3 Tips to Make your Website Search Engine Friendly

Search engine optimisation may appear complicated and full of mystery for the business owner, however following a few basic steps you can tune your website to make it both friendly to search engines and friendly to your users.

1. Google doesn't have eyes

In the early days of the internet, text was the dominant media type. Then along came images, video, audio and a raft of other technologies such as 'Shockwave' and 'Flash'. This complicates things for visually impaired or blind users as they cannot see the images and videos that form the basis of many web pages. By taking a few simple steps, you can ensure that visually impaired users such as Google will fully understand your content.

  • Images: These should feature alt tags that are concise and descriptive.
  • Video: Captions should be used for video presentations without spoken words. It is also useful to provide captions or a text transcription for users who don't speak the language featured in the video.
  • Audio: Audio files should include links to a text transcription.

Source: http://www.w3.org/2008/06/video-notes

Further to this, make sure the HTML used on your webpage is structure semantically so that headings are nested in a logical order e.g.

  • <h1> Site name
    • <h2> Subject 1 title
      • <h3> Sub heading
      • <h3> Another subheading 
    • <h2> Subject 2 title
      • <h3> Sub heading
      • <h3> Another subheading 

Using this technique will allow user of assitive technology to jump from heading to heading within your webpage. This also means that Google can do the same.

2. Your website needs to be fast

When Google announced that it was rating a website's rendering speed as a part of its quality score algorithm everyone in SEO land starting banging the drum for faster websites.

Whilst the inclusion of site speed within its algorithm was welcome news, Jakob Nielsen first studied the impact of site speed on user behaviour in 1997. This was further enhanced by more recent studies in 2010.

Both the impact on search rankings and the gain in customer retention make website speed an important part of any website improvement programme.

So what can you do to make your website faster?

  • Caching: If your site uses dynamic pages generated by languages such as PHP and ASP.net then make sure you have a cache installed on your server. Caching is a fairly complicated subject but most web hosts will be able to set this up for you. In my experience the ideal setup for a PHP powered site is to use a combination of APC and Varnish. Further to this, the user's browser cache should be utilized so that static files such as CSS and Javascript files are loaded once and then stored in the user's browser. This will reduce the number of requests made to your server which will make your site faster and cheaper to operate.
  • CDN: Using a CDN such as Amazon Cloudfront will mean that static files such as images load faster in different geographic locations. A CDN will also take the strain off your own web server meaning that your server will have more memory to do important things like generating the HTML for your web pages.
  • Javascript: Most websites feature Javascript to provide user interface enhancements, advertising or analytics. Ideally, Javascript files should be placed at the end of the HTML page content - before the closing body tag. This allows a page to load it's content before any third-party data is transferred to the web browser. Further to this, any custom Javascript needs to be optimised for speed and efficiency as it is fairly easy to write bad javascript code that goes unoticed by yourself by picked up on by Google. Try the Google page speed test to see how your website performs paying special attention to the section labelled 'Eliminate render-blocking JavaScript and CSS in above-the-fold content'.
  • Static file usage: Make sure that external resources such as scripts and stylesheets are loaded only when needed on the page being viewed. Some people prefer to simply load all external resources on every page, this is generally ok but by splitting resources into contextually relevant units your site will load faster and use less bandwidth which is particularly important on mobile devices.

3. Write contextually relevant content

Content is king and should be written to suit your audience and the context of the subject at hand. When writing an article consider who will be reading and where they are likely to come from. If you use PPC then make sure the article contains keywords related to the advertising campaign, this will reduce the cost per click and provide a seamless flow between the advert and content.

Use contextually relevant links and call to actions such as links to other content or buttons to complete a form or checkout process but remember to use words that are feature in the content as this will provide sign posts to users in an effort to maintain flow within the user journey of interacting with your website.

Conclusion

These tips offer a way for you to improve your search engine rankings easily whilst also providing a better user experience. If you need any help or advice then please get in touch.