How to improve your site's SEO

December 28th, 2017 · by Domains Direct · 4 min read How to improve your site's SEO

We've compiled a brief list of some of the more than 200 criteria Google uses to rank sites, that we believe are relevant to small business sites. While Google has never publicly released a list of criteria, these have all been extensively researched.

Page title

Probably the most important aspect of SEO, your page title is what appears as the linked text in search results. The title is an HTML tag in your code. It should be a maximum of 65 characters, using rich phrases that describe what your business does, and if relevant, where. Include your business name at the end.

Meta description

Probably the second most important aspect of SEO, your meta description appears under your page title in search results. The meta description is an HTML tag in your code. It should be a maximum of 160 characters and use natural language to describe the content of each page.

Optimised for mobile

Google has stated that sites that are optimised to work on any screen resolution will be favoured over those that aren't.

Secure site

Secure sites use an https address instead of http. When your site has an SSL certificate it means that your users can trust that the data being sent between their browser and your server is secure (encrypted.) Traditionally, only sites with shopping carts or payment processing would be hosted with SSL, but nowadays it is good practice to host your site on SSL, no matter its content. Google has stated they favour secure sites over non-secure.

Single URL

If you have multiple URLs for your website, choose your primary URL and set up redirects for the rest. This includes non-www, and non-http versions of your site. This way, Google knows what URL to deliver to users, and you won't get penalised for duplicate content.

Keyword density

This means the number of times a word or phrase appears in your content, relative to the volume of words on your page. An ideal density is 3-7%. Any less and search engines might not be able to understand what your page is about; any more and you could be seen to be "keyword stuffing."

H1, H2 tags

H tags are used for headings and sub-headings and are a good indicator of your site's content. Your frequency of use should roughly be in line with the tag number, i.e. only use H1 once, H2 twice etc.

Site map

A site map, submitted to Google's Webmaster Tools will help Google understand the structure of your website, ensuring all your pages are indexed.

Duplicate content

Linking back to your front page using "index.html" (or some variation) can result in Google counting two pages' worth of content as duplicated, penalising your site. Instead of linking to the actual file name it is best practice to link to the full URL, or simply "/".

Authoritative links

Very high-traffic sites are normally considered by Google to be authoritative on their subject, so a link from a popular site to yours will boost your site's authority. Known as PageRank, this was the foundation of Google's search algorithm.

UL tags

Google prefers bull-point content that is easy-to-read, so use these where appropriate.

Bad neighbourhoods

Bad neighbourhoods are sites like link farms, or any site Google has classed as spammy or low-authority. If your site is linked it will degrade your site's authority, so carefully choose where to post links promoting your site.

Regular updates

Google likes fresh content so keep a blog or news section and update it at least monthly.

Descriptive links

When linking to pages within your site, try to use text that describes what the linked page is about, instead of generic phrases like "click here."

Use alt tags

Googlebot can't read images, so ensure you use alt tags to describe the image's content.

Use public Domain record

Some registries provide private registration of Domains, which may indicate the owner has something to hide. Ideally use a public WHOIS record.

Short Domains are better

As well as indicating the age of a site (because the shorter Domains are harder to get now) a long Domain may hurt your visibility.

Page load speed

Google wants to send people to fast pages, so ensure your images and database (if you have one) are optimised for speed.

Broken links

Broken links may indicate an abandoned or neglected site. Use Google's Webmaster Tools to monitor any crawl errors.

Sloppy HTML

A lot of HTML/CSS validation errors may indicate a low-quality site.

Tricking Google

Google will heavily penalise any attempts to trick them, for example, showing one result to Googlebot, and another to humans.

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