10 Basics of Web SEO

Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, seems like an elusive goal only reachable by websites that have large funding and can hire an ‘SEO expert.’ Fortunately, your developer is an SEO expert, if she knows where to look for the right information.

Read more articles on Methodology, SEO

This is not meant to be a definitive guide to SEO, but the top 10 things to ask your developer if they’re doing it on your site. These are relatively simple activities a developer can do to improve your site’s search engine optimization.

1. Compressed Code

Reducing your page’s HTML will reduce page size and speed up load times. Getting users what they want faster by providing a page that loads quickly, the more the search engines are going to like it. Search results will look more favorable upon pages with faster load times.

2. H1 & H2 Header Tags

H1 & H2 headings help define the topics of your site to search engines.

3. Description Meta Tag

The description meta tag provides the search engines a description of what content is included on your site. This is the description that is displayed in the search results and is one of the primary hooks that entices user to click through to invest their time in your site.

3. Keywords Meta Tag

The keywords meta tag is a lot like your description tag in that it tells the search engine what your site is all about. The difference is this is a comma delimited list of potential search keywords users are typing in to find a site like yours.

Simply looking into your analytics will give you a great idea what keywords are being typed in, and more specifically which search engine they’re coming from when visitors are being referred to your site.

4. Adding sitemap.xml File

Sitemap.xml files help robots, or your search engine, index your content faster and more thoroughly.

5. Adding robots.txt File

The robots.txt file tells robots, or your search engine, which directories or files they should not index. This can protect content you do not want visible in search results, lower the amount of load you’re placing on the server, and reduce the amount of bandwidth that your site requires.

6. Not Using <table> to Control Layout

Tables in HTML should only be used to display tabular data, never to control layout. When a search engine crawls your site’s content and sees the <table> tag, it assumes it is looking at tabular data and not the hierarchy of your sites content.

This also slows down page load times in the browser. The browser will not display your site until it finds the closing </table> tag. Which means it has to crawl through all of your code before knowing what to display.

7. Not Using Inline Styles

Using inline style tags in your HTML adds bloat to your code and slows page load times. It is also not a semantic separation of structure (HTML), style (CSS), and behavior (JavaScript).

Inline styles are also the primary culprit of higher development display maintenance costs. Your developer should never break the coding mantra of, ‘keep the code clean.’

8. Keep HTTP Requests Under 20

Simply put, the more http requests your site requires, the slower the load times. Your developer can do a number of things to reduce the amount of requests including, but not limited to using text for headers instead of images, using css sprite images, and combining css or javascript files.

9. Title Meta Tag

The title meta tag, much like the description and keywords tags, help search engines determine search relevancy based on the keywords entered by a user, however this is the first meta tag that is looked at by the search engine. This is also the title the browser displays in the header fo the browser window.

10. Keep Image Sizes Under 50 kb

Again with the load times, the larger the file size that needs to be loaded from the server, the slower the load times. This is more important now than ever with the rise of the mobile and tablet movement. Fortunately, there has been a lot of work done with regards to optimizing the delivery of images based on device detection. Your developer can check out the Filament Group’s SouthStreet on GitHub for examples of how to optimize your site.