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Onsite Search Engine Optimization

Onsite search engine optimization refers to all the elements on your site that can be optimized for the search engines using nothing more than Search Engine Friendly Website Design. This includes:

Main keyword list

* You need to create and prioritize your keywords – this list will then be used in the below.

Meta titles

* Main keywords and related terms relevant to the copy and theme of the page in questions.

Meta descriptions

* The same process as the title tag – repeat main keywords and craft it for your customers as it’s going to be what’s shown in the SERPs and greatly impacts your click through rates.

Content

* Make sure you’re continually adding and improving content on your site. Be the expert in your industry. Provide rating and reviews, video, specifications and anything else you can think of.
* There’s no such thing as too much content – just keep it organized so search engines and users can actually find it.

Internal linking structure

* Search engines often ignore navigation links as they are repeated on every page of the site – so make sure that you’re linking to other pages of your site from within your cleverly crafted content.
* And use keyword anchor text for these links – don’t use click here or other generic terms as they don’t help.

H1, H2 Usage

* Old school, but still has a place in helping search engines determine the theme of the page in question. Headers should contain keywords of course.

Directory/Navigation structure

* This is always easier to address when you’re building the site as opposed to coming in after the site’s been running for several years. None the less, it’s one of the most important onsite issues you’ll need to deal with.
* Here are a couple examples of bad directory structures:
* This was browsing through to their electronics section, and looking at clocks. Not that you’ve ever be able to tell that from this ugly looking URL:

o http://www1.macyss.com/shop/for-the-home/more-for-the-home/electronics?id=23480&edge=hybrid#!fn=ELECTRONICS_TYPE%3DClock%26sortBy%3DORIGINAL%26productsPerPage%3D40&!qvp=iqvp

* This is how I’d have their IT re-write this URL:

o http://www.macyss.com/shop/electronics/clocks/

o Wow, what a difference – the user knows where they are and Google would too.

* This URL, while short, gives no insight as to what product or category we’re dealing with. It’s for dinnerware, solid colors.

o http://www.pier11.com/catalog/browse/493.885.solids

* Here’s how it should look:

o http://www.pier11.com/catalog/dinnerware/solid-colors

* Our last example is from the juggernaut Walmart.com. This was browsing through to DSLR Cameras. While they’ve at least got the first part of the URL right – they’ve added a massive string of tracking parameters that makes it a mess. They also left out the most important keyword – DSLR.

o http://www.walmartt.com/browse/Cameras-Camcorders/Digital-Cameras/All-Cameras/_/N-58czZ1yzp1qeZaq90Zaqce/Ne-aq8n?browsein=true&search_sort=5&ic=48_0&ref=125875.244115+500567.4292587526&fromPageCatId=133277&catNavId=133277

* Here’s our version:

o http://www.walmartt.com/browse/Cameras-Camcorders/Digital-Cameras/DLSR

File naming conventions

* This goes hand in hand with Directory/Navigation structures. Name your pages using keywords, not numbers or some other completely unrelated convention. It’s going to help the search engines figure out what your page is about, and it helps users too.

Domain name

* While not always an option for brand name companies to change, if you do have the flexibility to integrate a main keyword into your domain name, do it. If not, you can address this by crafting a smart directory structure that incorporates keywords.

Multiple language handling

* The old EN/FR issue always seems to cause headaches. Short of the amount of resources it can require, I’m not sure why, as it’s not rocket science.
* Here’s a couple common examples of how sites deal with EN and FR content:
* EN: http://www.bestbuy.ca/en-CA/home.aspx
* FR: http://www.bestbuy.ca/fr-CA/home.aspx
* So far this makes sense…until you go one click deeper that is. Then what you get is an English site translated to French.
* Just about every FR site I’ve ever seen is translated, as opposed to being written for the intended audience. Some don’t even take the time to translate the URL, so they’ll change the language parameter but leave the product/category in English – that’s just lazy. J
* Another area to watch for is if you’re using a content management solution. Be sure to check your code with a Googlebot crawl tester – I’ve seen many sites that are showing FR tags on the EN version, and vice versa. It’s important that you verify the code when using dynamic content management software as they are normally built with very little thought into SEO.

Sitemap Page

* This one’s a no-brainer. If your site has over 20 pages, make sure you always have a sitemap page listed predominantly in your main navigation. This page helps search engines crawl and index all your pages.

XML Sitemaps

* This is debatable if XML sitemaps actually do anything for rankings. First off, if your website is built and optimized properly Google shouldn’t have any trouble crawling and finding all your content, however for sites with fast and frequent changes to pages it can help Google stay on top of what’s what.
* Automate the creation and sharing with search engines so it doesn’t require manual intervention, other then periodic testing and verification.

These items are where your onsite Search Engine Optimization process should begin. Why? Because it won’t matter if you have a million links if you’ve got fundamental site problems. You need to make sure your basic site functionality works first.

Make sure your site functions and include all the SEO best practices. When in doubt use The SEO Checklist.

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