Exploring SEO – Part 5: Technical matters – the visible

In the previous posts in this series I’ve focused a lot on the “conceptual” aspects of SEO – the non-technical things that can make a big difference to your SEO efforts. Many of these aspects have other practical and usability benefits.

Over the next few posts I’m turning to some of the more technically-oriented things that you can do to optimise for search engines. These posts definitely sway towards the geek end of the spectrum (just a fair warning if that’s not your thing). However, even if you’re in management, it helps to get an overview on such matters if only for when you’re briefing your tech team.

Today’s post focuses on technical matters that are visible to your participants (i.e. they impact how your users access the site). Future posts will look at some of the behind-the-scenes things you can do to assist search engines.

As before, many of these tips are best practices for other reasons, but they all certainly provide SEO benefits as well. Some techniques will have a bigger impact than others, and how much impact a particular technique may have on rankings is largely unknown (as far as I can tell) as most search engine algorithms are closely guarded secrets. So even if you can’t apply all these techniques, it’s still worth incorporating as many as you can into your site.

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Exploring SEO – Part 4: Writing effective copy

So, you have a good understanding of your participants, have worked out a structure and site design that meets their needs, and now you’re ready to write the content of your site – the copy.

While many of the principles of good copywriting apply in the offline and online world, there are a few tips for copywriting that are specific to on-screen reading and search engines.

Over the jump I’ll review some of the things I’ve learnt about writing effective copy for the web.

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Exploring SEO – Part 3: Making information findable

One of the nice things about legitimate SEO approaches is that “best practices” for websites are also best practices for search engines. Making information findable for your visitors, also makes it more accessible, and more useful, for search engines.

Over the jump I’ll expand on a few techniques that can help increase your site’s visibility to search engines.

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Exploring SEO – Part 2: Create something worth finding

Any successful SEO strategy starts with a key premise: that your website/blog/page has something of value to offer to your the people you want to motivate. Applying SEO techniques to a site that simply doesn’t meet their needs (or worse, a strategy that lacks an understanding of who they are) won’t really make a lot of difference.

Whether it be a blog or a web application that you’re building, knowing what value you provide (and what that means to the participants of your site) is a critical piece to the puzzle. While with a blog you may be able to get away with not going to great lengths to analyse your audience and traffic sources etc. some of these principles outlined over the jump can be useful.

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Exploring SEO – Part 1: Many facets

I’ve had a couple of conversations with friends and clients over the past few months looking at Seach Engine Optimsation (SEO) and what that involves.

It probably doesn’t need to be stated, but search engines are the “first port of call” for many internet users, and usually represents a significant proportion of traffic to websites (in my experience anywhere between 30% and 80% of site referrals come from search engines).

Therefore it’s important to make your site as search engine friendly as possible.

Bad rap

SEO has received a bit of a bad rap because of some vendors’ attempts to “game” the system – that is use nefarious techniques to try to “trick” search engines into giving their sites higher ratings. However, there are a lot of things that we as practitioners (developers, producers, designers, content writers etc.) can do to help our clients achieve better rankings.

While I’m no SEO expert, I have picked up a lot of tips and techniques over time that I thought would be useful to jot down here in a series across the next week or so. The notes will take the form of a series, and will be tagged SEO to make them easier to find for future reference.

(Note: I’m going to focus on organic search results, not targeted search advertising such as Google AdWords)

Many facets to SEO

The first thing I think worth mentioning is that SEO is not something that you can just “bolt on” at the end of a project. Aspects of SEO permeate many levels of a project – everything from information architecture (how a site is structured and information presented), search term and site analytics data analysis, copywriting (the content of your site), web publishing system choice, HTML coding, and more.

To my mind, the various facets of SEO can be broadly split into three categories:

  1. Site strategy
  2. Copywriting/content
  3. Information architecture
  4. Technical

Each is interelated – without certain technical capabilities, information architecture related SEO methods may not be possible. Similarly, without strong site architecture, copywriting methods are less effective.

Therefore a wholistic approach is required, from the beginning of a project to the end execution, to facilitate a strong SEO strategy.

In the coming posts I’ll expand on each of these and delve a little deeper into some of the techniques that can be employed.

In the next installment I’ll touch on what I think is the most critical aspect of SEO: creating something worth finding.