include keywords. The aim should be to convince and persuade the user to click through to your website. The keywords which match the visitor’s search term will then appear in bold. In terms of length, you should aim for approximately 25 words or less.
8. On the pages themselves, relevant keywords should be used within a series of headings and subheadings to differentiate the rest of the content. The most important tag is known as the H1 tag, through to the least important H6 style. Headers can help from an SEO point of view to improve relevancy, keyword consistency and creating an enriched user experience. It is important make headers read well and avoid stuffing keywords or duplicating them.
9. Each header should be supported by good, quality Content. Provide a reason for visitors to stay engaged on the website and offer real value, beyond being a simple brochure or leaflet’s description which can be found on many other sites. Content should be applied throughout the site which is well written, compelling, unique and relevant. Avoid keyword ‘stuffing’ where many instances of the same phrase are repeated throughout the text. Instead, only use the keywords periodically and where it is natural to do so. Most importantly, think about the visitors, rather than focussing on the search engines.
10. When adding images to the website, include the Alt tags, descriptive text which will appear when hovering over the image with a mouse. This is because search engine spiders can only search text, not text in the images.
11. Keywords should also be used as anchor text when linking internally. Actual targeted keywords used as anchor text will help let the search engines know what the linked-to pages are all about. Links that say ‘click here’ will actually do nothing for improving the visibility in the search engine directory listings.
12. Finally, in terms of SEO basics, consider the pages load times i.e. the speed at which pages are being delivered to visitors in addition to the time it takes to get those pages to load and render. Featuring pages which render quickly is a good user experience whilst slow rendering images can cause visitors to leave.
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