This is a guest article by David Walsh*.
SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) has, as most of you probably know by now, become one of the most important elements when setting up a website. Still we notice that many website owners, for some reason, tend to neglect implementing it in their creative process. Jacob published an all important SEO rules for designers but there is always lots to learn. I thought that it was about time to write another nine tips on the topic.
1. Proper use of <h1> and <h2> tags
Headers and sub-headers are not only useful for making up a good layout. Search engines do also love it when we use headers. But that is when we use them wisely. This means that you should use them in a way that makes sense – do not spam your site with various headers as it is a sure way of keeping both the search engines and the visitors away. Most important sections of a page should be H1 and H2 and then smaller sections should be H3. H4-H6 are rarely used tags.
2. Remove useless code
The purpose of optimizing your site is to make it as available as possible for all involved – you, the visitors and the search engines. This is just as important when we are talking about the code of the website. Take advantage of an XHTML validator to make sure that all of your code is readable.
If you own a blog and tend to write drafts in MS Office, copying and pasting back into WordPress is a code nightmare. Check the “HTML” tab when in the writing new post page of WordPress; Office adds a lot of garbage code. Remove it. A good alternative is to copy & paste your article into a text editor and then copy and paste the article into your next blog post.
3. Internal linking
Internal linking is a great way of keeping your site user-friendly. Search engines also like to see well placed internal links if they are relevant and serve a purpose. Use good anchor text to your pages and link within strong pages. Also, more than a couple links to the same page have no meaning. Some sites put “hawaiian vacations” three times in a text and link back to the home page. It is not only annoying to the visitor but also worthless.
And most importantly, don’t create orphan pages; pages that are not internally linked anywhere.
4. Footer links are to be kept at a minimum
One type of link that gets close to no attention by the search engines are the footer links. Sure, they are good from an internal navigation purpose but that is about it. You should thus try to keep the bottom based links at a minimum.
5. Do not use images as links
As the search engines try to crawl everything on your website, your task is to make it as easy as possible for them. This is the reason why you should not use images (excluding banners) as links. Proper text is much easier for the spiders to read. Another quite common mistake that designers tend to make is embedding much of the important content in Flash, which search spiders obviously will not be able to read. While Google has begun to read websites based in Flash, it is not a good idea to have a site that cannot be searched.
6. Keep the URLs friendly
Not only your domain name and onsite content should be optimised for keywords. Make sure that you implement the same strategy for ALL of your URL strings as it is a great way of increasing your ranking on search engines.
7. Use the noarchive and noindex tags
8. Social bookmarking
Social bookmarking is beneficial for search engines as well as for the visitors. Since the bookmarks are saved to the web, instead of to your browser, they are easily shared with friends – good for all parties involved. Be careful though, many plugins for social bookmarking have 100 links that pop up and they can break the external link count of a page. Too many external links devalues all the links on a page, so make those social bookmarking icons “nofollows.”
9. Do not overuse Ajax
For some reason many developers and designers seem to feel as if they have to impress their visitors and implement Ajax features all over the place. Big mistake. Ajax will not get indexed by search engines and your visitors will not be able to send the page to their friends, as the URL does not reload.
Recommended SEO Resources
*About the author: David Walsh is a writer over at Web Hosting Search. WHS is a guide to web hosting and tutorials. If you need to get a hosting plan, anything from cheap web hosting, SEO services to server hosting (the big guns), WHS is the place for you.