Top SEO Tips for Startups

Startup OfficespaceI’ve been working on websites for a while now, but up until recently most of the work I have done has been design and functionality based. As a web designer I have always had a decent understanding of search engine optimization, but many of the simple areas of SEO can be easily neglected, particularly if you’re a web startup. It can often be difficult to find the time to pay attention to every little element of your website that could get you that extra visitor. I’ve read numerous books, articles and resources, as well as talked to some SEO experts and most of the time, the same key techniques arise again and again. Here is my list of SEO techniques, aimed towards but not exclusive to startups. If I’ve left anything out that you think is important, let me know.


<title> Page Title </title>


Page titles are one of the most (if not the most) important part of optimizing your website. If you are a WordPress user, go to your header.php file which can be found in your theme folder. Find the where you have the <head> tag. Within the <head> tag, place the following code:

<title>
if (is_home())
echo get_bloginfo('site_name').' | '.get_bloginfo('description');
elseif (is_category())
echo get_category(get_query_var('cat'))->name;
elseif (is_page() || is_single())
the_title();
</title>

this code will ensure that your page titles are correctly marked. For example, if you have a few posts in the category of “Business”, then the title of the page showing ALL of your posts in “Business”, will simply be called “Business”. However, when you click on a post/article, the page with the post/article will have the same title as the title of that post/article.

It may seem like common sense to do, but you’d be surprised how many people fail to ensure that every page on their website has the correct title. Look at the titles of all the pages on your website and ensure that they accurately represent the page.


Links into your Website


It would be fair to assume that most search engine entries to your website will come from Google. Google give preference to sites with links into them, so the more links into your website you have the better it is for your SEO. When other websites link into your website, they should have a link that looks like:

<a href="http://mashmine.com/2012/01/10/top-seo-tips-for-startups/" title="Top SEO Tips for Startups">Top SEO Tips for Startups</a>

The link should have a title attribute that fits the description of what you would ideally like to be search for and the text that the link appears as should be the title of the page linking to it. For example, if you are linking to an article on Mashmine.com, it would appear as Top SEO Tips for Startups. I like to think of this as a controlled Google Bombing,


Regular Content Updating


One of the best ways of letting search engines know that your site matters is by continuously updating your website’s content. Adding new posts and articles on a regular basis is one of the best ways to prove that your site is active. Not only will you draw more attention to your website from visitors with more content, but search engines will give preference to recent articles. You can also you the <time> element of HTML5 to timestamp your articles with a date so that search engines can see exactly how recent articles are without relying solely of sitemaps.


Internal Website Links


Interlinking content in your website helps to direct user flow around your pages. Not only this but it helps to increase the link count for posts. As far as Google are concerned, everyone will want to link their own content. For this simple reason, less priority is given to websites that link themselves in posts. However, Google do recognize when related content is linked which will in turn assist your SEO strategy. For example, if you are writing a post based on Ways to Protect Your WordPress Site, you would be in a good position to link to other website security or WordPress articles such as Tips on Securing WordPress Websites. Again, these are not vital to the success of a strong SEO strategy, but from a visitors point of view it allows you to direct flow around your website and from a search engine point of view it shows the degree of interweaving by related content on your website.


404′s & Error Pages


Error pages aren’t the most important SEO element of your website, but they are generally associated with good website administration. If a page doesn’t exist it’s best to inform the search engine or visitors that it doesn’t exist, otherwise the search will have taken place without a definitive answer and the error page that would be displayed would be rather ugly looking. 404 error pages are great for messing around and getting artsy with, so maybe try and come up with something quirky that your visitors may like so they will be prompted to return to another page instead of leaving the site altogether. The presence of an error page as far as the search engine is concerned, means that although the specific requested page does not exist, the url is friendly and hence the site is friendly.


Sitemaps


Sitemaps are important for telling search engines the structure of your site. WordPress users have several options for creating efficient sitemaps but the best one is probably Google Sitemap Generator, which features a dynamic list of options to choose from including pages to exclude and pages to include in the sitemap. A sitemap will tell search engines what priority to give to certain web pages on your site, how frequently it should update for that page etc. It is essentially a guide for the search engine, informing it of the way you have structured your pages. Remember that once you have created a sitemap for your website, you must submit your sitemap to Google, Bing or any other search engine you wish to rank highly on. Once the sitemap has been submitted, the search engine will take recognition of your page.


Content & Site Structure


Understanding the composition of your site structure and content structure isn’t the most important aspect of search engine optimization, but as search engines get continuously more advanced and develop new methods of indexing the layout of your content will become increasingly important. Correct use of the h1, h2, h3, h4, h5 tags will help distinguish separate areas within your article. The <h1> tag should always be the title of the page or article, whereas the <h2>,<h3> tags should separate content within your article. Another important feature in the HTML structure of your website is the introduction of HTML5 tags. These tags are still being phased in by Google, but the most important ones to keep in mind are the <article>, <header>, <footer>, <aside> and <time> tags. You can read more about them using w3schools.