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How do you make a site SEO friendly?

Google’s search algorithm is more complex than ever, and it’s constantly changing to reflect what users care about. For example, did they get the information they were after? Did they stay long or bounce away? Did they share your link on social media? Did they find your site easy-to-use?

While meta descriptions, H1 tags, image attributes, etc. do have an impact, your rankings are largely influenced by the value your users get from visiting your site. So, as you can imagine, it takes time to organically move up in those search results. When clients ask us what we do to make a site SEO friendly, the answer is usually more involved than what they had in mind.

Technical SEO

We provide on-page technical SEO within the website’s setup and structure. For example:

Site speed enhancements
Page speed is not only a user experience factor, but a search ranking factor too. Every site we create gets a fundamental ‘speed treatment’ — efficient code, cached data, compressed files, optimised images, appropriate server configs, and more — to ensure optimal loading and rendering times, and reducing the ‘time to first byte’.

Friendly URLs
As in, /about-us/ instead of /index.php?id=4. Even including branded words and special terminology, we still aim to keep page URLs meaningful for users and as simple as possible for search engines to interpret.

301 redirects
“301 redirects” tell search engine site crawlers where to find your pages in their new locations (following a redesign or restructure), so your site won’t get penalised due to your old links no longer pointing to valid content.

XML sitemaps
Think of sitemaps as a cheat sheet for search engines. When a site crawler hits the sitemap, it has access to the entire structure of a website, ensuring every page of your site gets indexed (except for any pages you explicitly say you don’t want crawled).

We’re also mindful of the SEO value of semantic markup, robots.txt, HTTP protocols, metadata, responsive design and accessibility. Following best practice techniques when building a site means search engines can access content and meta-information as efficiently as possible.

Quality content

We know search algorithms are evolving, learning to appreciate how humans communicate. Unlike in the old days, optimising content is more than just feeding site crawlers with relevant keywords — there are context and quality factors to consider too.

Even when we don’t create content for our clients, we still try to offer as much guidance as we can to help them write, or at least format, copy that works. At its very basic, our advice includes:

Unique (and short) page titles
Make sure your page title is short, sweet and descriptive of the page content. We usually handle the titles for staple pages, so our clients can use them as examples for any new pages they create.

Useful page descriptions
As with titles, your page description should be succinct and to-the-point. Resist the temptation to hard-sell or instruct the user to ‘click here’. It’s not necessary. Informative is usually enough to let people know if your link is worth clicking.

Writing for your audience
Keywords are important because they’re what people will be searching for, but your copy should be primarily written for your audience. People are more likely to share and link to content that’s meaningful to them, which in turn boosts your off-page SEO.

Descriptive image file names and ALT tags
When it comes to images, both the filename and alt attribute supply additional information on what the image is about. Making them meaningful and descriptive can help search engines figure out how relevant your content is to what users are searching for.

There’s more to it, of course, but this post is starting to get long. Working to those principles above gives any website a solid starting point for further fine-tuning and optimisations after launch day.

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