Josh Strebel, one of the SEO experts behind the Phoenix SEO Agency Obuweb, stopped by the Integrum offices this afternoon to share his wealth of knowledge on search engine optimization and how we, as developers, can help our clients by developing with SEO in mind. He gave us a lot of great information on the subject that we’ll highlight below.
Different HTML tags add varying weights of importance to the content that you place within them. Here are a list of the most important tags in your website and how you can use them to boost your site’s rankings in search engines.
- Title: The most important tag on any web page, in a web crawler’s eyes, is the title tag. The title defines what the page is about and should be no more than 8 words in length.
- Meta Description & Keywords: Although it has been debated whether or not meta tags are a must have on a website, Josh suggests that a lot of search engines still use these to create the snippet that shows up under your site title on search pages.
- Header Tags: Web crawlers see content positioned within a header tag (h1, h3, etc.) as being more relevant and therefore place heaver weights on keywords showing up within those tags.
- Lists: Ordered and unordered lists of content are also another tag that search engines place heavier weight on.
When building a website for a client, Josh suggests making the title and meta tags of each page customizable so they can be tailored to specific content.
As developers, one thing we can do to assist in the optimization of web pages for search engines is ensure speedy page load times. Josh gave the analogy that web crawlers are like children with ADD. If the spiders can’t get to your content quick enough, they will easily get board and move on to the next site.
The other relevancy measure is community relevancy. The contextual relevancy is what you say your site is about, and the community relevancy is what others on the web say your site is about. This is done via links. Josh calls these links back to your site 3rd party endorsements or “juice”. The more juice you have coming in to your website, the higher community relevance your site has and the higher your page will rank in search engines. This is one aspect of search engine optimization that you probably won’t be able to do for your clients.
When you move a website or webpage, make sure to redirect your traffic to that page using 301 HTTP status code. Doing a 301 redirect tells search engines that your website has been permanently moved and will preserve all of the “juice” that you’ve built up for the page/site that you’ve moved.
In Ruby on Rails, this is as simple as
redirect_to 'some-url', :status=>301. This can also be handled and configured on your web server.
Wide vs. Deep Linking
Most search engines don’t crawl very deep into a website. This means that if you must click on several links before you can get to your content, you may be loosing out on some potential search engine exposure. Make sure that valuable content is easily accessed within two to three levels of your home page or your content may not be found.
Social Media Optimization
One of the more interesting topics that Josh covered was Social Media Optimization. This is the notion that having profiles on social media type sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Digg, etc. with links back to your website are all great ways to send juice and therefore higher community relevancy back to your site. I never knew there was any value in having these kinds of links, but apparently there is. This will be an interesting topic to follow as social media sites continue to gain popularity among internet users.
Last, but not least, Josh has recommended several tools to help with your SEO efforts. Check them out.