SEO tips for 2017 from my own experiments
As with many other things in this world, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has also evolved over the years. What search engines look for and how they display search results is different today from what it was few years ago.
In this post, I will cover about SEO tips useful in 2017 based on what I have learnt in last few months.
Create a search console account
First and most important, an easy thing to do is to tell Google that your site exists. Create a Search Console account for your website. And as suggested by Google, create different properties for each variant of your website (http, https, with and without WWW).
Once you create these, place a robots.txt in your site and provide the link to the console. A typical robots.txt has just the below line in it which tells the search engines to crawl all linked pages.
After the robots.txt, the next important file is the Sitemap which tells search engines the links in your site and other details about them. Check https://www.sitemaps.org for the schema of the sitemap XML file.
Though search engines crawl the different pages based on the links, sitemap file tells what you prefer to be crawled and include any unlinked pages (though it is not a good idea to have pages not accessible from other pages).
By far, this is the most powerful thing required for SEO. Content was the king and will be the king. Put genuine, unique and shareable content on your website – something which the readers/viewers will like and then share it to their friends/followers. When I say shareable content, have buttons for readers/viewers to share on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc
* Creating good content is a completely different subject and won’t be covered in detail here - understanding target audience, catchy headling, motivating readers to read more with the first few lines, quality photographs, etc
The more your site is being referred from other sites, the the better it is. It means there is some good content on your site and is being used as a reference elsewhere. This is achieved through good content which people share, in-house Social Media Marketing, guest posts on other meaningful sites referencing your site, posts on other related sites (eg: posts by a fashion blogger about your fashion site), listing the website on directory sites, etc
Make sure you are not using the old-school link exchange technique from totally unrelated sites or content. Search engines are more clever than before and your ranking might take a beating if you use this old technique.
The best place to check your inbound links is your search console.
If you have recently observed the appearance of carousels, search box for the search result, etc this has all been made possible by use of rich cards.
Here is an example ItemList from one of our pages.
Below link has more information about rich cards.
Accelerated Mobile Pages
As the usage of mobile phones and searches on mobile phones keeps increasing, Google has suggested the use of AMPs on your website. These are supposed to be very light weight pages for quick indexing for Google. These AMP pages need not be the final page the user views. The actual page when a user clicks on the search result is generally different from the AMP page. AMP is purely for Google indexing.
If you noticed the appearance of “AMP” under a web page in search results in mobile phones, that is the AMP page for the site.
I am yet to implement AMP but you can learn more from the below link as it has it’s own standard way of coding and restrictions on usage of specific HTML or CSS features.
Once you have implemented AMP, test it via Google AMP testing tool and also monitor the pages in your search console.
Title and headings
Title is the most important thing to tell search engines and visitors what the website or that specific page is about. It also appears in the search results when people search for relevant keywords resulting in your page. Keep it short and simple so that you are not only improving your indexing but also the Click Through Rate (CTR).
The search console for your website suggests improvements to Title tag if there are any issues.
Use headings to help search engines identify the key data elements in your page. Headings help in indexing and don’t show up in the search result page.
meta / description
The meta description tag appears in the search results under your page link and is very important to improve the CTR. Once you win the race in getting into the first page for your target keyword, title and description play a key role in attracting people to click and get into your site.
Google does not like if there are too many duplicate meta descriptions across pages. You can check the search console for your website to check any duplicate, short or long meta descriptions.
* meta / keywords tag is no longer considered for indexing.
Image File Name and Alt Text
The file name and alt text for images provides information about the image to search engines. An important thing to consider for indexing the images.
Underscore vs Hyphen
It is a common practice for developers to separate words with underscore for file names. Unfortunately this is not the way to do for SEO. Search engines consider hyphen as a separator and not underscore. Be it your images files or words in links, separate them by hyphen and not underscore.
I personally did this mistake and had to change code and write scripts to fix earlier image file names and links.
Below are samples links for reference. Currently both work due a tweak in my controller code. If you click look at the source of these pages, you can also see the title, meta description, headings, image file name, image alt text and structured data for Product as well.
https vs http
Google likes secure websites and they do have an edge over the non-secure ones. This may not be the main criteria but something which helps.
And with https, one common mistake website owners do is to use https without the WWW prefix in the address. This might cause problems as https certificates come with or without WWW support. For example, https://www.fifthdot.com works and not https://fifthdot.com. Care needs to be take so that the wrong links are not used during link building from other sites.
Mobile optimized website
Search engines prefer websites optimized for mobile to show higher up in the results on searches from mobile devices. If you haven’t implemented AMP, atleast optimize for mobile. There are frameworks like Bootstrap which will help you achieve easily.
Duplicate pages and canonical URLs
If you have pages which can be accessed via multiple URLs, add a canonical URL to your page so that Google knows these URLs return the same page content as the canonocal URL and just indexes the canonical URL. Below is a sample line to be added to your HTML to refer to a URL which is the preferred URL returning the same page content.
<link rel="canonical" href="https://www.fifthdot.com/arorgprofilebyname?username=MOR JEWELLERS" />
Removed pages - 500 (internal server error) vs 404 (not found)
If you have pages that have been removed from your site and sitemap, there is still a chance that Google crawls it again if it was indexed before. In such cases, make sure your server returns a 404 Not Found instead of a 500 internal server error. URLs returning 404 will drop off over time from being crawled.
Hope you found this useful. I will do a further post once I implement AMP into our site.