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Things that we think are important, cool or just plain wrong!

To kick off 2014 I’m going to look at some general issues relating to search engine optimisation and in particular with my preferred CMS, Joomla.

While I will concentrate details on Joomla, the principles covered and certainly the check list in today’s article will be just as valuable for optimising Drupal and Wordpress sites or your hand crafted static web site.

The main concept to remember is that ‘content is king’ and that you want your content to have value to the reader. Ensuring that you then use the relevant key phrases for search engines will then provide the rankings. If you don’t have the key phrases in the page’s content, no amount of ‘SEO trickery’ will get you on the first page of Google.

Read more for my fundamental SEO checklist…

  1. Preparation

    1. Keywords
      Don’t skimp on this. It’s often worth hiring a professional for a few hours work to get the right key phrases. The wrong key phrases will doom your site to search engine failure. Remember, it’s not about traffic, it’s about sales. Often lower volume key phrases that are targeted perfectly at your niche market can be far more effective than the ‘headline’ phrases.
    2. Code Structure
      This is something more likely to fall under the remit of your webmaster. Your template should be properly structured to produce clean semantic mark-up.

      A word of warning about prebuilt templates… They often have huge levels of code to produce the flexibility required for a template that’s going to be used over and over again in various scenarios. If search engine optimisation is a vital part of your marketing plan, consider investing in a custom built template.
  2. Links & URLs

    1. URL Structure / Site map
      Try to avoid too many levels in your site’s navigation structure. 2 – 3 levels maximum. Both search engines and readers will get bored if they have to drill down too many levels to find the content they want.
    2. Internal Link Structure
      Make sure that when creating links within articles, that you use the proper linking method to ensure that there’s no duplication of content under multiple URLs. Cross linking within your own site is vital to help both search engines and visitors to find their way between different parts of your site. The larger the site, the more important this is.
    3. Readable URLs
      Make sure that your search engine friendly (or pretty) URLs are properly configured.
    4. Anchor (link) text
      When creating links in articles and other content make sure that link you create to internal pages use key phrases FOR THE TARGET PAGE.
  3. Meta Data

    1. 1.Browser Page title
      This is probably the single most important element when it comes to search engine optimisation. Make sure it’s concise, different on each page and keyword rich.
    2. 2.Meta Description
      Google have stated that the meta description will have little or no effect on your actual rankings. However, where a meta description is set, google will often use it in their results listing. This means that it’s your first ‘hook’ to convince potential customers that yours is the site to visit rather than that of your competitor. SO make it a good one
    3. 3.Meta Keywords
      Google has stated that these are not used, so set your global primary key phrases and leave it at that.
  4. Redirects & Error Pages

    1. www and non-www URLs
      Another for your webmaster to configure. Make sure that your site is set up to allow both to work and that you have set up in Google webmaster tools which you would prefer Google to list.
    2. Make sure that you avoid duplicate URLs
      Google has recently posted a video where Matt Cutts (Google’s head of SPAM), states that duplicate content doesn’t get you banned, but they will only rank one result. However other search engines may have a less forgiving approach (as Google used to), so it’s worth doing everything you can to avoid duplicates.
    3. Avoid 404 Errors
      There are two aspects to this:
      1. Make sure that you have a good 404 error page set up that deosn’t leave visitors stranded
      2. Make sure that all pages within your URL structure exist.
    4. 301 Redirects for old URLs
      it’s important when moving content around that you make sure that any URLs that may be listed in Google still work, and send the user to the new page correctly.
  5. Visibility & Submission

    1. XML Sitemap
      No matter what your chosen CMS (Joomla Drupal, Wordpress or any other), there will be a 3rd party extension to create an xml site map based on your articles and menu structure. Use one. It’s vital for quickly getting your content into the search engines.
    2. Robots.txt
      Quite simply, make sure that important parts of your site ear not blocked and that those directories which should not be listed in search engines are disallowed.
    3. Microdata and Rich snippets
      These are small enhancements to your Google listing and can add a great level of effectiveness to your ‘hook’
  6. Images

    1. Optimise your image data
      Although search engines can’t ‘read’ images, they can analyse the image file’s properties, so it’s important that title attributes, alt text and file names all contain relevant key phrases
    2. Optimise file size
      In these days of fast broadband connections it’s easy to forget that images still need optimising. In recent times Google has started to use page load time as one of the elements within its ranking algorithm. Therefore a fast loading page will out rank a slower loading page if all other elements are equal…

This list concentrates on ‘on-page’ optimisation, making sure that your pages are ready to perform at their best within search engines and helping you to build good content writing habits.

In future blog posts I’ll expand on some of these areas as well as looking at other aspects of web sites for small businesses.


Spook SEO
0 # Spook SEO 2014-02-09 13:28
Yes indeed. We really need to make sure that when building links within articles, we really have to use proper linking method to make sure that there is no duplication of content under multiple URLs. I believe that cross linking within our own site is very important to help both search engines and visitors to check the different parts of our site.

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