Search Engine Optimization – SEO

Updated: 1/28/14 In addition to creating visually pleasing websites, I code with Search Engine Optimization in mind during the entire coding process start to finish. You should know SEO is its own field separate from web design. SEO is very technical and takes a ton of active ongoing research. So while very often (no exaggeration) my clients’ websites perform quite well in Google and other search engines, I don’t guarantee top 10 ranking. Here are the SEO factors in order of importance. Remember this is an overview. Each point has services and techniques to maximize your SEO.

SEO Factors

Domain Name 25% – Your domain name is vital to your search engine success. If your keywords are a part of your domain name, you’re already ahead of the curve.

Incoming Links 10% – This is a frustrating factor because often you don’t have a say in who’s linking to you. However, search engines place a high priority on incoming links because it gives relevancy to your site. A good service to use that tracks incoming links is Alexa. Another great incoming link is YouTube.com. If your company hosts any videos on YouTube, link them back to your site.

Social Networking Links 10% – Incoming links used to be 20% all by itself until about 2010 when incoming links split into two categories. Social networking links is the second category. This is actually good news because you have a better chance of cultivating Social Networking Links. This relates to Facebook, Google Plus, LinkedIn, Twitter, Digg, etc.

This is especially effective if your blogging. If your generating new content, you should help get that content out by tweeting and getting the word out on all your social networks. Hopefully you can develop a following of people who find your content informative and useful and they’ll share your links with their sphere of influence as well. At the very least you should have your employees help you publicize new content by sharing links on their social networks.

Title Tag 7.5% – Yes, this more important than the meta “keywords”. The title tag is the description of your site that shows up at the top of your browser. Stuff your keywords into your title. Keyword density is important here. Do NOT put things like your phone number or hours of operation. It will devalue your title tag potential.

URL or Permalink 7.5% – This is the link of your page or post. If the link to your content is something like http://example.com/?p=324 its practically useless for SEO. I use “Pretty Permalinks” links when designing in WordPress which automatically pulls your title as part of your link. Just as this page has done. http://brianlis.com/services/search-engine-optimization-seo/

However, most of the time your title is something flowery or catchy for capturing human readers. So if you have a really long title its not going to make for a good SEO’ed URL. One nice feature of WordPress is that you can modify the link manually.

Keyword Density 5% – This is how many times your keywords are used in your home page. Its very important to stuff your home page with your keywords to have a good density. However, if your keyword density is too high you’ll actually get penalized. Today Google might consider 5% a good density, but tomorrow 5% might be considered too high (spam ) and your site could actually be penalized.

Website Size & Speed 5% – Think “smaller is better”. The more efficient your site is with its file sizes, image sizes, use of javascripts the quicker the site will load and better SEO results. Chrome will help analyze your site speed by right clicking on your site. Select “inspect element” > resources.

Proper Coding 5% - 95% of the time websites work they way they are supposed to work with broken, improper code. Yes, it’s true, code sometimes does not need to be perfect. However, if you have too many errors your site relevancy will take a hit. You can use a validator service to check the coding (even if you’re not an expert). If your errors are under 50 you’re stylin’. Fifty to 100 errors is probably okay. Over 100 errors and there’s a good chance you’re getting dinged.

The Miscellaneous 25%

Broken Links – Broken links are bad. It shows if you care about your site. If you don’t care why would Google? I use WC3 Link Checker to insure no broken links are left behind.

Meta Keywords – Yes, finally your meta. This is the one internet novices freak out about. “Make sure my keywords are coded right”. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to code

meta name=”keywords” content=”web design, seo, wordpress, consultant”

At one time this particular meta tag used to carry a ton of weight in SEO. The fact is that nowadays it’s only a small consideration. One service that could help you determine keywords is Google Adwords, but you have to know how to use the service to realize the benefit.

Post Tags – This is WordPress specific. Even if you do not use a tag cloud you should still tag your posts with post relevant keywords and site relevant keywords.

Link, Alt Tags, and File Names – This is a big one. When you name images, at the very least use your company name, or better yet, use your keywords. For example, an image on your home page might be called “widgets.jpg” (assuming “widgets” is your keyword). Widgets.jpg is a MUCH friendlier SEO file name than r2s21.gif. Check out the image on AT&T’s wireless home page:
B2C-33363_708x258_0925_marquee.jpg
The file name is “B2C-33363_708x258_0925_marquee.jpg”. The ad is visually appealing, but do you think the Google spider knows how in the world to index “B2C-33363_708x258_0925_marquee.jpg”?

There’s easily another 50+ factors that can determine your overall SEO relevancy. The factor that weighs the most today might not weigh as much tomorrow. Put together a solid website that performs well with SEO, but don’t overdo it. You could drop 10k today to get on Google’s first page but the criteria could change tomorrow.

WordPress vs. Html

If you’re still on .html, you’re missing the SEO boat big time. Google loves WordPress. WordPress sites are indexed on entire body of content, not just a homepage and a few keywords. For example, you may create a post or a page in WordPress that’s a tangent of your business. That tangent will probably have very good results in Google. Hopefully the end user will be impressed with the tangent and continue on to view/purchase your services and products.

Additional SEO thoughts at Search Engine Optimization for WordPress.

Determining Your Keywords

Brian Lis Web Design - keywordsThink through how people will search for you. I have had better success when I target two words that make up the keywords. For example, as a custom neckwear manufacturer, Adverties would love to be in the top page for “ties”. However, Adverties doesn’t produce retail neckties. Narrowing the focus to “custom ties” produces a top 10 result in Google.

I also had an acupuncture clinic who insisted on “acupuncture” being their keyword. There’s several problems with this. My Chicago-based client doesn’t benefit if someone from Denver finds their site as result of a Google search. Also, “acupuncture” returns 14,700,000 results, compared to “Chicago acupuncture” with a return of 1,180,000 results. You have a much better chance of getting a higher ranking when you use two keywords.

Other Search Engines

A good distance behind Google is Yahoo, Bing, and AOL search engines. What logarithm works with one search engine doesn’t necessarily work with another. Again, it’s best to build a solid site that targets the biggest search engine (Google) and let the chips fall where they may with the rest.

Google Adwords

Google Adwords is a great way to advertise on a pay-per-click method. I’ve had many clients express good results with Adwords. Adwords are the ads you see at the side of the Google search result. Sometimes the Adwords will be highlighted at the top of the search result. There’s a $50.00 minimum and the pay per clicks can vary from $.50 – $3.00 per click, depending on your keyword competition. There are also some SEO bonuses in having an Adwords account, such as keyword reports, etc.

Advanced SEO Trick

Study what the top dog in your keyword is doing. What are his meta tags? How many incoming links does he have? What is he using for a title?

Choosing a SEO Company

“Great overview, Brian, but I NEED to be #1 in my keywords or I’ll just die.” If that describes you, then you should probably invest in a SEO company (I can recommend a few). But you have to be VERY careful because I’ve had a handful of SEO companies I’ve designed websites for that know less about SEO than I do. Don’t get confused with fancy terms and acronyms. The most important factor is their portfolio. Ask for a list of five to ten references/portfolio links. Anyone can get lucky with one outstanding result. They should be able to perform consistently in keyword results that are over 50,000,000. Besides the “buyer beware” notice, get ready to back up the piggy bank because some top keyword rankings are pricey.

Flash

Flash can do some pretty cool things. I code in Flash but rarely use it. In fact, I’ve found a javascript alternative to pretty much all my Flash coding. The reason Flash is problematic is it runs off a file name such as “intro.flv”. That intro file could have information critical to your business and SEO. Unfortunately, search engine spiders can only index the file name, not the content of the file. Flash can also really bog down website load time (even for broadband users). Nine times out of ten I have a better option than Flash, yet some people still think Flash is the hot coding language when professionals in the know hardly ever use it.