SEO Best Practices

This article summarises my knowledge of SEO and findability practices.

What is Website Findability and why is it important?

Websites are a medium for communicating information. To communicate this information effectively it is important that the website itself be easily found using common technologies (ie. search engines) and that once that site is found that visitors can easily find what they are looking for.

SEO

Search Engine Optimization is a collection of techniques used to make websites easier to find by making them appear higher in Search Engine Results Pages.

How do we create more Findable websites?

There are a plethora of techniques employed to boost search engine rankings and make web content more findable. These can be split roughly into two categories:

  • Internal Optimization
  • External Optimization

Internal Optimization

This refers to techniques applied to the website itself including:

  • Using Semantic markup to create well structured and findable content. This includes:
    • The correct use of Heading tags
    • Semantically rich containers such as header, article, nav and footer
    • Using strong and em tags for bold and italic text
    • Unordered and ordered lists for bullet points and numbered lists
  • Using researched keywords and keyphrases in a strategic way in the website content
  • Embedding structured data as schema markup or microformats to help both people and search engines find and read website content and meaning
  • Making web pages accessible to people of diverse abilities and backgrounds by complying with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines
  • Releasing fresh content regularly to encourage more frequent indexing by search engines
  • Writing interesting and relevant content to boost the website's reputation
  • Using meta tags to help search engines classify your web pages correctly
  • Embedding special social media meta tags to present richer content when being linked from social media platforms
  • Well structured navigation is extremely important for website visitors to find what they are looking for

Server Side Strategies

Also classified under internal optimization, these techniques are applied at the server level to direct search engines and website visitors to the desired pages and content. Included under Server Side Strategies:

  • XML sitemaps tell search engines which pages in a website to index. Submitting an XML sitemap to popular search engines via Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools tells these search engines that you want your site to be indexed by them.
  • robots.txt files tell web crawlers which pages not to crawl and are used to direct them to the XML sitemap
  • The .htaccess file is useful for overriding default server settings. Uses of .htaccess files include:
  • mod_rewrite is used to rewrite URLs to make them appear cleaner and more SEO friendly. mod_rewrites are written in the .htaccess file.
  • Custom Error 404 pages are used to redirect lost users when they try to access a webpage or URL that doesn't exist. It replaces the default Error 404 generated by the server to maintain consisten branding or show off creative flair.
  • When creating URLs words should be separated by hyphens not underscores as Google doesn't treat underscores as word separators

External Optimization

These are SEO efforts applied outside of the website's code or server base. Important external SEO and findability techniques include:

  • Earning incoming links from authoritative websites related to your industry to further boost your website's authority
  • Social media marketing. Although Google doesn't reward backlinks from social media platforms studies have shown that effective social media marketing can have a positive effect on SERP rankings. Source: 3 Social Media Strategies You Can Use to Boost Your SEO
  • Email marketing and advertising to boost increase brand awareness and drive traffic to the website

How do we analyse our SEO efforts?

There are multiple tools available to help with this. The most essential ones are:

  • Google Search Console
  • Google Analytics
  • Bing Webmaster Tools
These tools are used by webmasters, developers and business owners to:
  • Monitor SEO performance
  • Monitor website traffic
  • Troubleshoot site load issues
  • Identify server errors
  • Identify backlink sources
  • Submit sitemaps and identify any problems with them
  • Track social media traffic