Technical SEO


technical SEO

Summary: Technical SEO describes the techniques that can be carried out by web developers to help the website rank favorably in search engines. When done right, search engine bots can crawl and index the website contents easily so that search engines can have a better understanding of the website.

Search Engine Optimization is still in its infancy in Hong Kong. Many website owners are still unaware of the importance of SEO. The demand for SEO is relatively low. However the good thing is that with a little hard work, web designers can often help their clients to raise the search engine ranking of a website from 100+ to the first page with relative ease, especially for Chinese keywords.

Below are  a few basic dos and don’ts for successful SEO in laymen terms. It will take up just a couple of minutes to work out but the effect will be dramatic.

Dos

  1. Name the images, pages and directories with important keyword(s)
    Don’t use folder1/page1.html as your URL, use meaningful and descriptive names separated by hyphens. Besides the search engines, your fellow workers will also love you for doing so.
  2. Use CSS for presentation 
    Never use table-within-table-within-table  layout again, separation of contents, presentation and behavior through clean use of HTML,CSS and Javascript will allow your contents to be accessed and rated easier by the search engine bots. Future maintenance work will be easier too.
  3. Use heading tags appropriately
    Heading tags like <h1>,<h2>,… provides important clues for your visitors and the search engine bots alike to check for the relevance of the contents of your pages to their expectations. Do not use paragraph tags and style them as a heading using css, use heading tags instead.
  4. Generate clean sitemaps for submitting to search engines
    The sitemaps should be technically valid and contain only canonical links. Bing has indicated that if your sitemap contains dirts in excess of 1%, Bing will begin to lose trust your sitemap.
  5. Always include alternate text for images
    Search engines cannot read images. Include the alternate text in the image text <img alt=’…’ > will help search engines to understand the page contents better. Besides, your image will get a chance to appear in the image search section of the search engines.
  6. Optimizes page download speed
    Google has done a great job here with the free tool PageSpeed. You can download this as a browser extension or use the service online. The optimized resources can be downloaded instantly. Another great tool for image optimization is ImageOptim (MAC only) or the online tool smush.it. If you are using wordpress, you may install the plugin WP smush.it.
  7. Correct use of canonical tag and 303 redirect
    Use canonical tag when you have several pages with nearly identical contents and you want to specify only 1 as the default page. Put the following piece of code on every page that is not the default: <link rel="canonical" href="URL of default page"/>.Use 303 redirect when a page is removed and/or replaced as in the case of a site revamp. Either way, the pagerank is transferred as well.
  8. Use Correct rel=”alternate” Tag For Multi-lingual Sites
    When your page appears in more than 1 languages (which is commonplace in Hong Kong as both Traditional Chinese and English are the de facto language while Simplified Chinese is fast catching up), make sure to include the correct <link rel=”alternate”  hreflang=[lang]  href=[URL of the language version] /> so that search engines can display the correct language of the page depending on language settings of the browser. For [lang], use zh-Hant for Traditional Chinese, zh-Hans for Simplified Chinease and en for English. For more information, please refer to this help article on Google.
  9. Get listed in directories, especially the local ones
    Submit your sites to web directories like DMOZ (free), AboutUs.org and BOTW (paid). Search for local directories with search phrases like “[your city] directory”. If you are a designer in Hong Kong, try Hong Kong Design Directory (free). If you are operating a restaurant in Hong Kong, Openrice is a definite option.
  10. Set up the blog
    There are at least four choices for the technical implementation: in a sub-directory, using a sub-domain, registering a completely different domain, using 3rd-party hosted blogs like wordpress. The most common way is to use the sub-directory method as fresh contents are regularly added to the root domain which will enhances the overall rating of the domain. You can also gain more deep links to the domain which is an important factor to be considered by search engines. On the other hand, if you want to occupy an additional result in the search result, present a un-biased voice in your industry or use aggressive SEO strategies and avoid penalties, the other 3 choices are for you respectively. Please refere to SEO Best Practices: Setting Up a Blog for more details.
  11. Investigate penalties
    Use services like Ahrefs, LinkDetox or OpenSiteExplorer to check and analysis whether your website is being penalized by the search engines and make remedies.
  12. Perform a backlink analysis
    There are lots of services out there helping one to investigate the backlinks a website has, e.g. Majestic SEO, Open Site Explorer from Moz, Raven Tools, Ahrefs, SEO SpyGlass, Cognitive SEO. You may choose any two of these to perform a comprehensive analysis. The emphasis of the analysis should be on the quality and performance of the backlinks, i.e. the total number of linked unique domains, their page ranks, the anchor texts and the amount of traffic brought by them. With the analysis, the webmaster can investigate underutilized link opportunities (the links from top sites with low traffic), develop a viable link strategies within the industry, get warning signs of over-optimized anchor text and determine which low quality links that need to be removed.
  13. Keep an eye out for algorithm changes
    Changes in search engine algorithm may cause huge negative impact to search rankings. As seen from the following graph for a voucher site, a drop of 80% of traffic is registered overnight with the rollout of Panda for Google [in this case the site was penalized for duplicated contents] .

    Panda Attack for a Voucher Site

    Panda Attack for a Voucher Site (source here)

Dos (not SEO related)

  1. Use special symbols as separators in title tag
    Though not related to SEO, the use of special symbols in the title tag may make your web page stands out from the list of similar titles displayed in the SERP. However, beware that not all symbols would appear in the SERP, use the entity name rather than the entity number. Suggested symbols include: 1) :: [double colons], 2) [&larr;], 3) [&diams;].
  2. Link your Google+ profile to your page [only in Google]
    When you are recognized as the author of the page, Google will show the profile picture beside the page description of your page in SERP. Follow the instructors here. Updated: With a view to presenting the highest quality results, Google will not show Google authorship for every result, only high quality and relevant authors will be shown.
  3. Create a visitor friendly 404 page
    404 page will display when the link to your page is not found on the server. Traditional only the “404 Page Not Found” message is shown on this page. Not much helpful to visitors. You may add a search field together with some topics related to the page link or most popular pages on the page to help visitors to find useful information on your site.
  4. Include your contact details in the meta description
    You can add the telephone number right in the meta description with an appropriate call to action statement.
  5. Claim Google Local Business Listing and Google+ page 
    If you operate a brick-and-mortar business, claiming your business listings in Google and filling out your profiles completely will help Google to understand and display more information about your business.
  6. Include +1 button
    If your website is +1 by Google users, this information will be displayed in the search result record of your page, thereby making your record more prominent.
  7. Get favorable reviews on Google+ page
    Ask your happy clients to write review on your Google+ page, the average rating will be displayed in your record, allowing it to occupy a larger estate.
  8. Implement metadata for Open Graph and Twitter Card
    Implementing metadata for Open Graph (Facebook) and Twitter Card (Twitter) gives you some control on how to optimize your content to appear on Facebook and Twitter. For example, you can specify the photo to appear, the title, the excerpt and even include some visually appealing elements (e.g.  gallery in Twitter). These will attract more people to share your contents.

Don’ts

  1. Participate in paid link farms
    With the Penguin update of Google algorithm, links appearing on the blacklisted link farm sites will got penalty or even removed from the search result page. Beware!
  2. Cloaking
    Do not try to display different contents to visitors and search engine bots. Google knows it and will give you penalties. Always provide outstanding contents visitors love to read and search engines will love these too.
  3. Over-optimization
    Search engine will look for signs of bad SEO. Don’t over-optimize with keyword density, anchor text or even other black-hat SEO techniques. The pages and contents should look natural to visitors as well as search engine bots. Otherwise with changes in ranking algorithms, you website may be heavily penalized.

Further Reading

Edward Chung

Edward Chung aspires to become a full-stack web developer and project manager. In the quest to become a more competent professional, Edward studied for and passed the PMP Certification, ITIL v3 Foundation Certification, PMI-ACP Certification and Zend PHP Certification. Edward shares his certification experience and resources here in the hope of helping others who are pursuing these certification exams to achieve exam success.

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