There is no official ‘check sheet’ or order of priority for completing tasks when building a website or working on SEO (with so much ambiguity and confusion surrounding SEO, perhaps there should be!). There’s really only best practice, which is governed by a lot of factors, so requirements often vary.
Google uses an excess of 200 signals to rank websites, and unfortunately no one knows exactly what they are. The below pointers are based on many years of testing and research, and while this is by no means an exhaustive list, these are a few of the main points to consider:
Get rid of duplicate content
‘Duplicate content’ is content that appears on the internet in more than one place. So, whether you are using the same information on several different pages within your website, or have repurposed content from an external source, if it appears at more than one web address, you’ve got duplicate content.
The trouble with duplicate content is that search engines will rarely show multiple versions of the same content, so they are forced to choose which version is most likely to be the best result. This dilutes the visibility of each of the duplicates.
And while it’s thought that up to 29% of the web is made up of duplicate content, most website owners don’t intentionally create it. In fact, duplicate content is a widespread problem for eCommerce websites; if the same product is being sold on lots of different websites which are all using the manufacturer’s original product description, there could be hundreds of instances of identical content across the web.
Fixing duplicate content issues comes down to specifying which of the duplicates is the ‘correct’ one. Check out this guide by Moz to find out more.
Make sure content is unique
Google is on a mission to provide its users with the best user experience, which means only ever displaying search results that are helpful and satisfy search queries. To ensure your content does this, it’s best to personally write each page of content, making sure it is targeted and relevant and includes keywords where possible. Content should be around 70% unique to anything else on the web, so definitely try to avoid copying and pasting from one page to another.
Ensure a minimum of 300-400 words per page
In addition to being highly targeted, your web content should be as detailed as possible to provide the end-user with everything they need to know about your products and/or services. Google loves long-tail content, so while 300-400 words is sufficient, the more you can write the better.
Add unique meta data to each page
Meta data is basically data that describes other data. It is used to provide Google and the other search engines with information about the content on your web page, making it easier to find when a relevant search query is made. That’s why it’s important to ensure meta data is present and, most importantly, unique and relevant to each page.
Click here to find out more about meta data and why it’s important.
Name images using keywords
Images are an important element of any website – not just for the end user, but for search engines as well.
Since Google is a robot and cannot see pictures, it will look at an image’s file name for clues about its contents. You can help Google out by assigning relevant, detailed file names, such as ‘golden-retriever-puppies.jpg’, which is much more informative than ‘IMG002.jpg’.
This information can be used by Google to display your web page in the search results if it cannot find enough suitable on-page content. So, remember this simple trick when adding images to your site!
Add alt tags to images
The “alt” attribute on an < img > tag is used to describe an image and, if it has one, its function on the page (e.g. if an image were being used as a call to action button, its alt text should say something along the lines of “click button to buy this product”).
While you’re not strictly required to assign alt text, it’s important that you do so to provide Google with useful information that can be used to decide which images to return when a search query is submitted.
In addition, descriptive alt text helps to make images accessible for people who cannot see them, such as those who rely on screen readers, or those with low bandwidth connections.
Add your address to the footer
This one’s important for attracting local traffic (e.g. if someone were to search ‘garden centre gloucester’), so make sure to add your full address, including your town and region, to the footer of your website, and also to your contact page.
Implement the ‘no follow’ attribute on any external hyperlinks
Each time you link to an external website from your own, you’re influencing the PageRank of the link’s target, and may be passing on some of your own ‘Google Juice’. By adding a ‘nofollow’ to these links, you can decrease the PageRank that can be passed on. Here’s where to put it:
Test on different devices
If you’re a frequent reader of our MAD4 blog, you’ll know that since mobile internet usage is on the continual incline, Google is getting tough on non-mobile-friendly websites. That means if your website is not fully optimised for use on mobile devices, it could be being penalised in the SERPs.
Test your website on different devices with varying screen sizes (smartphone, tablet, laptop, desktop etc.) and check to see:
• Whether it scales down correctly – can you see all of the content without text and images hanging off the screen?
• Whether it retains all functionality – can you still click links, buttons and use the menu?
• Whether text is a suitable size – can you still read headings and paragraph text without getting a headache or needing to zoom in?
If the answer to those questions is ‘no’, it might be a good idea to do some research around responsive website design, and consider whether this is something you could benefit from.