BEST PRACTICES: SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION (SEO)
This is one in a series of posts on best practices in all aspects of building and maintaining a strong online presence. See also: Content Marketing; Email Marketing; Social Media Marketing (Coming Soon.... Web Design)
SEO has changed dramatically in recent years, and continues to evolve. But it still begins with the architecture of your site: “A website’s speed — including load times — as well as keyword positioning, URL length, and meta descriptions are all among the technical components that all websites should incorporate. And rather than rewarding websites that do so, Google’s algorithm appears to punish those that don’t.”
Keyword positioning refers to incorporating the words and phrases that search-engine users will enter. Ours would include “web design” and “Cleveland,” among others. Several years ago, repeating those words in the page name, headline, subhead, text, photo captions, etc., was one way to ensure high placement in search returns. This led to robotic-sounding text, which Google now penalizes or rejects on the assumption that such gimmickry masks low-quality content. Natural-sounding prose works best: “Never sacrifice the quality of your copy for the sake of the search engines.”
Keep page URLs concise and clear, using the names of the page (for example, wris.com/services/web-design). Google prefers words to strings of numbers. And don’t overlook meta descriptions, also known as meta tags. These brief summaries of content, buried in the source code, are what search engines display under the web site or page name in a list of results, and therefore can determine whether someone clicks on your link. Keep meta tags short and punchy.
Not all of the technical elements of SEO are structural; just like buildings need maintenance, you’ll need to make regular tweaks and updates, including “checking competitor’s sites, changing keywords, refreshing web pages, updating coding standards, browser compliance, and tracking metrics or analyzing performance.” Ignoring these tasks can hurt your ranking — it’s generally best to assume that Google misses nothing. You should even search for mentions of your business on other sites to make sure that details like address and phone number are consistent across the web.