Baking a New Site With a Sprinkle of SEO Part 1

It doesn’t matter whether you’re an SEO, a developer, designer, information architect or any other myriad of digital based roles, we all want the same outcome; to do the best we possibly can for our websites.

As an SEO myself, I’m interested in growing the performance of my client’s website in organic search. This is not something that I (or any other SEO for that matter!) can do single handed. We also rely on the skill of the web developer to implement and carry out our recommendations and technical requests.

With this in mind I wanted to introduce some comprehensive tips that you can inject into your projects that will improve the performance of your websites allowing them, their SEO and you as their developer maximum control and ultimately search engine performance.

On page: title tags

Fundamentally the single most important part of a page with regards to SEO is the title tag. You want to make sure you have the following covered off for maximum impact:

  • Each page’s title tag is editable
  • There are no dependencies between the title, the H1 or the URL of the page
  • Every title is unique and relevant to the page
  • Try and keep the titles under about 65 characters which will ensure the whole thing is clearly picked up in the search result pages and seen by users

On page: meta descriptions

Although these little chaps don’t carry massive weight in terms of achieving rankings, they are still relevant:

  • Make sure each page has an editable meta description
  • Each one is unique
  • For extra punch, encourage the addition of USPs and a powerful, persuasive description. For example “Brand new range of aeroplane models from small to large now with FREE delivery and up to 20% off retail price! The best price, highest quality plane kits online!
  • Keep it within the 170 characters to get the whole thing showing in the results pages

On page: dependencies

Depending on the CMS being used or general technical specifications of the site in question, sometimes there are dependencies that creep in. Most commonly, these are between the page title tag and the page H1 but I’ve also seen them between the title, the H1 and the page URL too. Although you might think it would be logical to have all three elements interconnected because the context of the page content is only about one thing, it doesn’t allow full control. Try to allow each of these elements to be independently changeable to really help maximise the search engine friendliness of your site.

On page: URLs

I’m sure you’ve heard about friendly URLs in the past, in fact Jeff mentioned them back in January. In their ‘raw’ format, many CMS’ will render page addresses as a series of variables and characters logical to the platform. Unfortunately a page called doesn’t have quite the same user friendly ring to it as! So adding in those friendly URL rewrites is not only great for SEO benefit, but users will much prefer them to.

Speed: Google Analytics

No, I’m not going to tell you that implementing Google Analytics will speed the site up, well, kind of, there are two variations of GA; the old urchin style and the new a-synchronous. Double check the site has the new version of the code on the site. It’s much more load time friendly than the old urchin code and will help keep page load times down.

Speed: Sprites and Goblins

Just sprites actually. Where possible, combining CSS imagery into a single file and using CSS positioning can really help speed things up on a page. Google uses page loading time as a factor in deciding how to rank a page (a bit like you going to a restaurant, ordering and waiting 2 hours for it to arrive on the table, you probably wouldn’t recommend it to your friends) so we need to think about this. CSS sprites can really help reduce the number of HTTP requests a browser makes when requesting files from the server. This will help keep load times down and hopefully aid those rankings!

Speed: Image optimisation

Ever been in the situation where you or another person creates a new page, puts an awesome photo up on the site, you visit it and it takes over 5 seconds to load as you watch the image render line by line? Yep. Me too. Not only should you optimise your images (Photoshop has an awesome built capability for this but there are tools I like to use on the web that effectively do the same thing) before uploading but think about having a tool within the site that automatically reduces images that are too big (I like this image optimiser for WordPress). This is great if you have users on the site that aren’t immediately aware of the problems that can be caused from uploading a 2,500 pixel width image into a 400 pixel space!

Check back next week for part 2 where we tackle some more advanced techniques.

Dave is a professional Search Marketer working for UK SEO Company Vertical Leap. Dave has been doing SEO with VL for over 2 years now. He’s also a coffee and internet junkie who loves aviation and also writes on his own personal blog Square Squirrel. More articles by Dave Colgate
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