SEO Basics: A quick review

We see a lot of SEO techniques; some great (the best are great for both search and customers), and some awful. With every site we work on, we have to do a full review of the suitability for Search Engines.

It’s always best to start from basics; given what we’ve seen from some previous developers (think <center> tags and <tables> for layout, multiple versions of¬†duplicated content, and even link-farms); it’s always worth being in full command of the facts when it comes to SEO.

Microsoft have put together (on their Bing Blog) a quick review of the basics of SEO; so what should you look out for? We’ve summarised below;

  • Crawlability – XML Sitemaps, URL structure, fix those 404 pages!
  • Site Structure – Strong links between pages, easy navigation, in some cases HTML sitemaps are worth doing
  • Content Hierarchy – make the content match the URL. Don’t hide behind Flash and Silverlight
  • On-page Factors – Page Title, Meta Description, H1 tags
  • Content Production – The content should match the URL, and be useful to the keywords that have found it
  • Link Building – Work on natural link building, especially via social networks. For new content in blogs, this is key. Appropriate keywords in your links on other sites can have a huge impact.

Other things to add? Bing brought up these other topics; we certainly have an opinion on these.

  • RSS Feeds – our opinion? Use when an XML sitemap is unavailable, or when it’s more appropriate than a page list. RSS is especially great for WordPress, and can still be added as a Sitemap, particularly into Google Webmaster Tools and should be detected by Search Engines in the meta tags.
  • Mark It Up – Check out http://www.schema.org/ for a extensions to HTML tags, for blogs and recipes, etc.
  • Wonderful UX – User experience does appear as signals to Search Engines. Great user experience will improve your rankings!
  • Social Love – “Pssst…we see all this happening and it helps us determine the sentiment surrounding your pages, products and services.¬† Good is good, bad is bad.”. Do check your reviews by your customers too. Many new visitors will check before buying.

What do Microsoft say to avoid?

  • cloaking
  • link buying
  • like farms
  • link farms
  • three-way linking
  • duplicating content
  • auto-follows in social media
  • the thin content approach

We were surprised (at first) to notice one of the most important factors of search. However, given Microsoft’s record; maybe it isn’t so surprising; but there is absolutely no mention of having valid code

We’ve seen over and over again that having valid HTML and CSS has a huge impact on your page ranking.

Not least of all, it is a far better experience for users, especially if your site can be read without CSS, images or Javascript; then spiders can understand it better too. Having said this, as we developers realise, due to some web browsers and various other reasons; some code that is seen as invalid (by automated tools) is sometimes necessary for correct behavior. Certainly invalid HTML with many errors should be a indication of bad development techniques and poor SEO.

We mustn’t forget to mention Google are incredibly keen on having fast loading pages, so much so that it will affect your ranking position. There many people speaking of the precaching done by Google and what tools there are available for measuring speed and decreasing page size – we’re hoping to post some useful tips about this very soon.