Questions Need Answers

So you are ready to launch your new website. But are you really ready? Probably not. There are a number of points you should review before you set that new site free for all to see, including the search engine crawlers. If you are trying to get your website to rank in the search engines either by yourself or with the help of a pro (highly recommended) these tips will help you succeed.

In no particular order, here are my 10 points:

1) Title and Description Tags
One of THE most important things you can do to help a new site rank is to make sure that there are unique Title and Description tags on every page of the site that clarify for the search engines what each page is about. Creating these tags can be very time consuming as it requires a lot of work, including:

• Researching and understanding the content of the page
• Picking the keyword phrases that best fit the product and/or services of the website.
• Researching these keyword phrases to determine which phrases can provide the most possible traffic.
• Writing the tags and making sure that they are not too long as they will be truncated by the search engines.
• Posting the tags on each page the website.

2) Create “schema” markup
Do you have a brick and mortar location? Do you have testimonials on your website? These are just two of many reasons to use schema markup on a website. For specific details, see this Google support page:https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/1211158?hl=en If you want more info on tags that can be added to a specific page of your site, log into Google Webmaster Tools here: http://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/richsnippets and enter the url you want to know more about.

Basically, schema tags are made for the search engines, not humans, although the information such as contact info can be displayed on the web page. I highly recommend adding schema tags to the “contact us” page at the very least. If it is possible to add contact info with schema tags to the footer of every page on the site, that is even better.

Here is an example of schema markup for contact information:

<div itemscope itemtype=”http://schema.org/FoodEstablishment”>
<link itemprop=”additionalType” href=”http://www.productontology.org/id/Delicatessen” />
<span itemprop=”name”>Name of Business</span>
<div itemprop=”address” itemscope itemtype=”http://schema.org/PostalAddress”>
<span itemprop=”streetAddress”>10000 Fourth St.</span>
<span itemprop=”addressLocality”>Santa Rosa</span>,
<span itemprop=”addressRegion”>CA</span>
<span itemprop=”postalCode”>95401</span></div>
<span itemprop=”telephone”>(555) 555-5555</span>
</div>

Google has said that they do not rank one site above another because one has schema markup and the other does not, but they also say that a site may get more traffic due to the markup because the information in the search results is more complete and may therefore standout to viewers.

3) Make sure your pages have enough quality content
Each page on your site should have at least 200-250 words on it. This may seem like a lot, but actually it really is not that difficult to write content for each page. If you know enough about the subject matter, you should expound upon it as best you can. Pages with thin quality, such as 50-100 words and one or two images will not rank as well as pages filled with quality focused content.

4) Header Tags (H1, H2, etc.)
This is an incredibly important item that is far too often ignored. Every page on your website should have a descriptive H1 tag that best describes the content of the page. Many times this is the exact same information in the Title tag, but it does not have to be so. Variations between the title and the H1 statement can give the search engines a better picture of the overall content of the page.

You should also take into consideration any content on the page that should be considered a sub-heading and apply an H2 tag to the description of the sub-section. You can use other H tags to create a hierarchy similar to an outline or list.

5) Responsive design should be used whenever possible
There is little doubt that a mobile friendly website will rank better then one that is not mobile friendly, all else being equal. If you have not yet viewed your creation on a smartphone and a tablet, you really should do so before making it live. Not only is this a good SEO practice, you can avoid the embarrassment of having a potential customer call you complaining that your site looks like garbage on a small screen.

6) Make contact information as easy as possible to find
Whenever possible, the contact information, at the very least the phone number, should be prominently displayed on every page somewhere near the top, preferably at the very top and most definitely above the fold. This is particularly important on mobile devices as visitors using a phone to find a business most likely would like to contact them by clicking the phone number.

7) Don’t use images for important text
Always put important information in text, not in an image. This is especially important for contact information, like a phone number or an email address as mentioned above. If you have content that you want to prominently display, use text. If for some reason you insist on a graphic for something, make sure to use an alt tag described (which is described next) at the very least.

8) Image alt tags
Every image should have an alt tag. The alt tag is particularly important as it is read aloud to blind users on a screen reader and is displayed to visitors that have images turned off. It is considered by Google to be one of the hundreds of “signals” they use in determining ranking because it creates a higher quality user experience.

Google uses alt tags to help determine the best images for a visitors query and can help an image show up in the results pages for a search, thus increasing visibility.

9) Use an XML site map and make sure to submit it to the search engines.
There are many site map generators out there and many times there is one built-in to a plugin that you may already be using for your website. Make sure to have separate site maps for your pages, posts, images and even the post categories as this will ensure that the search engines are aware of all of the information located on the site.

10) Use informative file names for pages, images and other files.
Hopefully you thought of this before you created your site. Ranking can be improved if your website is created using urls such as www.example.com/choosing-cat-toys as opposed to www.example.com/pageid=468. Also, having a descriptive name such as my-cat-loves-this-stuff.jpg is much better then IMG0003490877.jpg. Make sure to utilize this in as many places as you can including pdf’s and video files.

There are of course dozens of other tips and tricks that can help a website rank well. I recommend subscribing to the news feeds of some of these sites to keep on top of the moving target that is SEO:

Search Engine Land – http://searchengineland.com/
Google Webmaster Central Blog – http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/
Understanding Google Places & Local Search – http://blumenthals.com/blog/
Online Marketing Blog – http://www.toprankblog.com/
Local Search Forum – http://localsearchforum.catalystemarketing.com/
Google SEO News and Discussion – http://www.webmasterworld.com/google/

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Marc Harris has extensive experience in SEO, content creation, website development and internet marketing. He is a moderator at WebmasterWorld, one of the largest websites for news and discussions geared toward website professionals.