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Following is a list of essential items to check off when optimizing your site structure and pages for SEO purposes as discussed in more detail in our article on On Page SEO factors. Print out and use this guide to make sure your pages are optimized and ready for indexing by the search engines. We focus on structure, performance, and integration into your overall content hierarchy.
- Take the time to write a good title – A catchy title could make the difference between someone clicking on your link in the search results (and elsewhere) and passing over it.
- Stay on topic – Eliminate irrelevant content. In other words, minimize content and maximize quality (relevance). Your readers will only stay tuned in to your page as long as they’re interested. One way of gauging reader engagement on your pages is to check their time on page and website analytics logs or software (with Google analytics, for example).
- Each page should have one concept, ie. one or maximum two main keyword phrases that are more important than the rest. Having a focus keyword for each page can help you stay on point.
- Put yourself in the shoes of your reader – are you creating unique, engaging content that readers will want to share? Pages with quality content usually rank better (because they are linked to more, giving you a stronger backlink profile and higher PageRank) than mere online brochures or pages that focus on selling things.
- Your best content should come first – not just for your readers, but for the search engines. Make sure that in your source code your main navigation comes first, followed by your main content. These should appear before your sidebars, footer, and other less significant content.
- Keep your pages short, between 2 and 8 KB in size, and your articles generally don’t need to be longer than 500-1000 words. Google is known to provide rankings benefits for speed. Their PageSpeed Insights can give you instant feedback on your website’s performance and areas to improve.
- Place variations of your focus keyword, and related keywords, in your title, heading, and emphasis tags. But be careful not to overuse the strong tag – it is important that the strong tag be used to naturally emphasize important words, and not merely keywords. The same goes for the title and heading tags – use natural variations of your focus keyword, don’t repeat the same keyword phrase too many times. Use header tags (<h1>, <h2>, <h3>) for content hierarchy: h1 tags for the page topic (ie. use only one per page), h2 tags for a topical headings, and h3 tags for sub-topical headings. Make sure heading tags are nested (ie. an <h2> needs to be under an <h1>, an <h3> under an <2>, etc.).
- Text links are more important than graphical links.
- Don’t use pop-ups, or use them sparingly – these may be penalized by search engines. Think about your visitor and avoid doing anything that’s too annoying, or worse that tricks them into doing something they weren’t expecting.
- Well written meta description tags – you can use a meta description tag to influence what shows up as the description for your website in the search results. Most blogging and Content Management Systems should support this via a plugin or add-on, if not out of the box. A well-written meta description can make the difference between someone clicking through to your article and skipping it and going to a competitor. See the image below for an example.
- Organize your content according to themes and logic based on your focus keyword. Use a book-like structure, with chapters and blocks delegating importance.
- Pay attention to styles (CSS) – search engines recognize stylesheet alterations to tags – use carefully. In other words, don’t create white font on white background, or blue font that could be mistaken for a link – the search engines might think you’re up to something shady.
- Short link paths – users should be able to access sub-pages of your site by traversing a minimal number of pages from the homepage.
- Navigation – have an identical navigation menu on each page, with navigation links based on keywords, but that are also user-friendly.
- Link structure – think about how all your pages link together. It helps to draw a flow chart showing the outgoing and incoming links of each of your pages on your website. This will reveal if you’re linking to one page too many times or not enough, as well as where your outgoing links are pointing to.