Search Engine Optimization is a method of organizing content using specific tags, which in turn help search engines like Google and Bing to read your website, understand what it is looking at then show your content to relevant web searchers.
I know, it's a mouthful. But, by the end of this article I'm going to hope you have a better understanding of what S.E.O. really is and why it's still incredibly important.
I'm going to walk through a few key principles we use when developing websites to ensure all our clients websites have strong starting points. Feel free to compare these techniques to your own methods to see where you can improve your own website S.E.O.
1. Canonical Tag
When setting up domain names for your website, often times you will have multiple ways to access the same page. The most common variance is with and without a www. at the start of the domain ( tride.ca / www.tride.ca ). Depending on whether you use the www or not, you will still end up on our home page. To search engines, those are recognized as 2 different pages because they have 2 different addresses, however the content is exactly the same. By using a Canonical tag, we can tell search engines which method we prefer, and the search engine will then recognize that the other versions are the same content as the link we reference in the tag.
<link rel="canonical" href="https://tride.ca/">
This avoids the duplicate content penalties from search engines, and can also be used when you publish content from other sources.
It becomes even more important when you use SSL encryption, which is our next point, because now you have 4 versions of every page on your website (http://tride.ca, http://www.tride.ca, https://tride.ca, https://www.tride.ca). Telling the search engines that all these extra pages are references of one primary link (your canonical link) cleans all this up for you.
2. SSL Encryption
SSL Encryption ( Secure Socket Layer ) is a method of encrypting traffic over the internet between your device as the web browser, and the server hosting the data. This is more important on websites that involve passwords, credit card payments, or any other form of personal data being transferred, however Google has decided now that SSL encryption is important enough that they will give a higher ranking on a search to a website that uses SSL Encryption. In a world full of hackers and wireless devices that are transmitting data non stop, encrypting that data is a strong measure in keeping your data safe and private.
Luckily for us, we include SSL Encryption with every single website we develop and host, because to us safe is always better. And with Google now giving priority to websites with encryption, we just gave all our clients a boost in search rankings purely by being safe.
3. Alt Tags on Images
Even with all the machine learning and artificial intelligence "looking" at your images, recognizing shapes and patterns so they can tell what is in the image, we have a simple tag for images called an "Alt" tag. This tag allows us to describe what is in the picture on a website, so search engines can recognize it and display it for things like image searches. For example, if you are selling childrens clothing, and you display 3 pictures of a pair of pants with zebra patterns (can you tell I'm not a fashion expert ;-) you can use the alt tag to describe it:
alt="Childrens zebra patterned pants"
This way when google looks at the image, it doesn't get confused thinking its a zebra in the shopping mall, but it's a pair of kids pants. Now your image can show up when someone types into a search engine "zebra pants for children".
4. OpenGraph Tags
As content becomes more and more unique, and full of multimedia, we needed a way to organize it for websites who share your content. The result of this, is OpenGraph. OpenGraph is a way for us to tell different search engines and social networks more about your specific pages, as well as controlling what they display for images, descriptions and links back to the content.
Without OpenGraph tags, when you share a website link on Facebook it will currently grab the first couple lines of text and give you a selection of a couple images it finds on your website. But with OpenGraph tags, we can tell each social network specifically what you want to say for a description and what image you want to show when someone shares your link. It's incredibly powerful from a marketing standpoint.
5. Proper Use of H1 Tags
H1 (heading level one) tags are a key element in a proper S.E.O. strategy. Each page on your website should have 1, and only 1 H1 tag in the entire page. This is what search engines use to identify the key information on each specific page. When you have multiple H1 tags on a web page, search engines no longer have a reference of what's more important that the rest. It's like running a race but having 3 people come in first place. Instead, you should have a single H1 tag defining the key elements on each page (like a blog post title) and then use H2 tags for the next level of importance. As an example, in this blog post each of the 5 key points are H2 tags, and the blog title is the H1 tag.
By following these 5 simple principles you can quickly and easily clean up your website, improving your S.E.O. and your ranking on search engines.