You Don't Have To Be An SEO To Optimize Your Website
Written by: Nick LeRoy
That's right, the title of this post is absolutely correct. You don’t have to be an SEO to increase your sites search presence. This post will outline 9 simple "Go-Live" SEO tasks that everyone should do to their site before it goes live. Will these techniques guarantee you number one rankings and a hefty sack of cash? Probably not… but it sure will set you up for future success.
1. Does Your Site Have Unique Title Tags For Every Page?
What word or phrase do you think best describes your website? Would you say the word “Home” accurately explains it? If not, why would you add it to your title tag so that the search engines think just this? The title tag of each page is a clear indication to both the search engines and your visitors to what your site is about. Are you a local electrician servicing your metro area? Why not create a title tag along the lines of “Minneapolis Electrical Contractor Servicing Homes In Minnesota” See how a user might be more willing to click on that title tag when searching for Minneapolis electrical contractors? For more details read this post on how to best write title tags for your site.
2. Does Your Site Have Unique Meta Description For Each Page?
Meta descriptions may not play a large role (or any) in bringing your site to the top of the search rankings but it can help conversions. The search engines give you roughly 150 characters to convince a visitor to click on your site instead of your competitors. Why wouldn’t you want to take advantage of this opportunity? There isn’t one description that could accurately sum up the value that each page within your site offers. Because of this, make sure each of your pages has a unique meta description.
3. Implement Simple 301 Redirects
301 redirects are something that is typically focused on in a more in-depth SEO campaigns. However, there is at least one 301 redirect that should be put in place for all site on the web. Without any redirects put in place your site will be able to be accesses by the “www” version as well as the non “www” version. Choose which version of your homepage you want the search engines to ‘count’ and redirect the other version to this URL. This will help consolidate all your links to one version of your site and avoid any homepage duplicate content issues.
Also note that if your new site is a redesign then you will want to map out 301 redirects from the pages on your old site to your new site. Ideally you used the exact URL structure, but we don’t all live in an ideal world.
4. Create An XML SiteMap
XML Sitemaps have a list of all the pages found on your website. The idea behind a XML Sitemap is that you can submit it to the search engines and they can use it as a guide to navigate your website. Ideally the search engines will spider your site just fine but on the odd chance your navigation gets screwy they may use the sitemap to find any lost pages.
5. Create A Robots.txt File
A robots.txt file is used to block any folders within your site that you don’t want to find in the search engines. It’s important that this file is a text file and that it gets uploaded to the root of the domain. What if you don’t want to block any parts of your site? It’s still a good idea to add a robots.txt file as you can add a directive to the bottom pointing the search engines to your XML Sitemap. See the example below for the content of a robot.txt file that doesn’t block any pages and points to the DKS Systems XML Sitemap.
6. Add A Custom 404 Error Page
What happens when you click on a broken link or attempt to manually enter a URL that is incorrect? You get an ugly 404 error page like this one (see below)
This 404 error page only gives the user two options, click back to the previous page or to move on to another site. You don’t want anyone to leave your site because of this so by creating a custom 404 error page that includes your navigation and a short “I’m sorry…” message can help avoid this situation.
7. Are You Using Dashes In Your URLs?
Before pushing your site live make sure that you include keywords and dashes in your URLs. Just like your title tags and meta descriptions you want to choose a URL that best describes the page your viewing. Continuing with the electrician example, he may have service area pages within the site. Use a URL such as domain.com/Minneapolis-electrical-services.html. Notice how dashes are used to separate the words within the URL. This is to help the search engines better parse the URL and understand that each word is unique and that you’re not targeting “minneapoliselectricalservices” as one large word.
8. Did You Implement Google Analytics
Google Analytics gives you a great opportunity to track how your visitors are finding and using your website. It’s in my opinion that no website should be on the web without some form of tracking software. Do you have additional questions about Google Analytics or how it works? Check out this great beginners guide to Google Analytics.
9. Did You Implement Google Webmaster Tools
Google Webmaster Tools is another free toolset that Google offers to users for free. This service will help you track any errors your site has in addition to giving you a plethora of additional information. Track your sites load time, submit your XML sitemap, keep an eye out on your links etc. This tool along with Google Analytics should be utilized for every website on the internet. The information you receive is invaluable.
There you have it! None of the above techniques require an SEO to be able to execute. Every webmaster should have easy access to adding or tweaking the items mentioned above. You may not rocket to the top of the search engines right away with these techniques but you sure will have an easier time being recognized by the search engines. Give it a try, what do you have to lose?