Search Engine Optimization
In 2018, search engine optimization still plays a large role in attracting visitors to websites and getting found online. No more are the days of build it and they will come. Today we have to give our readers a reason to come to our website and engage with our content.
Today, I want to give 4 quick points for local business owners to leverage to boost your rankings on google. These are all things that can be easily achieved with the right effort, and they should also be quick to do as well. These 4 points are going to focus both on things you can do to your website, and things a typical webmaster might do as well such as using some of Google's tools.
At its most basic level, an XML sitemap is what it sounds like – a map of your site. It tells search engines (or anyone viewing a sitemap) where to search, providing them URLs to follow. It lays out everything that is on your site in one easy to use place.
The sitemap lays out every URL of pages on the website. This means that 'spiders' from search engines such as Google and Yahoo can browse all the pages of the site. This is important because some pages on the site may not be able to be browsed to by following links – which means that the search engines would otherwise not pick them up to be indexed.
The sitemap also shows the spiders where to look for flash content, content which search engines often otherwise skip over and fail to index.
Now, this is all fine and dandy, but how do we actually use this technology? If you're using Wordpress, first install Yoast SEO and it will quickly generate a necessary sitemap for your website. If you're not using Wordpress (congrats!), you'll want to go to wherever your website code lives, and make a new file in the base of your folder. Call it sitemap.xml, and hear on over to http://www.xsitemap.com/ where you will just enter the domain of your website. Wait a few seconds, and it'll output your brand new sitemap. Paste the contents of what it renders in your sitemap.xml file, save, and upload to your server. Read down below for how another file, Robots.txt, interacts with your sitemap file.
2. Optimize Meta Tags, Titles, and URL's
In a simple sense, Meta tags are invisible tags that provide data about your page to search engines and website visitors. There are 5 basic tags you want to focus on to increase your website performance:
- Title tag
- The title tag is one of the first things that users notice in the SERPs. It’s the title of your page that offers a preview of what your content is about. This is important because it shows up in the search results, but it’s also pulled out to show up as anchor text and a title in social shares when you do things like share a link on facebook or twitter. For best results, make your title tag clear, descriptive and usually not more than 55 characters.
- Meta Description
- The meta description is of equal importance to the title tag. Remember, the title tag is the title that appears at the top of a search result, but the meta description is the snippet that displays underneath. The meta description should provide an clear description of the contents of your page. It is usually a major element that determines whether users will click on your page, which makes it important to spend time on its optimization.
- Robots meta tag
- The robots meta tag informs search engines which pages on your site should be indexed. This meta tag serves a similar purpose to robots.txt (mentioned below); it is generally used to prevent a search engine from indexing individual pages, while robots.txt will prevent it from indexing a whole site or section of a site.
- Alt text
- This section is so important, it has its own section dedicated below.
- Header tags
- Header tags are the important structure of your page, and determines what search engines see, and what your users eyes will get drawn to. Header tags are labeled from H1 to H6 with H1 being the biggest. However, as important as header tags are, you should not overuse them – think quality, not quantity here. Having all six different types of heading on your page won’t help your SEO or ranking results. Instead, use them tactically to break up your content and introduce the main point of each section where it seems fit.
3. Optimize Image Alt Text
Image optimization has become a very important element of modern SEO in 2018 that we do here at Localize Labs, as it offers an additional opportunity to rank in an equally important search engine: Google's Image Search.
You should strive to have your images accessible to both search engines and people alike, and Alt text can ensure both of these things: it provides a text alternative to images which will be displayed if the image doesn’t load, or will be read out by a screenreader for people who are visually impaired; it also tells search engines what that image is meant to represent.
An important note, is you can include keywords in your image alt text, but try to do so only if it makes sense – no need to keyword-stuff this tag, as it will only end up harming the user experience for visitors with accessibility needs.
Much like our sitemap example above, the Robots.txt is just a simple text file stored in the root of your project directory that tells search engines and crawlers about what they can or cannot access on your site. What you want to do here, is make a new file in the root of your folder called robots.txt. Inside that file, just add these 3 lines
What this does, is links to your sitemap, and tells every user agent (* is programming talk for a wild card meaning everything, and user agent is a crawler that is accessing your website) that you are not disallowing any page to be scrapped, and they should scrape your whole website. Pretty simple, but majorly effective.
And there you have it. 4, hopefully quick, points that you can use to spruce up your website for 2018.