There are some SEO practices that have become common when developing a new site (ability to edit title and meta tags, image alt properties, etc.) and there are others that can sometimes get overlooked. These are things that need to be discussed during the planning stages of your website. I compiled a list of important items you should be aware of when you create a new site.
1. 301 Redirects
I cannot stress enough how important it is to use 301 redirects and not a blanket redirect. This is the best way to lose your existing search engine ranking. When migrating from an old site, be sure all your old pages are individually redirected to a new page. These 301 redirects provide users with a consistent experience and match old content to your new website. Verify your new site with Google Webmaster Tools, this way you can monitor any crawl errors or erroneous inbound links that require a redirect. If your site has a content management system (CMS), your developer can enable it to automatically create 301s if you remove or change the URL of any page.
If 301 redirects are properly implemented, this part should be easy. Simply add Google Analytics code, or your preferred analytics service, to all newly created pages. Your CMS can be designed to automatically add this code to every new page you create. Now sit back and watch the data accumulate.
When the same web content has multiple URLs this is called canonicalization. These URLs cause problems for search engines, and they confuse what content should be shown in the search results. Pick one URL and stick with it. If your website uses a CMS, be sure it doesn’t generate multiple URLs for each page you create. Another option is to implement a canonical tag, which tells Google what the definitive URL should be.
4. Semantic URLs
A semantic URL is URL that is human-readable and conveys useful information to the user. This URL should be SEO friendly using appropriate keywords. These URLs are important part of on-page optimization. Your new semantic URL should read www.globalhma.com/about-us and NOT www.globalhma.com/index.cfm?pag=1284. All those numbers, question marks and irrelevant data are enough to make a person’s head spin.
5. XML Sitemaps
A sitemap help users navigate a site or serves as a planning tool in the early stages of a website’s creation. An XML sitemap aids your SEO and helps Google crawl your website. There are automatic XML sitemap generators that can be utilized and this can also be integrated into your website’s CMS. Trust me. Sitemaps are your friend.
6. Control Indexation
Are there pages on your site that you don’t want Google to include in its search results? Well, you can actually tell Google which pages not to index. There are a variety of ways to go about this, such as a robots.txt or meta tag. When we submit robots.txt for our clients’ websites, I cannot help but imagine a room of tiny robots willing to do my SEO bidding.
7. Site Speed
Site speed is now part of Google’s ranking algorithm and is becoming increasingly important to your website’s success. Be sure to have your developer keep an eye on it or utilize tools to check your site’s speed. As Drew would say, we’re living among the at-a-glance generation. If your site doesn’t load fast enough, don’t expect people to stick around to wait for it.
While this is not an all-inclusive list, it’s a great start when creating a new website or even items to keep in mind when optimizing a current site. Do you have important SEO items to add to this list?