Since I promised to write about SEO, I figured that it would be good to start off this category with a post about the things I worry about when it comes to on-site optimization on a new website.
The Preparatory Steps
The first thing I do is I make sure I have a list of keywords that I want to target to rank for in the search engines or a list of keywords I want to advertise for on Adwords.
The next thing I do is that I buy a domain with the main keyword I want ot target with that website. For example, if I were making a website about “One Million Dollar Bills”, I’d try to get a domain that was something like http://www.one-million-dollar-bills.com. (Though, you can make a domain anything you want because it’s the content and links that make you rank. I’ve never seen any conclusive evidence that having the keyword in your domain name helps you rank any better.)
Once I have those two things and my website set up, I start with my on-site SEO.
Everything in the <head> tags
1. The Title.
The title of your page(the part between the <title></title> tag) needs to have your main keyword in it and it needs to be 70 characters or less. You have to also keep in mind that this is commonly what your user will see in the search results as the title of your page, so make sure it’s not spammy and that it’s eye-catching.
2. Meta tags
Your meta tags should consist of at least a description and your keywords.
Remember to keep your description to under 150 characters so that all of it is shown in Google and Yahoo, and to separate your keywords with commas with no more than a few keywords on each page.
Example meta tags with the title element.
<title>The Wackiest Million Dollar Bills - Cheap Novelty Gifts & Ideas</title>
<meta name="description" content="The biggest online assortment of wacky million dollar bills at the cheapest prices, some of which you won't find anywhere else!" />
<meta name="keywords" content="million dollar bills, wacky dollar bills, novelty dollar bills" />
On an extra note, I usually don’t stress over meta keywords because I am under the impression that Google disregards meta keywords. But that isn’t to say that other major search engines disregard them. :-)
(Optional) External Stylesheets and Scripts
While this does not directly affect on-site SEO, it helps to keep all your stylesheets and scripts in external pages. There’s a class of SEO that believes it helps keep the content on your page more relevant.
However, I do this because it reduces the page access time and the amount of data transferred. (It really matters when you have 3,000 unique views a day on a website!)
Next up… The Body!
I’m actually surprised how much I’ve written already, so I’m going to break up this post into two posts. I’ll talk about the most important things to be aware of in the actual body of the page next time, which includes heading tags, a general overview of what your content should be, internal links, and images.
Continue on to On-site SEO (Part 2).