The SEO Bucket List: 3 Things to Do Before Your Site Dies
The bucket list: an itemized statement of all the things you want to do before you kick the can. Not too long ago, Bruce wandered into the writers’ department and said:
“What about an SEO bucket list of things you have to do before your site dies?”
So here we are.
Now, this is not an exhaustive list by any means.
If I had all the space in the world to write and you had the attention span to read it, I could think of a handful of other things to add (hint, hint: stay tuned for additions to this list in future blog posts).
For now, let’s focus on three core areas that any website should have on its SEO bucket list:
- A strong foundation to operate on
- SEO-friendly design and architecture
- Quality content and structure
1. A Strong Foundation for Your Site to Operate On
If your site doesn’t have a quality foundation to operate on, it can hinder your search engine optimization.
Two factors that search engines take into account when looking to serve up websites in the results pages are relevancy and usability. Search engines want to offer sites to their users that will provide a good experience for them.
Some things to keep in mind to ensure your site is in tip-top shape are:
- Google confirmed site speed is a factor in its algorithm, so server speed is more important now than ever. One of Google’s missions is to speed up the Internet, and if your server is slow, your site could suffer in rankings. In addition to speed, other factors exist that could be hindering your server’s bill of health. Think about running a check server tool to identify potential issues.
- A clean IP address. You might think your site is squeaky clean, but did you know your IP address has a dirty secret? That’s right. Unbeknownst to you, your neighbor is into some very shady things. Check to see if you’re in a bad IP neighborhood by running an IP checker like MXToolbox.com.
2. SEO Friendly Web Design and Architecture
First, you need clean code that’s easily crawled by the search engine bots; code is the foundation of your site. When designing a site, the code can sometimes work against your SEO agenda.
There are times when extra code is generated during Web design that doesn’t serve a purpose. Other times, code can push down the Head section of your Web page so that it’s not among the first items a bot crawls when it reaches the page.
This can confuse the search engine spider. So, what might look great visually can be a nightmare for search engines to try and crawl through to understand what the page is about.
Some things to keep in mind when designing an SEO-friendly website include:
- Look into programs that can clean up your code if it’s plagued with excess commands like Adobe Dreamweaver, if HTML isn’t your area of expertise. You can also aim to make your site W3C compliant; that way, you’ll know it’s up to par.
- Consider using HTML 5 as an alternative to Flash. HTML 5 has solved the problem of implementing sophisticated design while at the same time being search engine- and mobile-friendly.
- Make sure the site architecture and navigation is SEO-ready, including organized silos of themed categories based on keywords you’ve selected. When you silo your content, you keep groups of related ideas together to build themed sections of your site. This helps to build subject authority and clearly tells the search engines what the content is about. More on this later in the post.
- Make images on the site crawlable. Ensure you have naming conventions for the images that are descriptive and also include important keyword phrases, when appropriate. This allows the search engines to understand and index the image appropriately, which can improve the chances it’ll come up in a Universal Search results page, and also give helpful descriptions for users, including the blind. In fact, including ALT attributes on your images is required by the American with Disabilities act.
- Think about using an SEO-friendly CMS. Having a content management system that’s SEO ready can make the structure of your site compatible with search engines and make performing updates to the site a breeze. An SEO-friendly CMS like Pixelsilk, for example, can even allow for SEO-friendly Web design.
3. Quality Content with Good SEO Copy
If you haven’t familiarized yourself with the Google Farmer/Panda algorithm update and what that means to your site, start doing some research. The algorithm change rolled out earlier this year, and just this month, internationally across all English queries.
The algorithm is meant to target low-quality sites. At SMX San Jose 2011, the idea of “thin” content was echoed heavily. And while it’s been hard for people to put a precise definition of what quality content is, you know it when you see it – and you know it when you don’t.
In the Bruce Clay, Inc. February SEO Newsletter, we explored the idea of quality content. And while this was pre-Farmer/Panda, the principles still hold true: Web content should be relevant to the user, add something unique and of value and be authoritative on the subject.
Building relevance and authority starts with subject-matter expertise and is expanded upon through SEO tactics like content silos and copywriting.
You want to structure your site navigation in a way that supports subject themes based on the keywords that your audience is using when looking for products or services similar to yours.
By having primary topics (top-level landing pages or top silos) with supporting information for that topic (subnavigation or subsilos), your site builds authority on the subject matter.
Think of building your silos as you would write a report. You need a main thesis and supporting evidence all organized in a manner that is clear, easy to navigate and simple to comprehend.
This helps the search engine spiders crawl your website and understand what it’s about. It also gives your readers useful information about the products, services or industry you’re in. All in all, a win-win for both.
SEO copywriting is a delicate balance of writing for both the search engines and human visitors of your website.
At Bruce Clay, we follow a scientific-like methodology for on-page optimization that teaches our clients how to become authoritative to both the search engines and the target audience.
This is the happy medium. Search engines like Google will be pleased your website’s content is easily crawled, indexed and understood and that it’s also serving up the most relevant results for a user’s query.
What’s on your SEO bucket list? Please tell us in the comments below!