Creating a highly visible, traffic-worthy site involves attention to two key areas; content and crawlability. The following section looks at some of the core factors under each of these features that promote successful search engine optimization.

Content is king

Good SEO practice is about creating content that has been designed with the web user in mind. Many webmasters attempt to hoodwink the search engine spiders by generating bogus content that gains a superficially inflated search result position but is often of little value or relevancy to the web user. Such spam techniques won’t earn you any links and are pretty short-lived as penalisation is inevitable. At the end of the day, there is no substitute for good, honest, unique content. Below are a few tips on how to generate quality content with legitimate SEO practice in mind.

  1. Be current/cutting edge
    There’s an awful lot of repetition on the internet. To keep your content fresh, spend some time searching blogs and participating in forums relevant to your field. Take note of current themes and issues and create challenging or insightful content around what really matters to people at that moment in time.
  2. Did I tell you the one with the...
    Humour is a great way of gaining attention and, therefore, links. Comedic comment will often be the web feature that goes viral so don’t hold back if you’ve got a view on something, put it out there and lace it with whatever wit you can muster!
  3. Be unique
    As with the above two points, it’s better if you’re not trawling the web to compile your content. Personal opinion is often going to be more unique than knitting together other people’s articles. Sure, back up what you’re saying with facts or figures if you need to, but don’t be afraid to carve your own path, it’s much more likely to get you noticed – even if only to get contested.
  4. Borrow authority
    Not everyone can be an expert in their field, but think outside the box and borrow the status of those who are. Joint projects or even reviews that earn a link back from a particular authority, will lend invaluable credibility to you and your site.
  5. Be relevant
    A fairly obvious one, but make sure you think about the words that fit in with your theme. If you are talking about travel in Australia, mention travel and Australia upfront. Use closely related words for your descriptions. Search engines find relevancy by clear identification of themes – they cannot read between conceptual or metaphoric lines like humans. Your relevancy will be diluted if you are overly obtuse.
  6. Avoid explicit selling
    Overtly commercial sites littered with ads and sales pitches will not favour your linkbuilding process. Webmasters and bloggers prefer to link to informative pieces that inspire debate or command authority. Equally, web users tend not to linger very long on a site where they feel they’re going to be duped or tricked – trust is very low with these kinds of sites.
  7. Be accurate
    Very simple but surprisingly common – check for typos or inaccuracies in your copy. A multitude of spelling mistakes will undermine your content encouraging the visitor to doubt you as a source and question the validity of your comments.
  8. Free stuff
    Described as ‘link baiting’, giving away free stuff attracts links by offering depth and function to other sites. For example, health sites benefit from BMI calculators, finance sites are enhanced by mortgage calculators while games, screen savers, free tools and so on, are all popular. A free widget is not essential but definitely an asset.
  9. All-in-ones
    Also link baiting, all-in-one articles or one-stop solutions such as ‘How-to’ guides or ‘top ten best ever’ lists are very useful for snaring links. People like their content to be easily digestible so while search spiders want lots of text, ensuring it is presented in a user-friendly way will ensure you get the best of both worlds.
  10. Cascade your content
    Search engine spiders work in a logical, filtering manner, much as a person refining their requirements in the search bar would. Generally a search topic starts off broad ie. travel, then gets more specific i.e. travel to Sydney, Australia. Writing your content from broad themes on the home page through to specific, related sub-categories on internal pages will mimic the user search process, giving you more chance to be returned as relevant at any one point in the search, as well as making you more easily consumable by the spiders. This will also help you get a higher percentage of deep links.

Make them crawl

No matter how brilliant your content is, it’s worth nothing if you don’t make it accessible to the search engine spiders. Part of effective on-page optimization is ensuring that your web pages are clearly visible and can be easily navigated in both a human and technological interface. Here are a few common areas requiring improvement during the SEO process.

  1. Work around Flash, Java and images
    There’s nothing wrong with having a flash element to your site – it can make the user experience more interactive. However, extensive use of Flash creates problems for the search engines as they simply can’t find the content of the site. They struggle with Java and images in a similar way. Spiders consume text and HTML links so you need to make sure you include alt text for your images and an alternative text version so they can access your Flash elements.
  2. Avoid framed sites
    Framed sites are a common hindrance to successful SEO. They create spidering problems by fragmenting the site. Content can get hidden as the spider may read one frame on a page that contains several, thus ignoring the additional content. Relevancy can also be challenged by fragmented content.
  3. Titles, headings and highlights
    Anything that makes it faster for your site to get indexed is a bonus. The cumulative effect of having your keywords in your URL, title tags, link text and headings (using H1, 2, 3 etc) can be significant. It helps the search engines make a quicker assessment of what your site is about as these elements are awarded greater importance than body copy and images. Additional bolding of text can also help this process as it lends greater weight to that particular content.
  4. Stay simple
    Be careful not to over-complicate the functionality of your site. Large file sizes, slow loading times, fussy graphics and so on can, not only create a frustrating user experience, but make spidering difficult. Check for broken links and that your site works in different browsers. It is also advisable to invest in some high quality hosting if your site is complex or highly interactive.
  5. Don’t duplicate
    We already know that search engines like unique content, but watch out for unintentional duplications. For example, if you have multiple versions of your URL i.e. ‘.com,’ etc or simply one core URL but a version with ‘www.’ and one without, the search engines will take one version of the site as ‘canonical’ and display only that page. The strength of all your pages will be diluted, so you need to tell the spiders which version is the most important. Putting a 301 redirect on the other URLs to your primary URL will help get around this problem.
  6. Provide a site map
    Unless your site is gargantuan, a site map clearing linking to every page in your site is really useful for both visitors and spiders alike. In effect, it makes all the content in your site accessible in two clicks.
  7. Navigation
    Effective navigation can speed up the spidering of your site. Look to create a logical path of relevancy, moving from the broad theme of your site on your home page to more specific categories on sub-pages. Use your keywords in your navigation bars and include clear anchor text so it is clear what will be returned when the user clicks on a link.
  8. Breadcrumbs
    As above, part of the overall navigation of your site, leaving ‘breadcrumb’ internal links to take the spiders deeper into your site will help you get more pages indexed and can help secure deep links by making relevant sub-pages accessible.
  9. Metadata
    While the overall consensus is that the meta keywords tag has little or no importance for the search engines, the meta description tag can still be useful. Some search engines will index the meta description and present the content as the result of a search query, so it’s worth writing a decent, relevant description of your pages.
  10. Structure your content
    Also related to navigation, structuring your content is essential for maintaining relevancy and giving your keywords the best chance to perform. Loading all your keywords onto your homepage will not work, you need to keyword optimise your sub-pages in highly relevant groupings, clustering keywords by sub-category within your theme.