Rank better - Introduction to basic SEO

SEO - Climbing over the fold

The organic climb to get on the first page of the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) is a never-ending, forever-changing mission to rise from the pit of doom! You need to push your web pages as close as possible to the top of the SERP or risk becoming invisible.

Rank your website higher - Reach above the fold

A solid SEO foundation will help your web pages rank higher for longer, and it will even help boost your pay-per-click advertising performance if you are using it. Although the search engines are very secretive about their algorithms, there are plenty of hints as to what criteria is used to rank websites.

Here's a list of ranking factors to consider when developing your next website. We implement some of the more important factors as standard features and offer many of the others as options when we provide quotes.

These factors have been rated for best practices and things to avoid:

  • (+) Positive influence on SEO
  • (-) Negative influence on SEO Avoid
  • (0) No effect (myth)
  • (+/-) Positive influence if done right, negative id done wrong

Domains (4)

Domain Age (0)

Although once upon a time many SEO’s believed that the age of a domain was an important SEO factor, it is now considered a myth.

Domain Commitment (0)

It is believed by many SEO's that locking in your domain name for the long term has no effect on ranking.

Domain Redirects (-)

Forwarding one URL to another is common practice, however when doing so, it is critical to observe best practices for SEO purposes.

Subdomains (-)

Use subdirectories rather than subdomains.


Robot Friendly (6)

Page Redirects (-)

Page redirects might suggest, confusion and lack of planning and also slow down the delivery of content and affect page ranking.

Redirects (-)

While redirects are typically not advisable, one redirect may be acceptable.

  • URL is redirecting from a non-www version to its www version
  • URL is redirecting form http to https

Use a Sitemap (+)

A sitemap will allow a user to quickly find what they are looking for. A sitemap.xml will help the search engine understand what pages should be indexed and a robot.txt file will tell the robot what files, pages, and directories not to index. All of these go toward the suggestion that the site is well thought out, with the user in mind.

Use a Robots.txt (+)

disallow the search engines access to some parts of your website. You are advised to check carefully if the access to these resources or pages must be blocked.

No Index (-)

The webpage does not use the no index meta tag. This means that your webpage will be read and indexed by search engines.

No Follow (-)

Your webpage does not use the no follow meta tag. This means that search engines will crawl all links from your webpage.


Security & Safety (5)

Secure Your Website (+)

Early in 2017 Google announced that websites that are not secure, or are using poor quality SSL certifications would start to receive lower SEO ranking scores starting October 2017.

Server Signature (+)

A server signature is the public identity of your web server. It contains sensitive information that could be used to exploit any known server vulnerability. Turning the server signature off is considered a good security practice. It avoids disclosure software information.

Directory Browsing (+)

For security reasones, directory browsing should always be disabled unless there is a specific reason to enable it.

Safe Browsing (+)

Take steps to ensure there is no malware or phishing activity on your website.

User Privacy Statements (+)

Having a privacy statement or policy tells your customers that you take their privacy seriously and that you take measures to protect your users and their personal information.

Email Protection (+)

Protect e-mail addresses that are in your website contact forms. If you are using plain text, it is easy for spammers to capture email addresses and use them for phishing messages that look like they came from trustworthy sources. Google, in particular, is on a mission to wipe out hacking, spoofing and spamming.


Website Development (13)

Poor quality code (-)

Good coding in itself will help improve page processing by removing potential server hick-ups that slowdown site performance. Run your HTML & CSS pages through the W3C, or utilise developer versions of browsers to help optimise your pages.

Deprecated Tags (-)

Deprecated tags are tag elements that are still in use but will eventually become browser obsolete. Many of these tags have been replaced with new tags, or can be treated with CSS.

Minification (+)

Wherever possible minify CSS, scripts, and HTML. This will help speed up the page delivery and contribute to in a positive way to ranking.

  • Google Speed Test (Search Console)
  • YUI Compressor
  • Closure Compiler
  • JSMin

Scripts Below the Fold (+)

Move scripts that don't require immediate loading but are not pertinent to initial page viewing to the end of your web page.

Inline CSS (+)

It is a good practice to put all the inline CSS rules into an external file to decrease the code to text ratio and make your page lighter.

Text/code Ratio (0)

The code to text ratio of a page is used by believed to be used by search engines and spiders to calculate the relevancy of a webpage.

Some SEOs believe this really has no bearing on SERP ranking others for lack of a better word “want” it to. That said, if a page is very light on content, it will not rank well.

Javascript Errors (-)

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Flash (-)

Although Flash is readily used, it requires excessive loading time which some search engines believe diminishes the user experience. Flash content does not work well on mobile devices and is difficult for crawlers to interpret.

Nested Tables (-)

Nested tables should be avoided, they require a longer load time, cause issues with screen readers and do not conform to flexible responsive design.

Framesets (-)

Framesets slowdown page loading, they are very difficult to interpret by search bots, in fact framesets will not get indexed.

HTML Page Size (+)

Faster loading websites result in a better user experience, higher conversion rates, and better search engine rankings. Limit HTML Page size to 30kb.

HTML Compression/GZIP (+)

This helps ensure a faster loading web page and improved the user experience. MORE

Google Analytics (0)

Google Analytics provides valuable data that can help marketers improve site rankings and although some SEO's believe there is a correlation to Google's ranking system, it is probably just a myth.


User Experience (9)

Viewport (+)

Viewport addresses the display of web content on multiple devices. If unspecified, the content will not show properly on mobile devices.

Avoid minimum-scale, maximum-scale, user-scalable, these options impact accessibility in a negative way.

Adaptability (desktop, tablet, mobile) (+)

Responsive websites adapt to the needs of the user and the devices they're using. Search engines give SEO points to websites that are responsive. The media query technique is the recommended basis for responsive website design.

Structural Hierarchy (+)

Think of your pages in terms of relevance and make sure that essential page links are closer to the top of the main navigation, these pages tend to get a higher ranking than pages buried deeper within the website.

Navigation (+)

Navigation links should load quickly, be easily understood and easily clickable on target devices.

  • Develop navigation in HTML, avoid Javascript & Flash.
  • Don't overlink, keep it simple! Don't over crowd! Test links for usability.

Breadcrumbs (+)

It is believed that large websites may benefit from having a supplemental breadcrumb navigation system to help users know where they are on a site.

Coherence (+)

It just makes good sense that easy-to-understand information will be appreciated by website users searching for more information about your product or services.

Search engines have begun to process information more intelligently and are looking for meaningful results “Semantic results”. Although no one really understands what the research engines are looking for or how they process the information, it is believed the well written, well organized and well-documented material will meet their criteria.

Bulleted Lists (+)

Bulleted lists simplify content and help users comprehend concepts quicker.

  • Bulleted lists should be used in moderation. Too many lists or lengthy lists might suggest sloppy content.
  • Google prefers the first word on every bullet to be capitalised.

On-site Search (+)

Help website users find the content that they are looking for and reduce bounce rates. Low bounce rates score positive SEO points.

Pop-ups (+)

Avoid pop-ups, in most cases they are considered distractive or annoying and may indicate a poor-quality website.


Engagement (5)

Website Engagement (+)

It appears that traffic correlates to the higher ranking of web pages and it is believed that search engine use the following visitor information in their algorithyms:

  • Search visits
  • Direct visits
  • Page views
  • Time on site
  • Lenght between clicks
  • Bounce rate

By providing quality usable information your users are more likely to find what they are looking for and staying on the website longer.

Reputation (+)

Great reviews from a reputable source like Yelp, Google+, GoogleMyBusiness, Homestars and The Better Business Bureau, should encourage traffic to a website and influence website rank.

Trust (+)

Authoritive websites become trusted websites, especially if the content is better (more informative and helpful) than the competition. Many SEO's believe it is factored into the search rank equation.

Brand Authority (+)

It is believed that search engines, specifically Google measure (release, news, blog and association memberships... links) and mentions of brand names on the internet and the measurement goes into the search algorithym.

Clickstream Data (+)

Search terms that stand on their own and branded search terms can indicate popularity that may be measured by search engine algorithms i.e. running shoe vs Nike running shoe. Although there's not much that can be done from an SEO perspective, it has been suggested that branding may become a part of SEO.


Relevance (11)

URLs (+)

Friendy meaningful keyword driven URLs accurately indicate the content of a page.

Friendly URL Tips:

  • Case sensitivity - lowercase is prefered and easier to read by humans
  • Word delimiters - stick with hyphens (dash) rather than underscores
  • Keep it short - search engines limit length and truncate long URLs

Content Relevancy (+)

Actively deliver relevant content to your customers, and receive algorithmic points that when combined with other criteria will influence site ranking.

Make it fresh - search engines love new content - review and update often.

Unique Words (+)

Knowing how users are searching for your products in order for them to find you. A website that as well SEO optimized speaks the same language as its users.

Usability (+)

The customer is hungry for information, as they are now turning to the web for most of the comparative research before they contact a company for purchase. Make sure your site provides the detail and value that the customer will appreciate - make it blatantly obvious with quality images, videos, and positive distinguishing benefits.

Original Material (+)

Make your content original and unique. It is believed search engines somehow hunt down information that is expressed or organised differently than similar sites. Represents a differing perspective.

Outbound Links (+)

Reputable outbound links to related pages and relevant organisations, website and tools will help search engines focus in on and confirm page topics thus boosting site and page ranking. High bounce rates could indicate content is poor quality or not relevent to the users query.

Bounce Rate (0)

Although bounce rate can sometimes be deceptive, there's clear evidence that suggests search engines evaluate the value of a search link with the time spent on the page or site after a click.

Up-to-date Information (+)

Pages that sit without change for extended periods of time play a role of diminished relevance and tend to fade into the distance. A review and update of pages on a regular basis shows a commitment to stay current to the respective market. Older pages that are regularly updated should outperform new pages.

Dates (+/-)

Blogs:
There are mixed opinions from SEO's specifically regarding post dates and blogs.

  • Some believe older dates discourage clicks, making the pages less desirable, contributing to a lowing page rank.
  • Some believe dates should be left out completely ignoring the date issue in order to retain traffic.
  • And other's believe the date should be posted for users so they can evaluate the information relevant in the context of when it was posted.

News:
News posts, on the other hand, should always include release dates.

General note:
Search engines look at the last time a page was updated and execute their algorithms based on that - remember your website should always be about creating a valued user experience - do what's best for your users.

Rather than creating new posts on specific topics, try to update the post content on a regular basis.

Favicon (0)

A favicon does provide some increase in the usability of a website in that it can easily be found when bookmarked, however, most SEO's believe that if SEO points are awarded for having on, it would be very minor.

Brand Reviews (+)

Google my business reviews, Yelp and HomeStars to name a few, are believed to play an important role in measuring the popularity of a site or company. Similar to the Social media factor.


Content (9)

Content Priorities (+)

Put the most important information above the fold, in the browser visible area of the website. It is believed by many SEO's that search engines reward web pages that have rich page topic-specific information at the top of the browser window.

Make sure the most important page message is at the top of the page and that important keywords are included, but not overdone.

Content Quality (+)

  • Match it up to your keywords - words that users are actually using.
  • Think about possible query questions and answer them in your content.

Content Uniqueness (+)

Is it the same as everyone else or is it different? Find new ways to present common information, use images, video presentation. Whatever you do make it better than the competition. Not only with the search engine take notice, but your customers will too.

Content Readability (+)

Make sure the fonts used on your website are legible.

Content Length (+)

The length of the content is a purely speculative concept in the SEO world. Some sources suggest that 600-700 words per page, others suggest 300 words per page as a minimum.

An important consideration is that you only use what you need to use to make your page work. Make it easy to understand, include important and meaningful keywords and avoid fluff. Add value that you think might help explain the topic of the page.

Content Aids (+)

Supplemental content that adds value to a page topic can add value, things like calculators or simulators all add to the user experience.

Content Duplication (-)

Duplication suggests organizational issues with a website, a user does not want to see information that they have already seen. It can negatively affect website ranking.

URL Canonicalization (+)

Duplication on a website devalues you content and confuses search engines. If content duplication is necessary, the conical tag tells search engine to look at the preferred source.

Blogs (+)

A blog is an excellent way to communicate new ideas, upcoming events and market news. It's a great outlet to answer customer questions and discuss topics in great detail.


Speed & Performance (7)

Google is on the record as saying page loading speed is an important ranking factor. There are quite a few relatively easy steps you can take to increase page loading efficiency.

Site Load Speed (+)

Your page loading speed should be under 5 seconds.

Plugins (-)

Most mobile devices do not support plugins, a leading cause of crashes, hangs, and security issues. Many browsers have begun to restrict plugins as native web technologies now take care of audio, video and graphics.

Site Up-time (+)

Slow or failing servers affect performance and ranking.

Server location (0)

The further away a server is from its customer target areas, the more potential for network failure. If you are in a local market, use a server in that market.

Enable compression for dynamic sites (+)

Most content managed websites contain settings for compression which allow the pages to load quicker.

Limit Page Objects (+)

Page objects include CSS resource files, scripts, images and flash files.


Images & Visual Aids (5)

Adding Interest (+)

Images add interest and express ideas easier, as such they can help engage the user and lower bounce rate. Images and videos send search engines important relevancy signals.

Speed & Efficiency (+)

Optimise image size and compression so that they load quickly. Test for quality - poor quality highly compressed images make a poor impression even with quick website loading.

Alt Tag (+)

Make sure to use descriptive image Alt Tags that they contain relevant information about image and contain main page keywords.

Captions (+)

Meaningful keword based captions offer another opportunity to bolster content. They should also contain relevant information about image and contain main page keywords.

Image Expires Header (+)

Speeds up your site for returning visitor - tells users' browser to cache the image until the specified date.


Keywords & Titles (10)

URL Naming (+)

Google prefers a URL structure using dash's such as "all-great-things" rather than underscore such as "all_great_things".

Meta Title (+)

Still, an important SEO element, a title is the title for a URL it appears above the URL in most browsers. It should contain important keywords and be relevant to the content on the page. Each page title should be unique to the entire site and its length should not 71 characters.

Keywords (+)

Keyword Search Engine ranking is an essential necessity for every website. Research and analysis of the market's keyword demand will help determine the most powerful keyword phrases and influence the way the content is written. Be careful not to over stack keywords, and remember to include your keywords in the following areas:

  • Page URL (keyword at the front)
  • Meta description (keyword at the front)
  • Page title (keyword at the front)
  • H1 title
  • Image alt tags
  • In the first paragraph & lightly throughout the page

Meta Keyword (0)

The keyword meta-tag has been eliminated as a ranking factor in search engine algorithyms.

Meta Description (+)

The meta description has diminished in value over the years, but should not be ignored. Its actual intent is to provide a concise explanation of the contents of a web page. These descriptions are commonly, but not always used by search engine result pages (SERP's) as a preview of the content on a page. Include keywords and phrases and ensure that each page description is unique. The meta description of your page has a length of 155 characters.

H1, H2, H3, H4 Tags (+/-)

Although it sounds like a good idea to include keywords, these tags are reserved for sub-content which typically might not have keywords associated with them, it's better to use keywords in the copy.

Microdata (+)

Also known as structured data, microdata allows search engines to not only crawl your site but to understand it by providing labels for individual content chunks. Microdata helps crawlers identify, classify, and index your information as well as to create rich snippets on search results. It is believed that microdata helps improve page ranking.

Visit Scheme.com for more information

Duplication (-)

Duplicated text and meta information will diminish the value of pages, as it could potentially be deemed as a form of keyword stacking.

Exact Match Keyword Query (+)

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Links (10)

Domain Link (+)

Similar to brand authority with the exception that a brands website URL is mentioned. Metrics could include browser toolbars (bookmarks), pressreleases, news, blogs, associations...

h4>Domain Link Authority (+)

Generally speaking it is believed that search engines use a domain authority scale to measure the quality of a domain link.

Page Link Authority (+)

Whereas Domain Authority measures the predictive ranking strength of an entire domain, Page Authority measures the strength of individual pages that may be linked to by other websites.

Internal Links (+)

Internal links are links within a website domain that provide more information about the subject matter, these links could be to definitions, rich media or blog topics.

External Links (+)

External links are links that leave a websites to outside websites and may include related associations, partners, resources or rich media.

Anchor Text (+)

Anchor text is the visible wording that a hyperlink displays in an internal or external link. Anchor text can provide both search engines and users with relevant contextual information about the content of the link's destination.

Link Title (0)

A link title provides additional information on where a link will take you. Although link titles can provide visual and non-visual users with information about a link, they can cause duplication issues on screen readers.

The value of a link title appears to be diminishing.

Broken Links (-)

Having broken links on a page may indicate neglected or an abandoned website. Make sure to test site links on a regular basis.

  • Don't forget to post an updated sitemap to your server.

Backlinks (+/-)

Backlinks are off-site links that link to a website. They have always been a part of SEO, but in recent years have diminished in value.

The quality of backlinks is extremely important. Spammy backlinks will have a negative effect on ranking, while reputable high-quality sites may have a positive effect on rank.

  • Do not use link farms or other black-hat tactics.
  • Avoid paying for backlinks but be wary of free listing.
  • Use links that legitimize your business.

Social Media (7)

It is believed that links to content on social networks help the search engines understand the credibility of a website relating to a sites keyword phrases.

Having a social media presence has the potential to increase the popularity of your website, but don't just do it, not all social media networks will be appropriate to your business and if you cannot allocate resources to manage them, you may be completely wasting time and money.

Social Network Relevance (+)

Make sure there is relevance in the posts and don't forget, to be a success in social networks, you need to be followed, follow, like and share.

Social Network Profiles (+)

Social Network Profiles seem to get good rank for most brands. Probably because these profiles are usually up-to-date and loaded with friendly information about a company.

Building a following (+)

It would appear that number of followers and connections your social media profiles contain can influence ranking.

Social media is a great way to build your web presence and quickly build an audience.

Keep it Alive (+)

If search engines like social media, then they are bound to like new, high-quality content on the social media networks. Keep the posts coming and make sure there is a relevant purpose to them.

Capture events and post pictures

Sharing (+)

Likes, shared links, shared posts, favourites, replies, and retweets all seem to count toward increased authority, but not all social networks appear to be treated equally. Stick with Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Linkedin and Youtube.

Social Media Pages (+)

Social media pages are subject to the same SEO rules as most websites and tend to rank higher than many company home pages. Use these pages to try drive website users back to your website. This will increase website activity to your website and increase associated ranking factors.

Open Graph Protocol (+)

Originlly introduced (a series of meta tags) by Facebook several years ago. It promotes the integration between Facebook and other websites by allowing them to become rich "graph" objects with the same functionality as other Facebook objects. And now today other social media sites are taking advantage of these social media tags ( Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+, recognize Open Graph tags ) - Twitter has actually created a set of their own.

although Google and other search engines don't share their secret criteria for their algorithms, the whole philosophy behind Open Graph Protocol sounds pretty good. It's very probable that if implemented on a site, SEO Points will be rewarded.


The best time to build a strong SEO foundation for your website is when you create a new website. If done correctly it will save you time and costs over the long haul and it will help you see your website rank quicker & higher.

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