Andy’s Handy (www.andymoore.info)
Handy hints and tips to rank better in organic search engine results!
Adapted for WordPress by David Adams
I’ve recently launched a new website and I wanted to write up a quick SEO Checklist for my own use. It occured to me that this list would be handy for many others so decided to create this site and expand the contents a little in the hope it encourages folks to do SEO in-house or by themselves. Too many SEO companies talk rubbish and their gas ain’t cheap! Save money, do it yourself if you can and if you feel this site has been of benefit you’re welcome to buy me a beer! Just PayPal some money to andy at andymoore dot info if you’re so inclined! 🙂
If after seeing what’s involved you think it’s too much for you alone be careful who you chose to pay to do it for you. SEO is too important to let just anyone deal with. It’s your online reputation, a good SEO campaign can make you, a bad one can break you. I’ve been banned from Google before, it hurts, I know. You don’t want to learn that lesson first hand. Seriously.
My tip with SEO firms and money is only spend what you can afford to gamble, with all gambles only gamble what you can afford to lose, only make educated bets and always deal with a ‘bookie’ who ranks well organically and who’s got solid verifiable testimonials.
This SEO list will grow in time as I discover new things worthy of addition and drop anything that becomes outdated or isn’t quite right. Please get in touch if you’d like to contribute, my email address is andy at andymoore dot info – I’m Andy by the way – hi and thanks for popping by!
Andy’s Handy Dandy SEO checklist
Andy Moore – www.andymoore.info
- Keywords in Your Domain
. The same rule applies here. A site about SEO Tips that is hosted at www.pettravelinsurance.net is giving off very mixed signals indeed. It would be much better off hosted at www.seo-tips.com or www.seotips.com – try to include your keywords in your domain name putting the most important keywords first if you can. [Here are some examples: WendyTaylorMusic.com – QuantumWellnessHouston.com — DiamondTownCarTx.com
- Valid XHTML Make your markup validate, it’s the foundation stone of the internet, crappy markup is harder for spiders to digest and will degrade performance on older; mobile and less commonly used browsers. It’s also easier to understand and work with from a developer’s point of view. [for WordPress users employ the Google XML Sitemap Plugin, get it configured and your done!]. After you configure the plug-in, it will AUTOMATICALLY notify Google and other search engines AND send them your NEW site map.]
- robots.txt robots.txt is a small text file that tells seach engine spiders which parts of your site you want them to view and which parts of your site you don’t want them to view. [Wordpress sites using Google XML sitemap get this covered automatically as the plugin creates the file for you.]
- XML sitemap s help search engines discover content they might not have otherwise found during their regular spiderings, publishing a site map with a comprehensive list of all the pages on your site is a way to directly tell the engines what you have and where it is! Google has a good article on XML sitemaps and afterall it’s traffic from Google you’re most wanting so you know you’re gonna click it!
- Sound Navigational Structure. [These are your Page Titles, Article Titles and, in WordPress, your Categories. Getting these right is absolutely vital. Remember, because of the way the human mind filters our “visual input,” you would say, just guessing, you’ve got about THREE SECONDS to pull a viewer in. They need to glance at your site and get the feeling that they KNOW there in the right place.] Other than the title tag this has got to be one of the most important factors in your on site search engine optimisation. A site that is easy to navigate from a humand point of view is easy to navigate from a spider / search engine point of view. Think of your site as a virtual town, each page is a street and in order for people to find that street you need to ensure you have easy to undertstand signs (links) pointing out where they are. If your site is easy to navigate the search engines will find it easier to discover all the wonderful content you’ve taken time to craft.
- Keywords in page and file names. If you have a page all about SEO tips but you called the file page_6.htm there is no relevancy, that page would hold better value if it were titled seo-tips.htm Include your keywords in the file name, avoid using irrelevant file names where you can, you need to try and make sure as many items and elements within the page carry the keywords you’re putting your attention on to get maximum results. Try to make your file names and URLs easy to understand and read from a human point of view. /seo-tips.html is easy for the mind to understand /page_6.php?paramter1=2¶mater2=1 is just confusing for humans. Firefox has the most awesome search facility in the address bar, making URLs and file names easy to understand and keyword rich makes it easier for users to find you again.
- Keyword and Alt tag in Image Name: Whilst a picture may say a thousand words to us it is a very different story as far as automated things like search engines are concerned, it’s made up of binary data that says very, very little. To add relevancy to your images you should use the alt tag to specify some short descriptive, keyword rich text. This will show in the place of the image whilst the image is loading and will be shown instead of the image when the visitor can’t view images either because they’ve got a visual imparement and are using a screen reading tool or they disabled images in their browser settings. Also, using relevant file names in your images will help build relevancy, image1.jpg doesn’t say anything of any value whereas seo-checklist.jpg speaks volumes!
- Title Tag . Every page needs a distinct title tag that defines what that page is about, it should also contain the keywords for that page in a locigal coherant manner, not just randomly placed in there. Make it easy to understand as when you’re bookmarked it will help the user find you and return. The contents of this tag need to be seen elsewhere on the page to build relevancy, matching title and H1 tags are a very wise idea. If you can get links on your site that point to this page to contain the title tag even better still! Don’t bloat your title tag too much, don’t stuff in keywords and keep it on focus with the contents of the page. This tag belongs in the section of your page and should appear before any other tags in the head section, it is THE MOST IMPORTANT thing you’ll put on the page so make it count and make it relevant!
- Description Under the title tag each page should have a clear and relevant description summarising what that page is about. [for WordPress Users, employ the plugin “All in One Seo Pack. It will seamlessly provide you with an additional WYSWSG panel to handle all of this.] Use this tag to write an easy to understand, enticing paragraph to sell the page. It may appear under your site address when you are being listed in organic results so make it easy for humans to comprehend. The more we understand it the more likely we will be to click it and the easier it will be to persuad us to fulfil your call to action. Putting a focus on humans has to be one of the golden rules of SEO, don’t pander to or try and fool the bots just place as much quality relevant info for us humans in there as you can and you’ll be satisfying both real and virtual visitors. We humans will love it as we’ll find it easy to digest and comprehend and the automated visitors will appreciate it for the same reason.
- Title on hyperlinks: The same rule as above applies on hyperlinks. Adding a title element to a hyperlink will show whatever you put inside that element in a little bubble when the user places their mouse over the link. This is another way of reinforcing the relevancy we’re trying to build.
- Keywords in links both internally and externally: A quality link on your site will contain all the elements we’ve just covered, here’s an example of a bangingly good hyperlink.
- CONTENT IS KING! – Really, it is the King, without it you’re nothing, quality content that is! The more unique the better, the better written and easy to find the better. Content is the be all and end all, without it potential visitors have nothing to visit. Make sure your content is as unique as possibe, if you’re using a database of existing content make sure you deliver it in a new and unique way to what anyone who has gone before you has. Always write your content for humans not spiders.
- Use Google Analytics to monitor your traffic, conversions and keywords Because if you don’t how do you measure your success? Making money is one thing, knowing what your money terms are and where the money comes from it another. [for my web clients, I provide this at no extra charge, since I can’t be effective in my work unless I know what hits are coming in, from where, and most importantly, based on what search string. Google analytics is very straight forward to deploy in WordPress and the service from Google is free, but more importantly, most insightful.]
- RSS feeds : RSS stands for really simply syndication and is a pretty simple way to syndicate your content so it’s easy to publish on other people’s sites. Each site that uses your RSS feed earns you near real-time backlinks, feeds can be harvested by Google, Outlook, a number of sites and applications, allowing users to connect to you through updates without them having to check your site every day. I monitor a number of feeds in my Outlook, it lets me scan the headline and content to see if I want to click through to read the page behind it all. RSS is a valuable tool for both getting links on other sites and getting your content into the inbox of your visitors. For stats on how many times your feed is being accessed there’s a free service available over at http://feedburner.com/ Take a wild and random guess who owns it now? I’ll give you a clue, it begins with a G and ends in oogle. Begs the question: do they rank the sites behind the most popular feeds higher?
- Mowser rocks, if your site shows Google AdSense it will convert your normal AdSense ad units into ‘AdSense for Mobile Content’ ad units. Way cool. A more advanced way to deliver a mobile site would be to detect any mobile phones that visit your site so you can serve them a custom experience suited for their handset .
- Popularity filtering / Folksonomy Show links to your most popular content on every page or make them a big part of navigation to place emphasis on the pages that are being viewed the most, do this with sales, aggregate your internal search queries and show the most popular ones so that the pages humans are seeing that are normally hidden behind a form are easy for spiders and search engines to find and digest. Tag clouds on blogs and trending on Twitter show perfect examples of popularity filtering, what they do is simple. They listen to the voice of the people and broadcast it back to them. It takes vox-pops to a whole new level! Use the existing data you have from your users and publish it, if your current users are buying or searching for that content en-masse the chances are your future customers will too! Enchance the relevancy and make it easier for your future customer to find what you know is going to work for them by promoting what is proven to work already.
- See the Wikipedia article on Folksonomy for a better understanding of the concept: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Folksonomy
- As far as a search engine goes it isn’t going to have any issues at all working out what that page is going to be about. It contains keywords in the URL, keywords in the title and keywords in the anchor text. How could even an idiot fail to understand what the page on the end of that link is about!?!? Just make sure all your links work and the keywords used in the URL, title and anchor text all tie up with the content of the page. Remember, if you’re linking to internal pages try to use the same text in the link anchor as what appears on the page in the title tag. That link above points to a page with a title of ‘SEO Checklist’ and a H1 tag saying ‘SEO Checklist’ – everything ties up perfect.
- Publish fresh content often: Google and the search engines love fresh content, if you publish new content often they’ll be excited by it, they’ll spider you more often and be prone to send you more visitors. There’s nothing exciting about a site that’s stagnating and was last updated in March 2001. Fresh content to spiders is like the smell of freshly baked bread to us humans, they love it, it gives them an appetite for your site and will want to feast on your new content. Using dynamic methods like aggregating the most popular content and showing it is a way of emulating freshness in that the engines will see your site update often with relevent keywords. Whilst nothing compares with freshly squeezed content dynamic changes on the site can be viewed as a good thing.
- Tweet when publishing content Personally I can no longer stand Twitter, I agreed with David Cameron when he said ‘Too many tweets make a twat’ on Absolute Radio. However from an SEO persepective it has benefits, millions and millions of users, trending topics, hashtags and a growing number of sites and applications on mobile that allow you to search twitter means that pushing your links to it are invaluable. When you publish new content push a Tweet to Twitter. This can be automated through the API which makes it even easier if like me you’re not into this whole social-notworking thing. I’ve seen freshly published content bring in instant visitors thanks to it being Tweeted.
- Blog when publishing content most if not all blogging or web publishing platforms include an option to ping a number of sites to tell them that you’ve published fresh content, you can integrate your own ping service when publishing content though it would be simpler to run a relevant blog about your site and publish a post when you’ve just released fresh content. See this post for a list of popular ping services: http://seoblackhat.com/2005/09/05/rss-ping-list/
- Place your keywords in many tags H1, H2, H3, LI, P, B – I don’t mean stuff the keywords in every tag you can, I mean use your keyword wisely in a number of tags, H1 is the most important tag after the title tag, having your keywords in a number of tags, in bold and in links just reinforces your relevancy.
- Don’t build your entire site in flash unless you don’t want traffic! Spiders find it hard to understand what flash is saying, yes it might look damn pretty and swirly and do funky things when you move your mouse around but it it can’t be read by search engine spiders, those on screen readers or mobile devices there’s no much point in it. Keep flash to a minimum, use it for eye candy and funk but don’t build a whole site with the stuff, spiders can’t read it, there’s no keeping of state between pages and nagivating flash can be a nightmare sometimes.
- Follow Webmaster Guidelines
- Bing / MSN Guidelines for successful indexing
- Don’t link to junk: Only ever link to external websites that are QUALITY, many SEO folks would say never link to anything that’s less than PageRank 3 but really if it’s well written relevant content with relevant anchor text on your page you’re onto a winner. Simply never link to crap, the links away from your site as as valuable as the internal ones, you don’t want to send traffic to a junky site as the visitor you’re sending there is going to think less of you for doing so, they’ll class you as being less authorative that they did before they clicked the duff link and search engines will view links to junk in the same way. Only link to relevant, high quality pages and sites. Always use anchor text in those links that bring benefit to your page and has relevancy to the page you’re linking to.
- Publish content that is worth linking to: You need to be publishing content that is rich enough in quality that other site owners will want to link to it. If you can do that then the hard long slog of a job that is link building will be much easier. If you publish content that is worth linking to and make it easy for folks to share the content and link to the page through the social network bookmarking services like addthis.com you’re even more likely to win.
- Avoid duplicating pages / duplicate content sucks! Duplicate content sucks, all the search engines hate it. Near the very top of this list it mentions having UNIQUE title tags, UNIQUE is the important bit here. Make sure all your pages are different, it shows a well organised site and face it as a human if you clicked a link on a page and it took you to an identicle page you’d be a little confuzzled, same applies to the bots. Don’t confuzzle your users and don’t confuzzle the bots. (Confuse and puzzle if you’re on the other side of the irony filter that is the atlantic)
- Host all images and media files under your URL Don’t leach of other folks bandwitdh, host all the images on your site on your site. This gives you control over the file names so you can optimise them to suit your needs, it also makes you look more authorative than a site that leaches it’s content from another source.
- Use Google alerts to monitor your keywords and contribute where you can Google Alerts is an invaluable free service that lets you keep an eye on what’s coming up on the Google radar for the given search term. This then lets you check out that page and if the content is relevant and there is the opportunity to publish a comment you should do your best to add something valuable to earn a back link. Note the word contribute, don’t spam, no seriously don’t spam, it’s a bad habit and yeilds no rewards, contributions that are valid and relevant bring something to table and as such the author often gets a credit via a link. Some would protest that blogs use nofollow on external links but the real thing about getting traffic is you want humans and real users, funny eh, real users and humans read blogs. Contribute, get your link there regardlesss of nofollow and it will bring you traffic.Contextual contributions are fine, link spam should be a shootable offence. Another reason to not spam is Akismet, a spam filter for the WordPress bloggin system, if your URL is added to that you’re comments on any WordPress blog will go to trash and never be published, consider it bad karma for link spamming.
- ◦ Create a Google Alert – http://www.google.com/alerts
- Use Google WebMaster Tools It will tell you which pages have duplicate titles, which URLs are broken and much more
- Use Google AdSense It brings in bots and forces Google to browse your content in order for them to show relevant ads, whilst they deny making preference to sites that show AdSense getting Google to come by and check out your site so they can show relevant content is not only priceless in my mind but a revenue generator too that you could reinvest in marketing your site.
- Don’t try anything daft or dodgy . Google is smarter than you are, they’ll bust your ass if you try to blag them. They know, they can bin you from results so it’s better to play it safe, be honest and be in it for the long game than try to sneakily get to the top of the results to be blown out the water a later time. I refer to the point above about webmaster guidelines, it’s better to follow them than break them. I’ve done things in the past that gave me hundreds of thousands of backlinks, it worked for a while then it stopped working, time and effort is best spent in an honest way when it comes to the engines, anything else can backfire and the last thing you want is your SEO efforts to turn to dust when you get banned from Google. I was once banned from Google, it was horrible, it was like a stress I’d never know before, we had an office, a staff of six and one of the proper f***ed up and got us banned. We spent days undoing the damage then dropped the staff and downsized, our baby was too precious to let anyone come near it again.
I hope my list of SEO tips is of help! Thanks for visiting, please share this site and spread the word!
So who’s the author then?
Andy Moore – www.andymoore.info