Improving Website SEO & Usability

Improving SEO When enhancing your website’s performance, it’s important to look over your site’s search engine optimisation and also usability. This page will explain on how to achieve this in some of the most important aspects of website development.

The guide is broken down into the following components:

Google Analytics

A Google Analytics account is very important to set up as soon as your site is live. This will show you from Day 1 the trend of visitors that visit your site. Not only will you be able see a detailed list of the visitors of your site you will also be able to track what pages are performing well and which need improving.

You can customise Google Analytics further to track specific links, for example a new specials link.

Visit the Google Analytics website to sign up for an account. The process is simple, and for the basic setup, only requires copying and pasting a portion of code to your website.

HTTP Headers

HTTP Headers are usually automatically configured for websites, which search engine crawlers read to determine if it should index your site or not. A HTTP Status determines if your website is accessible, in-turn crawling. The status code should be 200.

In some cases where you are moving your website to a new domain it is vital to use a Permanent Redirect so the search engines spiders knows where your new site redirects to. Having duplicate sites with the same content is not good practice, and is viewed as spam.

Title Tags

Title Tags are one of the most important tags you can use to improve your search engine rankings under the your primary keywords. Best practice is to structure your title tag with keywords, which are also present on the body of the page (ideally as Header Tags).

For example, in our case study we will use “Pippa’s Playground”. This is an imaginary business which provides child care services for working parents.

Bad Example: Pippa’s playground

Good Example: Children’s Daycare Centre, Pippa Playground Auckland

In the body of the homepage, the title tag should appear in the headings of the website to achieve best results, as well as in the body of the text.

Meta Description

Meta Descriptions are not as commonly used by search engines as in previous years to improve rankings. However it is still important to write correctly for your readers. If search engines feel that your meta description describes a page more effectively, it will display that snippet of information in search results.

Ensure all descriptions are different on each page and clearly highlight content which is relevant to that page only.

Meta Keywords

Meta Keywords are not used by major search engines anymore as it is often spammed. You don’t require adding keywords to a site. However if you do have keywords on your site, it is important to narrow your keywords down as having too many keywords which are not relevannt to the page will have negative effects on your ranking.

Common Tags

Common Tags are a new way linking relating content to a website, primarly using a blog. Common Tags are images/links/text snippets from other sites (which are free to use), which you can place on your site to provide more content on your site. Search engines value this tag and helps to rank up your site higher. There are tools available to make this easier for site owners, which can be installed on your browser.

Robots Meta Tag

The Robots Meta Tag is not always required by websites. However if you need to hide certain directories, it is important to create a robots.txt file on your site to hide these folders. For example scripts/development/includes folders.

Image Alt Tags

Image Alternative Tags use used to describe the contents of an image, which helps the likelihood of the image being indexed by search engines, in particular their image search function.

When describing images, it is important not to be generic, discribe the image with a short but relevant description.

Heading Tags & Phrase Elements

Using Heading and Phrase Element Tags is important, especially with keywords, as these hold high value than the regular body text. h1, These include the tags : h1, h2, h3, h4, h5, h6, strong, b, em, i, acronym, dfn and abbr. Structure the text on your homepage with these heading, whilst incorporating keywords where possible (don’t force keywords).

Browser Compatibility

The days where only Internet Explorer dominates the market is well over. There have been a number of emerging major browsers such as Firefox and Google Chrome. Older sites have been developed to cater for Internet Explorer, so they may appear broken/different in newer browsers. Often this is achieved is modifying and updatig the code of a website, such as implementing separate style sheets for different browsers.

It is vital to check you site on multiple browsers. If a key element such as the navigation bar is not being displayed properly on a users browser, it is very easy for them to click back to search results and visit another competitor.

Usability

Usability is an important feature of your site. While creating fancy interactive user interfaces, you have to remember that your site is an online brochure. You need to display information clearly with an easy to use navigation system.

Your products and services should be easily defined on the hompage

A contact number should be clearly visible on the home page, or at least a contact us page link.

Content

Content is the key when it comes to websites. You want your visitors to have access to as much information which is required in order for them to be converted to a customer. The more information you have on the site the more engaged the user will be, reducing the bounce off rate. However this does not mean creating lengthy pages of text which is overwhelming. If you have services, describe these services, do not just list. If you have products, describe your products.

Social Marketing

Social Marketing sites such as Facebook and Twitter exposes your website to a wider audience. Creating social media accounts and linking it to your website and/or blog posts, helps as visitors might share your page on their social media profile, which will make it visible to their network contacts.

When you create these accounts, be sure to update it frequently with fresh information so your business doesn’t look outdated.

Blogs

Blogs are informative ways to display information on the latest news on your site. Using a blog CMS is an easy way to insert a blog to your website, for example Word Press. These blog CMS are indexed very well with search engines. If used effectively, eg using Common Tags and key words in your blog, it will improve the number of search word phrases your website is index under.

Permanent Redirects

In some cases where you are moving your website to a new domain it is vital to use a Permanent Redirect so the search engines spiders knows where your new site redirects to. Having duplicate sites with the same content is not good practice, and is viewed as spam.

Linking Domains

Linking Domains are sites which link back to your site. This is also a key factor to determine the page rank of your site. The more popularyour site is, the more popularity it has and therefore search engines will bump up your ranking.

Conversion Forms

Conversion Forms are contact forms essentially. As well as displaying your contact number and address, it is important to allow visitors to fill out a short contact form, so they are able to get in contact with you after hours. Test out the contact form occasionally to ensure it is still working if there were changes made, and also to be sure the email account which the emails are sent to is still active.

Flash Websites

Flash websites look great and provide fancy functionaility, however it is not compatible with devices such as iPads. It is wise not to code your site entirely in Flash, however if you have be sure to have an alternative site which users using devices such as iPads are directed to automatically. If you’re site is entirely coded in flash you are limiting yourself in using the full functionality of HTML to improve your SEO. You can achieve dynamic content and functionality using latest coding languages to still add a zing element to your website.

Site URLs

Websites created with older content management systems, and or improperly configured CMS, can often display sub page URLs in a uncomprehensiveble manner which the CMS can understand however is not read by search engines. Your site might need converting to another CMS, or have it updated/configured to allow the option of converting such links into readable text.