Table Of Contents
2.0.....Website, General Tips
3.0.....Website, Semi-Technical Tips
4.0.....Offline SEO Tips
5.0.....Tips for online shops
9.0.....SEO No, No's
10.0...Website Code Review & Technical Tips
Originally Published: July 2013
Updated Last: Feb 2016
First published in 2013 when I was running Purple Claw, many of my clients had great results following the instructions in this guide. As the times change, so do SEO best practises and this update three years after the document was initially written reflect this.
With SEO, the key thing to grasp is that Google is working extremely hard to make sure that the websites with the best content make it to the top of the search results, not websites whose owners have the largest SEO budget. Before even considering spending cash upfront on SEO, you should run through the enclosed list and make sure you are taking all the steps applicable to your business.
*Remember*: SEO is both an offline and an online effort. It is not instant; it takes time for new websites to gain authority and compete with more established websites in search engine results.
The times are a-changing and the concept of ‘build it and they will come’ is no longer a strategy...nore is hope; you must compel people to visit your website.
Also, take a moment to make sure that your not doing anything that could harm your search engine rankings. Please read the attached SEO no-nos further down the page in order to make sure you are not stifling your SEO efforts.
2) Website, General Tips
Below are none technical tips for making sure you are maximising your SEO efforts on your site. All of these tasks are easy things to do within any CMS admin panel.
Are you regularly updating your website with fresh content?
Regular updates play a vital part in rankings. Whether it’s a new blog or a new product make sure you keep on adding to and growing your website with relevant, engaging content that people want to see.
Does your site display well on mobile devices and tablets?
More people now access the web from mobile devices and tablets than they do with computers. Does your website facilitate this? As of 2015 Google now penalises against websites which are not mobile friendly in their ranking algorithm.
Are you sure there is no duplicate content on your site?
Duplicate content can cause your SEO ranking to sink like a stone. Make sure you are not reusing content from one page to another and make sure your not republishing content found elsewhere on the web.
Are you using search engine friendly URLs?
This is essential for helping people find your website and telling Google what your site contains. Examples below;
Example of an SEO Friendly URL
Example of a None SEO friendly URL
Have you set up Google Analytics?
Gooogle Analytics does not directly help improve your ranking, but it does allow you to track and get a surprising amount of information about your website visitors, and they're on site behaviour. This data, used effectively, can enable you to tailor your site to your clients and their browsing habits. It can help you identify exit points (pages from which the user leaves) and what content users find interesting. All this information can be indirectly used to increase SEO rankings.
Do you publish a newsletter?
Newsletters help convert prospects into customers. You’re missing a trick if you are not regularly emailing customers. A good way to get mailing list members is monthly give aways to members of the list e.g. £20 of free vouchers to one mailing list member per month. Back when I ran an eCommerce store, once somebody was on the mailing list eventually they would convert from prospect to customer, getting them on the list was the tricky bit and in that instance, the voucher give away was an extremley valuable tool.
Do all pages have unique titles?
Google does not like websites where every page title is the same. Make them all unique. Aside from helping Google to identify unique content, this title shows in search results.
The META description has not factored into the ranking algorithm for many moons. However it does show in search engines;
This makes it essential; you need to sell your page and compel people to click through.
If you do not specify a META description, Google will choose one for you.
If your website has pages made entirely up of images and no text blocks it's doubly important to specify a META description for the page to help users identify what the page contains in search results.
Snoop on the competition
High ranking sites in your sector; what are they doing and how did they get to their current position. Can you emulate it?
Avoid short pages
Little pages without much content can be bad for SEO. Try and combine them into bigger pages, or remove them from your site.
Make sure all images are named well and descriptive of what the image is..
Example of a good image name
Example of a bad image name
Keep regular backups
Any downtime is catastrophic for SEO. Make sure you keep backups, then test these backups and make sure they work. Get yourself into a position where if the website goes down, you can restore it within minutes. This means being proactive and not just relying on somebody else (e.g., your Webhost or developer) to do this for you.
Some services can monitor downtime for you. Use them and you will get pinged and email if and when your website goes down.
Large images mean large file size. Large file size means slower loading time, and slower loading time is bad for SEO. Make sure all images you upload are optimised for the web. You can save for web and devices from Photoshop, although there are websites and programs out there that can compress images even further than Photoshop. A personal favourite: image optim
3) Website, Semi-Technical Tips
The following tips are semi-technical. But are important info and are explained in a way none techies should be able to understand;
Monitor for 404 errors
404 errors occur when a page that was once on a website no longer appears.
Custom 404 pages can help explain this to a user and possibly assist them to the content they are after. However Google is not to keen on 404 pages, so they are best avoided. If a page is removed from a website ask you your dev team to set up a 301 redirect to the nearest equivalent page to prevent 404s.
Make sure server is in the country most its visitors come from, or use a CDN
If a user is based in Australia and they request information from a server in the UK (by simply visiting the website), that data has to go all the way round the world and back again. In this example, the site would be much faster if the server was in Australia as the data would not have to travel as far.
There are two ways to deal with this. First is to make sure your server is located in the country that the majority of you website visitors hail from. The second and most efficient technique would be to use a Content Delivery Network or CDN.
A CDN will deliver your website to users in Australia on an Australian server, and then if a visitor visits your site from New York, the CDN will deliver the site on the closest server to New York.
Everybody gets a fast site.
Basic CDN's like the one I use for this blog come free of charge from Cloudflare.
If you are not using a CDN, another option is to enable server caching. This could be as simple as enabling gzip on the server, or installing a WordPress plugin.
Do you have an XML sitemap set up?
An XML sitemap is a file that helps search engines index your website and keeps up to date with changes. If you don't know, ask your web developer.
Do you have an SSL certificate Installed?
You can test if you have an SSL certificate installed as if you do, there will be a little padlock icon in your address bar. It looks a little like this;
Having an SSL certificate means that all data passing through your website is encrypted. Should it be intercepted, it would be extremely difficult to decipher.
Payment processors have used SSL certificates for years now, although not many others have. However, if you are transferring any user data (even just a contact form), it is commendable to have one installed to show you take security user seriously.
As of mid-2015, Google announced that websites using SSL certificates would get a boost in the ranking algorithm.
Costs for SSL certificates vary (you can even get some kinds for free), but they begin from as little as $10 plus installation cost.
Google Webmaster Tools
(Google webmaster tools)[https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/home?hl=en] will update you if there are any significant problems with your webpage. It also allows you to specify your sitemap and also configure various other settings that can help SEO.
Google Page Speed Insights
Run the website through Googles Page Speed Insights, it will likely have some handy tips for you on how to make the website faster.
4) Offline Promotion
Offline promotion is just as important as online advertising and done right, can in effect boost your online efforts. Some of these are incredibly basic recommendations that can make all the difference.
Is your website on all your stationary?
Make sure the web address is on all stationary such as pencils, business cards, etc.
If you have a shop / office are there calls to action encouraging people to use your website?
These could include banners, posters, QR codes.
Have you told all your suppliers about your website and asked them to promote it?
They may be able to put it in a newsletter or help support the launch of your site in some way. If they are big established brands, an inbound link from their website / blog could be incredibly valuable to your SEO efforts.
Have you written to the local chamber of commerce hidden your new website?
In tough financial times, chambers are desperate to publish good news.
Have you written to the local newspaper about your website?
As above. Have you written to industry-specific publications about your new website? If your site is particularly groundbreaking, they may well be interested in blogging or writing about your new site.
5) Tips for online shops.
Are you distributing business cards and promotional items with orders?
Does your website instill confidence in your users?
Users look for certain things to help instill confidence in them. Things like a UK landline number, direct email address, secure payment processors and clear and concise delivery information all add up to help a client decide if they want to purchase from you or not.
Are you shipping fast?
Users wanted their orders yesterday. Make sure you can send them quickly. If you can’t, maybe look into something like Amazon fulfilment so users can get their orders as quickly as possible.
Are you making sure that the user is enjoying the process of receiving goods?
When a user opens their order, they want to have a positive experience. This could be achieved with a few different tactics, for example, packing nicely using cardboard boxes and packing hay instead of just using a bubble lined envelope. Putting an extra surprise in the box is often a winner with clients even if only a couple of boiled sweets.
6) Social Media
Social media is not a replacement for the aforementioned SEO efforts. Use it to compliment your other techniques, don’t rely on it solely.
Do you have a Facebook page?
Most Facebook users visit their profile more than once a day (not me, though). Having a page on Facebook can help you get your users’ attention.
Do you have a Twitter page?
Remember always to set up a Twitter account as a person (who works for a company) rather than just a company. Also, make sure you add a picture of yourself and not a company logo. The whole point in Twitter is it is personable, and you can interact with a person rather than a faceless business; stick with this concept.
Do you have a Google plus page?
Growing in popularity and rumoured to have SEO benefits. Encourage customers to leave reviews on your Google Plus page
Do you have a Youtube channel?
Youtube is the second biggest search engine in the world. Product reviews and promotional videos can generate huge amounts of inbound traffic to a website.
Target by region
What people keenly interact with in Manchester may be completely different to something those living on the south coast may be interacting with. Know your demographic and target your social media campaigns accordingly
Email inboxes are constantly under a barrage of email marketing and spam. By comparison, SMS is much less abused.
It has a higher opening rate than emails and its extremely affordable.
Blogging is a seriously powerful SEO tool with far-reaching benefits. Even if you’re in a boring sector, you should be writing blogs.
Are you regularly blogging?
Regular blogging is an excellent way to keep a website up to date with regular and fresh content.
Do you have an RSS feed set up?
Some people read lots of blogs and collect them all in an RSS reader. Make sure you’re giving them this option
8) Inbound Links
Inbound links are a particularly powerful thing for increasing your websites authority and improving subsequent search engine listings. Remember not all inbound links are good links. Dodgy sites linked to you can do more damage than good.
Have you asked suppliers to link to your site?
As they often will! If they are large established brands, a link from them could really bolster your SEO efforts.
Do you have listings in other industry specific directories?
For example Purple Claw develop using Expression Engine, so we are in a few Expression Engine developer directories.
Links to your website from .gov and .edu domain names are extremely valuable.
If you know someone who works on one of these sites and can get you an inbound link; do it.
Another approach is to search the net for blogs on .edu websites and comment on the blogs with a link back to your site. But always read the posts and make relevant comments to avoid having your post [and thus your link] removed as spam.
Avoid link networks / exchanging links
The value of the inbound link is small, and the risk of being penalised for links from bad sites is high.
9) SEO No, No's
Never, ever, ever...
Never believe anyone who tells you META data is relevant to ranking
META data improving your ranking is a thing that died many moons ago. Now none of the major search engines use META data in the ranking algorithm. META data can, however, help people to decide if they want to visit your site because it is the text that appears in Google when searching, but it does not directly effect ranking.
Never Believe anyone who guarantees you rankings
No one (apart from Google) can control the Google algorithm, or even knows what the algorithm is. We can only make educated guesses and use this to attempt to manipulate it in our favour. For this reason, it is impossible to promise a certain position (e.g. number 1) in Google search results. Be very nervous about people who promise you they can do this.
Never Pay for inbound links.
These will be low-quality inbound links. They are likely to do more harm than good to your ranking.
Never Create doorway pages.
This means creating pages for the sole purpose of linking to another part of the website. For example: if you were a window cleaner with a website and you created lots of additional one-page websites linking to your main site. Eg; setting up windowcleaningleicester.com, windowcleaningnottingham.com and directing them all to your site.
Never Create duplicated content on your site
Google can sniff it a mile off, and it will lower your ranking.
Never Copy content from another website
Apart from making enemies and infringing copyright, Google will punish you for this too.
Never Use cheap hosting
Cheap hosting means more downtime, more often. Downtime can do huge damage to rankings. It will also frustrate users which may stop them returning. Good hosting doesn’t have to be expensive. As a general guide, anywhere that offers you unlimited space or unlimited bandwidth is likely to be low-quality hosting
Never Put invisible text on your page
Putting invisible text in your page to enhance SEO worked in the 90’s, now, however, Google can spot it at 50 paces and will penalise you for it.
Never Keyword Stuff
Creating a page and stuffing it with lots of keywords is bad. Make sure all text is readable in plain English.
Never Use Flash
Flash is dead. Don’t use it, enough said.
Exercise extreme caution grey hat techniques
Grey hat techniques are SEO techniques that are sailing pretty close to the wind regarding what will get your penalised or not. Be very careful about using such techniques; even if your competitors are. If you do use them, monitor them carefully and make sure they don’t develop into black hat techniques or known reasons for Google to penalise you.
I have seen more than one SEO agencies use grey hat techniques, which became black hat techniques. The result? Their clients websites dropped out of Google overnight and in one instance, the company folded.
10) Website, Technical Tips
I have left this section to last to prevent boredom and confusion. But Quelle Suprise! Here it is. Alot of these tips all revolve around making your website as fast as possible. If you're not technical, get your technical guys on this.
Concatenate All CSS & JS
The fewer CSS & JS files, the fewer requests have to be made to the server and the faster the website will load. Combine all your CSS files into one, if you cant combine into one combine into as few as you can.
Tools like Grunt & Gulp can do this for you.
Minify all CSS & JS
Minifying code is the act of removing all white space, and it can save you precious bytes and notably reduce file size. Again grunt and gulp can help with this.
CSS & JS - put it in the footer where possible
As much CSS & JS as possible should go in the footer, not the header. This will lead to faster page rendering times. Not all of it will able to go in the footer, but some will. Again JS runners like Grunt can help make this easier.
Write clean, semantic and Object Orientated code.
Code written to a high standard will be faster. Faster code means faster websites; faster websites means better usability and better rankings.
It can be quite difficult for a none developer to appreciate how efficient code is, but it is worth getting your dev team to conduct a review and ensure your code conforms to the latest standards.
11.0 Further Resources
- Officail Google SEO Resource Blog For Beginners
- Lynda training courses - Proffessioanl SEO training
- Woorank - Scans your website and makes reccomendations to improve your site
- Sitebeam - Another service that scans your website and provides tailored advice
- Pingdom - Test how fast your website is from various locations around the world