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A blog about branding, marketing, and design, mostly through the lens of practical psychology, intended to be a resource to small businesses and entrepreneurs. Unless otherwise noted, all articles are written by Nyla Smith, owner of n-Vision Designs. {Subscribe to the RSS feed here: RSS}

Why SEO is a Partnership

Nyla Smith | Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) encompasses a lot. Like a big mutant octopus with too many arms to count, SEO's various components can seem overwhelming at times. Don’t be intimidated! There are easy things that you as a website owner should and can do to help your site rise in the rankings.

Maybe you pay a consultant or SEO firm hundreds or thousands a month. Maybe you have your web developer implement technical optimization. Yes, both of those are paths to take, but if you ever update your website yourself, you are one of the most critical arms of this giant octopus. You can control the day-to-day ‘little’ things that add up to make a big difference.

Every time you modify your website — whether it be updating text, posting a blog article, adding an image, or creating a new page — you have the power to either hurt or help your SEO efforts. Here are some ways to make sure you’re not harming your SEO ranking, and instead giving yourself a helpful little boost each time!

SEO Best Practices for Images

Give your images descriptive file names.

Have you ever done a Google Image search? How do you think Google determines what results to show you? It looks at the words you typed in the search box and serves up images whose file names contain those same words. It's important to name your images appropriately and intentionally. If you have a picture of your best selling widget that you want to add to your site, rename it ‘our-great-xyz-widget.jpgbefore you upload it. Don’t leave it as ‘IMG_9201.jpg’.

Give your images alt text , descriptions and, where appropriate, captions that are descriptive for search.

Alt text is “alternative text” that allows search engines and screen readers to identify what the image is about. It is also what is shown when an image, for whatever reason, does not display graphically.

If your site is built on WordPress, your images can each have an ‘attachment page’, or details page, which is shown when someone clicks on your image. There, the user (and search engines!) can see any description you have added to your image.

A caption may or may not be appropriate for your image, but this is another opportunity to give some descriptive text or context to an image, for both readers and search engines.

WordPress interface to add image metadata
The WordPress interface for adding your alt text, description, or caption for your images

All of this information is referred to as the metadata of an image, and it’s vastly underutilized by many site owners. That’s unfortunate, because this is what the search engine robots “see” when they “look” at an image!

Resize your images.

Part of your SEO ranking factor depends on how quickly your site loads. The main culprits of a slow-loading site are large images.

Resize your images to the size that you would be using it on your website. If you notice your image is measured in MB (megabytes) instead of kb (kilobytes), it’s definitely too large!

In WordPress, and some other Content Management Systems, you can resize an image after uploading it. If you have the ability and software to do it before you upload, all the better — it’s easier to control the quality of your image.

WordPress interface to resize images
WordPress makes it easy to resize images after uploading them.

SEO Best Practices for Text

Use the provided formatting styles.

Most website text editors include a formatting bar, which usually contains dropdown menus or buttons for applying style to your text. When you want to format text on your website, it is best to use these predefined options instead of manually applying colors and font sizes.

For the heading of your blog post, don't manually size it to 24pt and color it purple. Instead apply the Heading 1, or H1, style to it. For subheadings, use H2 or other heading tags as appropriate. Specifying text as a heading is about more than just giving it certain look, it's what search engines use to understand and prioritize the information on your page. These cues tell search engines (not to mention people!) the topic and important ideas in your article, which allow them to know what keywords the page should rank for.

WordPress interface to resize images
This screenshot (of my logo pricing page!) shows the different levels of headings available when in the text editor.

Use links in your content intentionally

Link to other content on your site to assist search engine spiders in indexing all of your content, and theoretically give underrepresented pages a little boost.

Use descriptive words as your link text. This clickable text is called the anchor text and tells search engines about the content you are linking to, which can help with rankings. While it may be easy and seem actionable, try to avoid using “click here” for all of your links' anchor text.

Name your blog posts and pages for search.

In WordPress and most other Content Management Systems, the name of the post becomes the URL. (You might need to ensure this is set in your WordPress permalinks settings.) This may be desirable, or you may want to rename the URL afterward, but both the title and URL are important for search engines to know what your content is about and point visitors your way. Your title and URL should ideally contain the keyphrase you are optimizing for.

SEO Best Practices for Comments

Actively moderate your comments.

If you allow comments on your blog, enable moderation and then check them every time you log in. Approve legitimate ones, and delete any spam promptly.

If you allow comments to go unmoderated, comment spam can build up quickly. A large number of comments has the potential to slow your page load time — which we already learned is a factor that can negatively impact your ranking. I once had to clear out over 14,000 spam comments from a client site I took over!

If comments are not necessary, disable them.

Consider whether you even need to allow commenting on your website. Or consider using a third party commenting system that may be more manageable.

Spammers who comment and leave links to unreputable websites can damage your site’s reputation in the eyes of Google. WordPress comment links will by default have the ‘nofollow’ attribute, which tells search engines not to follow them, but not all website platforms use this anti-spam measure. If the only type of comment you are getting is spam, it's probably best to remove the feature entirely.

Now that wasn't so difficult, was it?

While there is a lot more to SEO than these eight tips (mainly, creating great content), once you realize the impact you can make each time you update your website, you’ll feel a little less intimidated by this beast named SEO. You may indeed decide to still hire an SEO expert to consult and strategize, but SEO is truly a partnership. You hold more power than you might think!

Nyla Smith is a Graphic Designer, Web Designer, Front-End Web Developer and Consultant with over 13 years of experience. She is the owner of n-Vision Designs, LLC in Hampton, Virginia, which exists to provide marketing support and brand consulting to small- and medium-sized businesses needing creative solutions. Contact Nyla if you'd like to discuss your next creative project. She can usually be bribed to a meeting with a cup of green tea and an oatmeal cookie.
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