By Charlie Craine
So your company has a website and you go to Google and search for it. Obviously, showing up atop a list of search results when you enter your company’s name is good. But how ‘high’ on the page is your new website when you search for key products you sell or services you offer?
Only 10 websites show up on the first page of Google’s search results and you need to do everything possible to ensure you are on that first page for the right search terms. No one knows the super-secret algorithm Google uses to rank sites in search, but there are certain basic website development steps you can take to boost your search engine optimization.
- Content — Do you have content (think articles!) on every page that offers something of value or do you have a lot of pictures with the text in them linking to other areas? If your site isn’t text heavy then you probably will not show up as high in search. Having a good content strategy is critical, especially considering the newest updates to Google, which places emphasis on quality content.
- Page titles — Make sure that you have page titles and they are unique for every page on your website.
- H1 tags — Make sure that you have something assigned with an H1 tag so that Google or other search engines know what the content emphasis is for your page.
- Meta descriptions — When you see the summary under the title on a Google search results page, that is usually your meta description. This information is extremely important. Without effective meta descriptions, you run the risk of Google deciding what information to put there.
- Alt text — Do you have images on your website? Do they have properly named alt tags? If not, your search ‘score’ drops because the search engines cannot ‘read’ or properly identify the images.
- Robots.txt file — If you don’t show up in search at all, this is often the primary reason. If you tell Google or some other search engines that they cannot search your website, they won’t and you will be invisible. Start here if you don’t seem to exist.
- 301 redirects — Did you kill an old page or redesign your website so that every page is new now? Did you do a 301 redirect to the new articles? If not, Google may still be indexing those old pages and showing them in search results, so when people arrive there they get an error. Worse yet, they may hit the back button to go from your 301 page back to the Google results page, which tells Google they had a bad experience. What does that mean? It means that Google doesn’t think you have a quality website.
- Sitemap XML — Do you have an XML sitemap setup for your website? Have you submitted it to Google? If not, then you are not providing Google with all available information regarding your website. Not providing the XML sitemap to Google also means you are missing out on seeing what is (and is not!) being indexed by Google and where problems may lie with your search engine optimization.
- Canonical — This odd term just means does your website / webpages only show up via one URL or does Google think you have many variations of the same web page? Examples:
- If www.website.com goes to the same page as website.com (note the lack of the ‘www.’) then Google thinks you have two home pages. The result is Google will likely devalue both home pages and score you lower in search.
- www.website.com also works with website.com/index.html — same as above
- www.website.com/news/1231/news-article.html also works with www.website.com/news/1231 — same as above
- There are potentially hundreds of scenarios like these on your website, and if you are not using a content management system that fixes these issues you are potential facing a lot of clean up work — unless you use rel=canonical.
To discuss a search engine optimization for your website, please get in touch with your Meister Media sales rep or contact our Director of Interactive Sales, Bob West, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 440-602-9129.