What does SEO friendly mean?
SEO friendly is a term that you may have heard thrown around. But what does it actually mean? SEO Friendly as a concept is understood to mean that when a site is completed by a design or web company that it should have a very good chance of ranking well. Is there a site available off the shelf that has the the perfect combination of design, URL structure, code and content? Unfortunately not. There are good and bad website platforms and even the good ones need to be configured by an experienced SEO to have a chance of ranking for competitive terms. For a website to be truly SEO friendly it not only needs to have nothing preventing it from ranking well, but it also needs a push in all of the right directions.
Some important SEO features to have on a site include:
Keyword rich title tags, Keyword rich content, Significant relevant content, Keyword rich headers in some cases, Optimised anchor text on internal links, Duplicate URL management.
So with the aim in mind of creating an effective site that will rank well I’ve put together a list below of the features a website should have when it goes live, and the tasks that should be carried out to help it rank. Bear in mind that you will also require the necessary link profile.
Keyword Research Informed Meta Data
Research at least 1 group of keywords per page / Editable Meta Title tags for each page / Editable Meta Description tags for each page / Optimised site structure / Ensure important ranking pages are linked from main menu / Ensure keyword appropriate anchor text within main and footer menus / Keyword rich URLs.
Ensure site displays well on all devices to help the site rank for mobile searches.
Ensure optimised alt tags.
H1, H2 headers to be used with keywords where appropriate.
Page speed optimisation
Combine as many CSS files as possible to reduce page requests.
Robots.txt file set to allow index of important pages
Robots.txt file set to block index of unimportant pages
Ensure that content is keyword rich.
Ensure grammar and spelling is correct.
Ensure content is original and substantial.
Will this help our SEO? is a question I’ve heard many times and the answer depends on what your goals are. SEO is an ongoing job but it needs a focus. Are you looking to increase sales of a particular product? Then adding alt tags probably isn’t going to do that. Are you looking to increase enquiries from South Africa? Then adding an XML sitemap on its own is not going to help.
What I’m trying to get across is that SEO friendly on its own doesn’t exist. In the same way as success friendly doesn’t exist for a business. To have a site that ranks well and pulls in a heap of traffic takes a lot of work and specialist experience. Just like a thriving business needs more than a great idea and some marketing materials.
How to tell if your SEO company are value for money
SEO is a subject with a steep learning curve so it can be difficult for business owners to assess the quality of a potential company. It’s also an unregulated industry so the quality of SEO companies can range from the awful to the fantastic.
Even when an SEO campaign is ongoing it can be difficult to understand what you’re getting for your money. It doesn’t need to be that way though. Let’s have a look at how you can evaluate an SEO company before, during and after a campaign is carried out. The thing with SEO is that it’s actually quite easy to show clients what work is being done but you need to know which questions to ask. There’s absolutely no reason that you shouldn’t see documentation that supports the work being carried out as well as regular statistics reports. What should an SEO campaign involve? If you are getting a full on campaign then there’s going to be lots to do. Specific campaigns will vary due to the type of site but in general they will usually involve the following.
A site audit will tell you what’s what. It may be carried out for free to try and win your business or it may be chargeable, depends on the company. The audit should tell you what condition your code and content is in, where you rank for some related keywords and how healthy your link profile is. The link audit is especially important these days as bad links can stop you from getting anywhere in Google.
Keyword research is a must to find out what you should be ranking for. If you already have a site that receives a lot of traffic your keyword research should include data from your analytics account. If your SEO doesn’t take your current traffic data into account you could end up missing out on some huge traffic gains and risk reducing the traffic you’re already getting.
Reporting set up is crucial. If you don’t know where your site stands at the moment you won’t be able to appraise the impact of your SEO campaign. Too many times I’ve come across clients who have had previous SEO without any reporting. Regular stats and ranking reports are the least that you should be getting.
Content creation should be addressed. If you’re creating the content in house you should receive training on best practices. If your SEO company are creating the content for you it needs to be top notch. In the age of aggressive Google algorithm updates it’s better to have not a lot of content rather than lots of low quality content.
Link building is where your site is most at risk from low quality SEO. Content can be fixed and keywords can be changed but if your site is on the receiving end of the wrong types of links it can end up a lost cause as far as Google rankings and traffic are concerned, or at the very least involve a lot of work to fix.
How do you tell good links from the bad? First of all ask your SEO company if they are using automated link software. If the answer is yes get rid of them. If they say they’re not, great. Ask for a monthly report which details the link building work carried out and a spreadsheet containing the domain names of the sites where your links have been placed. If you don’t manage to get a list of the links being built you can have a look for yourself. First of all visit www.opensiteexplorer.org and type in your domain name. Filter the results to select ‘Links from only external’ and ‘pages on this root domain’. Bear in mind that links created now may take a couple of months to show up in link analysis tools. If you do have bad links then you may be unlucky enough to have had a manual penalty against your site. To check go to Google Webmaster Tools and click on Search Traffic / Manual Action on the left hand side menu. If you’ve got a manual penalty it’ll show up there. On the other hand, you won’t be notified about an algorithmic penalty. Diagnosing that can be more complex.
If you’re hiring an SEO company you don’t need to be in the dark where your campaign is concerned. SEO isn’t a dark art and work can easily be reported on. With Google now penalising sites for using outdated SEO techniques it’s more important than ever to know what’s going on with your campaign.