When building your website, always keep two things in mind: The user and the search engines.
The User is the individual visiting your site. They want to see what it has to offer—whether that’s a product, advice or a service.
The Search Engine is what brings the User to your website. It crawls your site to catalog and index the content of your web pages. Then, when a user does a search, they can find your site with the keywords you have chosen to use.
Make your content relevant
Gone are the days of keyword stuffing. Today, Google and other search engines can identify and rank websites based on the quality and relevancy of their content. Therefore, in order to stay on top, consider who your users are and create a website specifically geared towards them on each page. This keeps your user engaged, instead of dropping off and “bouncing” to another site.
For example, if you’re running a photography business, this might mean putting your contact information in a prominent place on the homepage and displaying your portfolio of work under navigation tabs on the main toolbar. And, of course, in a visual business, it’s important that your content (i.e. your photos) are high quality and optimized for online viewing.
Whatever the goal of your website, make sure the content reflects that and caters closely to your target users. If the user has a good experience, that tells Google they spent time on the site and helps your rankings.
Make your site mobile-friendly
Technology is moving us towards a mobile-friendly world. Move with it. When you create a website, make certain it is mobile responsive. That means it will work on a desktop, as well as a tablet or smartphone. If it isn’t mobile responsive, it is going to make it harder for users attempting to navigate the website on a smartphone or tablet to find the information they’re looking for. The harder it is for someone to use your site, the harder it will be to keep them there.
Once again, that hurts your user experience and ultimately your search result rankings. There are several tools that allow you to test how responsive your site is on mobile devices. I prefer to use one provided by Google on their Webmaster Tools. You can access that tool by clicking here.
Ensure Google can crawl your site
At the end of the day, the key to getting seen by your audience is getting seen by Google first. The following are several techniques to help Google help you, by making it easy for them to crawl your site.
Create your robots.txt file
This file tells Google crawlers which directories can or cannot be crawled. Keep the file updated and current at all times. If you ignore this step, you could unintentionally block the Google crawler entirely.
Put the folders containing your site files inside the web root, not inside a disallowed folder in your robots.txt file. Otherwise, the Google bot won’t go into that folder and it won’t index those pages.
Create a sitemap.xml file.
A sitemap is an XML file that lists the URLs for a site. This enables search engines to crawl the site more intelligently. There are tools on the internet that will easily and quickly generate a sitemap for you. Once that is done, upload the sitemap to your webroot, making sure to add your sitemap URL to the robots.txt file. This tells the Google crawler exactly where your sitemap is so it doesn’t have to search for it.
Click here to see a working example of a sitemap.
Create a Google Webmaster Tools Account.
If you don’t already have one, you can set one up using your Google account. Through this account, you can submit your sitemap to Google and get information on when Google crawls your site and if any errors are encountered.
Check the Webmaster Tools regularly. If there are errors, fix them and have Google re-crawl your site. Once re-crawled, Webmaster tools will tell you if the errors have been fixed or if they still exist.
There you have it! Practical tips and advice that will help your website be SEO-friendly.