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Outfitting SEO: Back to Basics

How do your potential customers find you on the web?

When they perform a search using keywords that pertain to you, do you show up on the first page of rankings? Do you show up on the 30th page of rankings? Do you not show up at all?

You have the power to influence where you show up—you have the ability to tell Google what you do and why you do it well, which helps Google help you by directing interested searchers to your site.

But you’ve got to give Google a little to go on.


A great entry, "SEO Fundamentals that Google Can’t Ignore," was recently posted on the always-excellent Content Marketing Institute blog. In the post, John Fox and his team examine one million active websites and evaluate them based on three basic Search Engine Optimization (SEO) criteria: title tags, h1 tags, and meta description tags.

Shockingly, they found that only 9.6 percent of those million websites had all three best-practice basics.

Clearly, there’s a lot of opportunity for websites to go back to the basics and seek the rewards of web traffic.

Designing and Developing for SEO

Title tags, h1 tags, and meta description tags are an excellent place to start. It’s like putting on a pair of pants—it’s really the bare minimum (pun intended) before you leave the house. Ideally, you’d also want to put on a shirt and some shoes. Also basic—also important.

We’ll call design the shirt and development the shoes. Working together with the SEO pants, they can make a complete outfit.

SEO-Friendly Design

Dave Skorepa, the chief creative officer at Aztek, describes the design elements that can impact SEO.

  • Use "real text" where possible. Do not present text in a graphic.
  • HTML page content is preferable to PDF format.
  • Use as little HTML as possible. The less HTML GooleBot has to wade through to find your content, the happier he is.
  • Make sure your site navigation is able to be spidered by Google.
  • Don’t try to hide text from Google with JavaScript or CSS.
  • 301 (permanently moved, serverside) redirects are preferred over 302 (JavaScript, in page) redirects.
  • What’s good for usability is usually good for search engines.
  • Things like clear, well-written link and button labels can make a huge difference.
  • Use a robots.txt file.
  • Don’t have more than 100 links on a page. Google hates that.

"The faster the page loads, the happier Google seems to be," Skorepa says. "They reward speed. Designers need to make everything they touch as lightweight as possible."

SEO Development Solutions

Keith Rowe, the chief technology officer at Aztek, offers these fundamental ways that development can enhance SEO.

  • If using a Content Management System (CMS), make sure all titles and metas can be accessed by CMS administrative users and are not duplicated across the site.
  • Use clean, user-friendly URL structures.
  • Make the user HTML as clean as possible—not like Microsoft Word HTML, as this is some of the ugliest HTML out there.
  • Developers should be aware of the page load time and the impact of server controls and database functions.
  • Developers should try to avoid server controls that generate tables and JavaScript as these are less search engine friendly.
  • Be mindful of external libraries, as they can increase load times.

"In SEO, nothing is the silver bullet or the be-all end-all," Rowe says. "However, each piece contributes to the overall goal of the best possible solution and the best possible SEO for the page."


What other basics in SEO do you think are as fundamental as these? What are some of the necessities in an SEO outfit? Share your thoughts below.

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