Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is an integral part of development. Are you a developer wondering why you should be concerned with SEO? If you thought it was just about the content on a page, and how many Keywords you can stuff into that, stick around. You will see just why SEO is so important to the development process of a site. This list is not in any particular order, but they are all important factors when it comes to SEO and development.
Check for errors.
Just as SEO is important in development, development is important to SEO. The website you are developing may have some great content, but it also may never be seen. A simple mistake such as forgetting to close a paragraph could leave your content unreadable to a search engine. Any content that follows that unclosed paragraph tag “<p” would count as part of that tag, and the search engines would skip right over that content. Check your work. Many text editors have the ability to match elements and count them. Another way to check your work is by using W3C’s validation service. It’s free to do, and all you need to do is enter the URL to see the results, so why wouldn’t you?
Minimize Code – Don’t bloat it.
There are many reasons for keeping your code lean. It’s easier to debug. Other developers can read it easier and make changes when necessary. It keeps file size down. This list could go on, but the most important reason for lean code? It’s simple. The less code to read, the easier it is for a search engine to read the page content.
Use Alt and Title tags. Place Images into CSS when possible.
Images are just that; images. Search Engines cannot read an image. Nor can someone who has images turned off. Using Alt tags, you are telling search engines what the image is so that it may be indexed. Using a unique identifier in the alt tag with relevant information also replaces the image for those who have images turned off or may be visually impaired. This is why it’s also important to use title tags. If you were using an image to link to another page, the title tag would be the place to include such information. Don’t leave your users wondering where a link might take them. This is the way to tell them.
Do not hide text on a page just for a search engine.
Google states that content should be written for the user, not the search engine. Hiding text on a page is considered a “black hat” tactic and most likely will get your site blacklisted and removed from search engines. If it isn’t relevant to your site users, then don’t include it on the page.
Use a single homepage, and redirects for incorrectly typed or missing pages.
Redirect your users from one page to another to prevent broken links. Use a single homepage. Don’t confuse your users with two different sites providing like or duplicate content. Search engines will count this as duplicate information when indexing the site, and remove one of the sites, possibly even both from being indexed. This could get your site blacklisted/banned from search engines. If you would like to have two URL’s you can do that, but redirect one of them to a single domain.
301 Redirect changed URL’S
Redirecting a changed URL allows your users who might type in the old URL to find your new page or domain. This also works for search engines. The page ranking and indexing from a search engine is applied to the new page if properly using the 301 Redirect.
Use 404 Pages
Why should you use a 404 page? What if you had content on your site that you took down or is no longer relevant? It isn’t good practice to redirect your users to a page you think is relevant hoping they will find something else you think they might like. Search engines don’t like this either. Let your users know that page/content/item, whatever it may have been is no longer offered. Develop your 404 page content with enough information so the user might find something else within your site they might be interested in, without pointing them directly to it.
Did you know you shouldn’t use spaces in URL’s? What about the importance of keeping content such as a company address in the main content area of a site is more important than listing it globally such as in the footer? Did you know you could avoid duplicate content using Meta Robots? Let’s discuss that in The Relationship of SEO and Development, Part 2.
For now, remember:
Check for errors.
- Minimize Code – Don’t bloat it.
- Use Alt and Title tags. Place Images into CSS when possible.
- Do not hide text on a page just for a search engine.
- Use a single homepage, and redirects for mistyped or missing pages.
- 301 Redirect changed URL’S
- Use 404 Pages
Come back again for more on:
- Do not use spaces in URLs
- Keep important content in the main content areas of a page
- Avoid duplicate content with the use of Meta Robots
- When and why to use Rich Snippets
- Use consistently structured URLs