If you're not an experienced web developer or webmaster, there are a few things you may not be doing that could significantly contribute to helping your website(s) rank higher in search engines. These are simple things that anyone with basic technical skills can do, and they are a few of the most fundamentally important steps everyone should take when launching a new site or trying to get an older one to rank higher. If you haven't already, you should set up a Google Webmaster's account as well as a Google Analytics account. These will be required for the following steps!
1. The importance of coherent navigation and meta descriptions.
SEO companies will try and tell you how keywords are the most important thing you can have for your website – this simply isn't true. The way Google works is simple, it crawls the web following links among sites until it reaches your site. It then crawls your site collecting data as it does and uses that data to create a hierarchy of links – both inbound and outbound – on your site, grabbing the meta titles and description of all available pages as it does. These meta descriptions are what show up in Google search results. Thus, the single most important thing you can do for your site is to create a well described and easily navigable website. As Google puts it, "Make a site with a clear hierarchy and text links. Every page should be reachable from at least one static text link." To read Google's full tip sheet click here.
If you are a WordPress user find and locate within all your "posts, pages, and theme options" content areas that allow you to put in either a page Meta Title or a Meta Description. Be sure to accurately describe the page with what you think people would be searching in order for them to land upon the specific page.
2. Create an XML Sitemap for your website and submit it via your Google Webmaster Tools account.
A sitemap allows the Google crawlers to easily know what links to follow on your website, what priority different ones are, and how often certain pages change. You also know that by submitting a sitemap to Google Webmaster Tools all of the URLs from your website that are in the site map are submitted to Google. Most of these URLs will then subsequently be added to the Google Index which can speed up the process of Google finding all pages on your website hierarchically. XML-Sitemaps.com offers an easy to use online tool for creating a sitemap of your own website. When choosing priorities you can either select 'auto' or self assign values between 0.1 and 1.0. Reserve higher values only for those very important key pages that are the fundamental framework of your website. Auto priority usually does a fairly decent job on its own. Once you complete the sitemap and download the .xml file, upload it to www.yoursite.com/sitemap.xml via FTP or web client. Check for the sitemap through Webmaster Tools and ensure that Google was able to find your sitemap and download it. You should now have a complete list of URLs from your website submitted to Google and waiting to be indexed.
3. Utilize a 'robot.txt' file in your 'html' directory.
Google recommends the aid of a 'robot.txt' file. In simple terms, a 'robot.txt' file sits in your home directory of your website and allows or disallows Google's robots to crawl certain pages and not others or all pages on your site. You can create the file by opening up TextEdit if you have a Mac or Notepad if you have a PC and creating a file entitled 'robot.txt' with the following in plain text:
Save this file and upload it to your home directory on your site's FTP server. For more information about these files and other additional functionality you can give them reference Google's Webmaster Central.
Above I mentioned creating an account on Google Analytics. This is a must-have for all web masters and website owners. After all, you need some way of monitoring the traffic on your website to see if this SEO stuff really works! Google Analytics is the standard for web traffic monitoring systems and its entirely free. It offers great features for gauging where traffic is coming from, what pages people are visiting, and the keywords people are using to find your site, as well as the referring links. In order to set up your site with Analytics you will either need to embed a HTML snippet into the homepage or you will have to upload a unique ID file to the html directory of your site. Instructions, getting started, and more can be found here. Good luck optimizing!
Michael Costigan speaks to teens and adults about effective communication so that they may make better informed decisions together. Read more about Michael here.