Search engine optimization, or SEO, is a very complicated science. While no one knows exactly how Google ranks websites, we do have a lot of proven techniques.
Good SEO depends on several factors in your website, but when you usually think of SEO, you probably think of dealing with content and inward links. But did you know that there are several ways to improve your traffic and SEO by changing your code? Increasing traffic and rankings in code depends on three factors:
- Semantics – It’s been debated, but it seems Google gives higher rankings to validated sites, plus there’s less chance for major errors that can cause browser rendering or download issues that could turn visitors off.
- Download times – Users don’t leave your site because it’s taking 20 minutes to download-plus it’s easier for search engines to spider.
- Keywords – Just like regular SEO, it’s important to get those pertinent keywords into your code for good rankings.
Let’s take a look at how you can use all three of these to easily improve your site’s code, traffic and even your SEO rankings.
1) Validation and Semantics
Validating your website and using proper semantics are important in several ways, but let’s just focus on the SEO issue. When you follow W3C standards to validate your site (I use XHTML 1.0 Strict) and you use proper semantics, like cutting down on classes and IDS, using selectors and properly naming elements – there are several traffic benefits you can get:
- Shorter Code – Shorter code means faster download times.
- Better ranking – You’ll already get a slight increase in rankings from a validated site, without even taking content into consideration.
2) Link Title & Alt Tags
Link title and alt tags are used for both accessibility standards and to boost your SEO through keywords. You should have a title tag on every link describing what the link is, but also adding a few keywords into it. For example, a link to FreelanceFolder’s index page could have a title of “Home of FreelanceFolder freelancing web articles and blog” or whatever keywords you’re trying to target on your site. The same goes for alt tags on images. You’re required to have them for validation (#1) anyways, so make sure you put some good keywords in them.
3) Site Title Tags
Website title tags are the tags you see in the browser tabs, or top of your browser window. These are weighed pretty heavily by Google, so make sure you have the most important keywords, as well as unique titles on each page.
4) Replace Flash with jQuery
Flash websites are pretty much ignored by Google. Unless you’re a big name company who doesn’t need rankings to get traffic, this can be a death sentence. However, if you replace your flash with jQuery, not only will your content now be read by search engines, but ALL the content inside your jQuery will count, whether the user can see all of it at one time or not. This is very useful for people who use jQuery tabs to switch between large blocks of content.
5) Optimize JS & CSS Files
Optimizing your files can greatly reduce your download times and server load. There are several free optimizers on the web, like JSO. Your JS should also be broken up to multiple files, so each page isn’t loading a bunch of script it isn’t using.
6) Link to Google’s jQuery Library
This also reduces load on your server, making for faster download times. Google’s jQuery library is also optimized and smaller than the normal jQuery library.
7) Fix Broken Links & JS Errors
Not having someone’s browser attempt to load files and scripts that aren’t there speeds up their download times.
8) Header Tags
As important as website title tags, header tags are also a great place to add keywords. Headers should be used sequentially. Therefor, your <h1> tag should probably be the website name or section name, <h2> should be the page name, and <h3> should be a subheading or subsection name.
9) Optimize Your PHP
There are several ways to optimize PHP specifically to speed up download times:
- Variables – Declare variables outside of the loop, so its declared once and not repeated.
- Functions – Pass variables by reference to functions, instead of passing copies.
- File pointers – Always close these!
10) Use htaccess Files
Use htaccess files to change the names of your pages (especially if you’re using PHP variables like I do) to rename pages. Include important keywords separated by dashes. You can also use them to redirect users to another page, in case they bookmarked an old page that no longer exists.
SEO is Not Just Keywords
Good SEO depends on a variety of things, not just keywords and links. While changing your code won’t really help a site with little or bad content, it can be a great boost to a site or blog just starting out.
Have there been things you’ve changed in your code that’s increased your traffic? What did you do?
Photo courtesy of Burning Image