website design

Website Design, SEO, SMO

1. Purchase a domain name which contains your keywords.

As you’ve no-doubt deduced by now, choosing the right Domain Name can be critically important! Not only does Google currently give some preference (although less since its recent Exact Match Domain (EMD) update) to keyword-rich domains (domains that include top keywords), so do people when they’re choosing which link in the search results to click.

Unfortunately, most keyword-rich domains are no longer available so you will have to do your best. Our best advice is to get a domain with a dot com extension (not one of those new extensions) and choose something that has one hyphen or no hyphen at all, which has at least one important keyword and makes sense to someone searching for your services.

Note: If you target a local audience, it is recommended that you purchase a country-specific domain. The major search engines check top-level domain (TLD) names to determine where a Web site is located. If your site has a country code top-level domain name, that is, a domain name that ends in a country code like “.ca” for Canada, “.uk” for the United Kingdom, “.fr” for France, etc. – then your site will be included in the country-specific search results. In most cases, the local TLD will outrank a .com name when it comes to local search results.

2. Move your site to HTTPS if you use the personal data of users online.

Google has officially announced that HTTPS is now a ranking signal. HTTPS ensures you can safely send personal data online (like credit card information, login details and so on) without the risk of it leaking to a third party. For protecting transferred data, HTTPS uses SSL technology. So, to enable HTTPS for your website, you will need to get an SSL Certificate (usually on a paid basis) and install it on your server.

You will need HTTPS if your site is taking transactions. HTTPS has been a standard for a long time for any e-commerce store. If your site needs data for logins, comments or email subscriptions, it is a good idea to use HTTPS to build user trust.

Moving from HTTP to HTTPS will not noticeably improve your rankings at the moment but it is clearly on Google’s radar. There is no penalty involved with running an HTTP site. However, most sites nowadays use the personal data of visitors (comments section, for example) and it is better to have this data encrypted.

3. Create Google and Bing Webmaster Tools accounts.

Major search engines provide site owners with tools that show stats on the traffic coming into their site and even what visitors are doing once they get there. With the help of Google Search Console (formerly Google Webmaster Tools) and Bing Webmaster Tools you can:

  • Submit and check sitemaps;
  • Generate and check robots.txt files;
  • See a list of internal and external pages that link to the site;
  • See what keyword searches led to the site being listed in the search results, and the click through rates of such listings;
  • View stats about how search engines index the site, and if they found any errors while doing it;
  • Set a preferred domain, which determines how the site URL is displayed in the search results.

To begin, you’ll need to log into Google Search Console (formerly Google Webmaster Tools) and add your site. First, sign in using your Google email address, add your site into the interface and then verify you own the site. This is where it can get a little tricky. Google lets you choose one of several options to prove that you own the site: by uploading an HTML file to your server, by adding a meta tag to your site’s home page, by linking to your Google Analytics account or by adding a DNS record to your domain’s configuration. Here is a quick 5min video directly from Google explaining this process to beginner’s: Verifying ownership of your site in Google Search Console (formerly Google Webmaster Tools).

For Bing Webmaster Tools login with your Windows Live ID to add your sites and begin seeing stats. Bing lets you verify your ownership by placing an XML file on your Web server or by adding a meta tag containing the authentication code to the head section of your default Web page.

4. Use Google Tag Manager to manage all of your site tracking activities in one place.

Google Tag Manager lets you create and update tags for your website and mobile apps without asking your webmaster to update a website code. Google AdWords, Google Analytics, Marin Click Tracking, remarketing tags and more – all of this can be added and edited at any time via GTM interface.

Getting started is easy: create an account, add your website, add one snippet of code (a container) to all your site pages that need to be tracked, then start managing tags. Tags are snippets of code on your site that collect data, target your ad campaigns, track ads, and perform other functions. Templates are built in for Google tags and for some other vendors; it is also possible to implement custom HTML or JavaScript tags.

5. Optimize the TITLEs of your pages for the targeted keywords.

Title Tags – The most important location to place your page’s chosen keywords is within the HTML <title> tag. These are the keywords that literally tell the search engines what your page is about. For users, the title tag is the text that shows up in a browser window header when users open your page and the Title is used in the line that serves as the main descriptor which is bolded as a link on the search results pages. They can also see this text in their Bookmarks/Favorites menu after they save your page to bookmarks.

Therefore, this is where you should always place the most important keywords you’re optimizing a page for. You should also avoid wasting valuable space with words like your company name, unless your business is so well known that people use your company name as their primary keyword while searching for what you sell (like eBay, for example).

In the code of the page, the title tag looks like the following:

<TITLE>Your keyword-optimized title</TITLE>

Google typically displays the first 55-60 characters of a title tag, or as many characters as will fit into a 600-pixel display.

Important things to know: If you keep your titles under 60 characters, you can expect at least 95% of your titles to display properly. Be sure it’s the first tag in the <HEAD> area and remember that each page needs its own unique title tag.

Use our Landing Page SEO report to check for the presence of keywords in the titles of your pages.

6. Remove duplicate Title tags.
Since the Title tags are the most important parts of a web page for both the user experience and search engine optimization, it is highly necessary to avoid duplicate Title tags across your website. The Google Panda update fights against low quality content across the Web and the first thing they consider is whether a site has duplicate Title tags on many of its web pages. It’s a sign of sloppy coding at best and spamming at worst.

Investigate your website for duplicate Title tags and rewrite them to make them unique and descriptive. Pay special attention to your landing pages – pages that are most likely to attract searchers in the SERPs and convert them into clients.

7. Create a unique and relevant META Description tag for each optimized page.
The META Description tag is a summary of your page’s content. This tag was primarily meant for the search engines to let them know what the page was about and used to play a serious role in your rankings. Today, the META Description won’t effect rankings but it’s still used as the description of your page within the search results. It’s also the text that comes up automatically when the URL is shared socially.

In the code of the page, the META Description tag looks like the following:

<META name="description" content="Page description" />

Each of your pages needs it’s own unique META Description tag. The tag needs to be between 150-165 characters, should read naturally and include keywords relevant to the page. Do NOT stuff or repeat your keyword in this tag because the search engines consider that a tactic of spammers.

Use our SEO report to check for the presence of keywords in the META Description tags of your pages.

8. Remove duplicate Description tags.
One of the metrics search engines use to rank is the website’s quality. After Google made the Panda update a part of its regular algorithm, unique content has become vitally important for high rankings.

Each page of your site should have a unique Description tag as search engines may use it as a snippet on a SERP.

Investigate your website for duplicate Description tags and rewrite the duplicate ones to describe what any specific page is about. When writing descriptions for your landing pages, think about them as equivalent to ad copy. The Description tags should draw readers to a website from the SERP.

9. Optimize the headings of your pages for the targeted keywords.
When creating web pages, people use Header tags (<H1>, <H2>, <H3>, etc. tags) to label headlines. Search engines still consider the contents of these tags as important (especially the first-level heading tag – <H1>), however their importance is still much lower than the TITLE tag.

Include your most important keywords and key phrases within the first-level heading:

<H1>Your first-level heading with keywords</H1>

Use only one <H1> tag on any page if your site is on HTML4.

Via HTML5 you can use as many sets of <H1> tags as are required. But that doesn’t mean they should be freely added in arbitrary locations.

In most cases, the top-level heading will be the same as the TITLE.

Also use <H2> and <H3> tags on a page in order to structure information in a proper way; be sure to enrich them with keywords, too.

Use our SEO report to check for the presence of keywords in the headers of your pages.

10. Optimize the BODY area of your website’s pages.
BODY text is the text that you can see on a web page. That is why your site’s content needs to be optimized in such a way that it can suit both search engines and your readers.

You should carefully optimize pages that are meant to attract targeted visitors and serve as landing pages. It is recommended that you optimize each page for NO more than 3 keywords (1 major keyword and 2 complementary ones). Each specific page should be optimized for its own individual set of keywords.

Try to have a moderate keyword density so that it can help the search engine to determine that your page is related and relevant to the keyword you are targeting.

Note: do not stuff your keywords unnaturally, because it may turn on Google’s filter for over-optimization.

11. Create search engine friendly URLs, File Names, Subdomains, etc.

Being sure that you create file names and therefore URLs that search engines like is very important and surprisingly easy when you know the basics.

In general, URL structure for SEO optimization follows a general rule that:

The more generic your keyword – the earlier you want it in your URL structure.

For instance, if you are trying to rank for a very competitive and extremely generic term like ‘music’ that returns more than a billion search results at Google, you definitely need to place that keyword in the domain. With such a generic keyword only placement within the domain name will have heavy enough benefits at this point to make a significant ranking difference.

However, if you want to score for a less competitive keyword like a specific cell phone model, using your keyword (the model number of the phone) as a subdirectory or file name will typically work quite well. Again – don’t over do keywords in your URL. A good rule of thumb is this:

If the URL looks like spam, it probably will be treated as spam.

The search engines caught on a long time ago to the style domain names and file structures. Today you want to use domain and file names that are common sense to the human visitors of your site. Always bear in mind that people do look at the file names within the search results. And seeing the keywords highlighted in the URL does increase click-through-rates.

Again, be sure your keywords are in the URL in a way that looks natural and only once. You don’t want to have them in there more than that or it looks spammy.

12. Carefully optimize the anchor text of your internal links for your targeted keywords.
The text used when one page links to another is called the anchor text. This is an extremely important concept to grasp because Google and the other search engines look for keywords located within the anchor text to understand what the site and, specifically a page, is about.

In the code of the page, the anchor text looks like the following:

<a href="" target="_blank"> Visible anchor text with keywords</a>

In fact, this specific keyword strategy is one of the primary tactics for ranking at the top of the search results. However, be warned – because of heavy manipulation by marketers, Google regards high percentages of exact match keyword anchor texts to be spam unless the text is your company name or the name of your website. Natural anchor text links for a given domain tend to be mostly a mix of the domain name, company name, brand names and specific URLs. When a site has a large percentage of inbound links containing an exact match keyword phrase that isn’t your company or site name, it can trigger a penalty. Yes, you want keyword anchor text links, but the same one should not be more than 25% of your inbound links as a general rule of thumb.

For example, if your company name is Good Times Realty and your offices are in San Diego, if a high percentage of your inbound links say “San Diego Realtors,” then that may very likely cause you problems with Google. If the majority are “Good Times Realty” and, that would be a more natural link profile.

13. Evaluate the quality of your incoming links.
Garnering links still remains a critical method of search engine marketing. With the Google Penguin 2.0 algorithm update, you should pay more attention to the quality of your backlink profile. Conduct an analysis of your backlinks in order to keep your site safe from search engine penalties. Links from bad neighborhoods, sitewide links or a bunch of links with the same exact anchor text may harm your rankings. Investigate who links to you and, if you feel you’ve been penalized, disavow toxic links with the help of the Backlink Quality Check tool.
14. Optimize image ALT tags and the Titles of your images for your targeted keywords.
<Images Alt=” “> Tag – Use it wisely and you can quickly turn Images into Assets. Engines can’t index your image based only on what the image looks like – you need to tell them what the image is with text. The only indexable keyword aspect of images is the text of the page the image is on but most importantly the text you put in the <image alt=”put text here”> tag.

Use of the alt tag also is very effective in helping your images rank well in Search Engines Image Search, so it should NOT be ignored.

Bear in mind that you shouldn’t expect a big ranking boost from this tactic – in fact you may get none at all. Including image alt text is a optimization technique that even Bing suggests you use for better ranking.

Two more reasons for using the alt tag are:

  1. When you make an image a link, the alt text functions as anchor text and can therefore influence the ranking for the target page similar to how text based anchor text works. Typically text links are regarded as better for this purpose, but if you have to use an image for your link, be sure to include the similar keywords optimized text in the alt text.
  2. The latest HTML specs require that images have an Alt tag, failure to include this information will cause validation errors.

In essence, using the alt tag can sometimes help, and will never hurt your ranking and web design efforts. Therefore, you should use the alt tag whenever doing so holds any chance of making an image keyword-meaningful and thereby stacking the advantages in your favor.

Be sure to use our SEO report to check how well you optimized image ALTs and image titles for your targeted keywords.