Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Continuing SEO tips / Google Webmaster Guidelines

Continuing with Google's Webmaster Guidelines, the emphasis in this post is on quality content. As Internet use grew organically, there is a plethora of deadwood and duplication that Google has taken upon itself to tidy up using the 'land fill' method. Current and future websites should abide by Google's rules or they may never find themselves.

A very good tip is to create content for users, as if you were presenting to humans. That done, the code and meta data should reflect the content accurately. In other words, if it isn't good enough for humans to see, the search engines don't want to see it either.

This includes hidden text, such as using white text on a white background. Google will find it and you will be punished.

Another bright idea that isn't worth trying is creating a number of pages with generally similar content to use keywords that didn't make it onto other pages - for example, repeating a page of content that describes a product or service and just changing a few words, such as a colour or location. Google referred to their culling of Duplicate Content as their Panda sweep which aims to downgrade 'doorway' pages or affiliate websites that contain very little original content and are created purely as a search engine promotion tool.

Establishing links to your website is a tricky business. There are several companies that offer to provide 100 or 1000 links for a fee. If you can't verify the list, think carefully about its value - Google's Penguin update downgraded websites that it deemed to have participated in low level link schemes. Google is happy to see reciprocal links that have been carefully considered and loves links from related unique blog content.

It's a tough job but we love to do it. Contact us for Continuing SEO.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Optimisation according to Google, plus legal compliance

In addition to complying with laws, directives and official standards (Companies Act, Disability Discrimination / Equality Act, EU Cookie and Marketing / Advertising Standards) website designers should give consideration to guidelines from the leading search engine, Google.

Ultimately, the responsibility is with website owners to ensure compliance with laws and understand the basics of SEO. Search Engine Optimisation is a wide-ranging term that is generally accepted to mean optimised code and content plus link-building to raise awareness and popularity of your website.

Google is not so much King as benevolent dictator. Like it or loathe it, complying with Google's Webmaster Guidelines is the best way for sustainable results in the longer term. Some explanations relating to the design, content and technical sections this link are below:
  • 'sitemap' does not refer to a site map page within the website but a file 'sitemap.xml' that is created and stored on the server, with details of your website pages for search engines to follow; 
  • in addition to a navigation menu, important pages should have a text link from within the content; 
  • every image should have a descriptive 'alt' tag and <title> in the code - you can see these when you hover over images - which are useful for search engines and comply with the DDA/Equality Act; 
  • 'dynamic' pages are often found on database-driven sites, such as shopping sites, or websites with presentation scripts. (Ironically, Google's Webmaster Guidelines page uses a url that it warns against!) 
  • unless your website is abundant with features such as Flash animations and scripts, using a Lynx browser is not common practice. However, websites should be tested in all popular browsers: Internet Explorer (IE9 & IE8 but IE7 use is declining), Firefox, Google Chrome and Safari - gaining ground as iPad use increases. Testing websites for compatibility on iPhones and Android mobile browsers covers most of the cellphone users;  
  • 'robots.txt' may not be necessary for all websites, especially if yours is a static html website with no surprises, but a search engine expects to see it so it can be included as a default; 
  • content management systems (CMS) such as Wordpress, Joomla, Drupal and countless proprietary offerings are designed to make it easier for non-technical users to update their own content. (This is a whole other topic!) - Make sure that your designer uses 'friendly urls'; 
  • site performance speed improvement tips: resize/re-render/optimise images (in other words, make them smaller) and, if possible, load main content before animations and scripts. 

Meanwhile, if you'd like a well designed website or optimisation for your current website ...
(holding page for new website) Approved by Browsers