On-site SEO Best Practices

Posted on Thu, July 21, 2016 in Internet Marketing, by davidhughes

We consider it our responsibility to help our clients succeed. It drives all our actions, and is the motivation for this blog post. We developed an On-site SEO Best Practices write-up to help our clients gain a good grasp of some SEO basics, and thought, why keep it secret? So we’ve adapted it into a blog post and are sharing it with our readers.

URL Naming Conventions

Individual words should be separated by dashes. Placing dashes between words helps Google differentiate those words and paints a clearer picture of what each page represents.

Also, abbreviations should be avoided whenever possible, unless the abbreviations are searched for more commonly than the full keywords themselves.

If possible, ensure that your URL includes the keyword(s) that you are optimizing that page for. Shorter URL’s are more user-friendly for site visitors to share so if you see an opportunity to remove unnecessary words, do it. If your site’s CMS automatically generates URLs for pages, take a look at them and clean them up if necessary (remove special characters and any word parts that don’t add meaning to the user).

Meta Titles

Meta titles should generally utilize 55 characters or less and convey a concise, descriptive overview of each page while also including important keywords. If you want to be really safe, keep to 49 words or less – that number drops to 40 or less if it’s in all caps.

A minimum of one keyword instance is mandatory within each title, although two can be safely used as well. Three or more instances of the same keyword begin to appear “spammy” and may trigger Google to flag your site for review and negatively impact your SEO.

Meta Descriptions

Meta descriptions should be viewed as a 160-character opportunity to make a sales pitch. They should be focused on attracting eyeballs while also maintaining a reasonable amount of descriptiveness toward the page or product. It is imperative to include the most important keyword at least once, and possibly twice, within each meta description. Utilizing an incentive or a slogan that differentiates you from your top competitors is a tactic that also works well.

Image Tagging Best Practices

All images on your site, just like written content, should be optimized for search engines. There are two primary ways of doing this: the alt tag and the title tag.

  • Alt tag: This is used exclusively by search engines to interpret the meaning of an image. Alt-tags should be concise and accurately describe the image, while also (if possible) including an important keyword. Alt-tags are not seen by real users and exist in the background coding of the website.
  • Title tag: This is used by humans (i.e. real users) who are browsing your site, and co-exists with the alt-tags. Conversely this text highly visible and appears when somebody hovers over an image (before clicking). This has minimal SEO value and should be written strictly with the user-experience in mind.

For large sites (like ecommerce) in which there is a large quantity of images, it is okay to use the same content for both alt tags and title tags. Both should be 60 characters or less. However, take the time to differentiate between them wherever feasible, especially on prominent pages like the homepage. 

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