To get the best return on a company's investment in their web presence (ensuring the site provides optimal value to the business, employees, and consumers), it's imperative to regularly reflect on the website goals and objectives.
For a new & growing business, website reflection should happen at least every few months; for established, stable companies, review should happen no less than once a year to account for changing requirements & technologies.
The most successful sites are reviewed more often, if not monthly; but preferably no less than quarterly or semi-annually.
Just like a term paper or proposal will have minor revisions upon each review, a website will also show room for improvement upon each inspection.
When reviewing, it's important to ask front line employees and customers for input, making note where changes can be made to improve:
- customer/employee usage,
- ease of understanding,
- overall navigation structure,
- proper keywords & phrases,
- content usage,
- and CTA's (calls to action).
An optimized site focusing on consumer needs, convenience, and usability, (and similar related aspects); will intrinsically have better success in search results, versus sites failing to optimize and manage online usability.
The following checklist reviews some of the most important, yet basic areas of website usability and search engine optimization:
- Clean Code
- Keyword Usage & Content
- Regularly Updated Content
- Consumer Usability / Mobile-Friendly (Responsive)
- Cross-Browser Compatibility
- Social Media & External Links
- Resource Library
- Proper Tag Usage
Clean code is the first step, and foundation for correct SEO (Search Engine Optimization); it all starts with the code.
Search engines place heavy emphasis on the cleanliness of website code for three important reasons:
- Just like a house must be built on a stable foundation, so a website must be built using clean code for true search engine optimization.
- Just as properly coded websites are easier for 3rd party programmers to understand and manipulate, so "clean code" websites are easier for browsers to accurately read, load, and display.
The cleaner the code, the more likely the website is to run and function on a wide-variety of browsers (Internet Explorer, MS Edge, Firefox, Opera, Safari, Chrome, etc) without errors.
- Clean code also helps to improve a website's keyword ratio in relation to code. The higher the keyword ratio (the number of keywords versus the amount of code to generate the page) the better the ranking. The less code that can be used to accomplish the same task, while remaining cross-browser compatible, the better.
Websites that are ONLY "best optimized for Internet Explorer (IE)" are likely to get a lower ranking in search engines, versus sites that run on all browsers including Firefox, Safari, Google Chrome, and so on.
Often, template programs (like WordPress, Joomla, Drupal or other "boxed/template websites") utilize a great deal of extraneous code to accomplish the same goal that an expert programmer, or well developed CMS (Content Management System) could accomplish in a single line of code using style sheets and CSS.
Since extraneous code detracts from the meaningful value of website content, search engines often give a lower ranking to sites with extraneous code, and a lower keyword ratio.
Keyword Usage & Content
Utilizing the right keywords and related phrases within the website content is imperative to success!
The goal of any search engine, (whether Google, Bing or another), is to provide their users accurate and relevant results.
For a website to come up first in a search for the keyword phrase:
"custom italian made clothing"
The individual keywords themselves (custom, italian, clothing, etc), and other "related" keywords and phrases (apparel, shirts, dresses, pants, shoes, belts, cotton, buttons, hand-stitched, men, women, etc) must appear throughout the website content.
PLEASE NOTE: It is considered "black hat tricks" (not acceptable and should be avoided) to simply list the keywords over and over with no apparent meaning. Such practices can get a website banned from search results altogether.
Instead, keep the usage of words and phrases flowing naturally. Envision describing the product or service to a customer over the phone. Be detailed, and avoid nondescript words such as "this" or "it" or "that".
Regularly Updated Content
Just as content is the most important factor, the age of the website's content is another top factor to successful ranking in search results.
Keeping a website up-to-date by regularly adding new, relevant, and fresh content is imperative to proper optimization, as well as customer usability.
Search engines prefer giving top ranking to recent, relevant content for searches; versus old, stale content that has not been updated in weeks, months, or years.
Therefore, a site with information from a year or more ago, will not be considered as relevant as information from a site that was updated earlier today, yesterday, last week, or even last month.
Consumer Usability / Mobile-Friendly (Responsive)
Focusing on consumer convenience & usability is arguably tied as one of the more important factors when developing a successfully optimized site for search engines, AND users.
- Google considers whether a website is mobile-friendly (responsive) as a main factor when providing results for user search queries, and ranks mobile-friendly website content first.
- A successful website welcomes users with:
- easy to understand navigation,
- clear & complimentary graphics,
- as well as well-organized information.
- To prosper a site must be convenient and easy for users to:
- find needed information,
- securely checkout,
- or request additional information without difficulty.
- Properly functioning sites behave similarly for usability purposes whether viewed on a desktop, laptop, tablet, or smart phone. The user should not have to go through special hoops or download special software to use a website.
- The site should NEVER have broken links or files that fail to properly load.
Websites following these basic usability standards will see a marked improvement in search results and website ranking; which in turn leads to more leads, sales, and increased revenues.
Another key factor in optimizing websites for search engines is cross-platform compatibility. Search engines place a great deal of emphasis on whether or not a website will run on various platforms, such as desktops, laptops, tablets, smartphones, mobile phones, or Google Glasses.
A search engine's goal is to offer search results that can be accessed by anyone, anywhere, regardless of how the user accesses the internet.
For example: Many web development companies may develop different websites for different platforms (one site for desktops, another for smartphones, or tablets). While this may be okay for some rare industry needs, ideally a website should be developed to responsively adapt and display on ANY platform (desktop, laptop, tablet, or smartphone). Such cross-platform compatibility is referred to as Responsive Web Design (RWD).
Many users get frustrated when attempting to view a website on a smartphone, only to be redirected to a mobile version of the website with limited features, minimal information, or funtionality; versus the desktop or full site.
Such platform specific web development inhibits the usability for consumers. As well, Google has mandated responsive design since 2016; as of 2018 they began penalizing sites that are not responsive on all platforms with "one responsive website" as part of their "Mobile First" initiative.
Social Media & External Links
Social media, and other incoming directory links, are an essential part of website optimization. When reviewing a company's site SEO, make sure to have relevant links coming to and from appropriate social media sites, and valid online directories.
- Social media is today's word-of-mouth advertising, and is often a great source of free advertising when used properly.
- Using Facebook, Intsagram, TikTok, Twitter, LinkedIn, Alignable (Local Business Social Network), blogs, and other social medias can often result in improved search engine ranking.
- Companies using social medias receive numerous additional benefits including:
- increased consumer conversion
- better customer satisfaction
- higher client retention
- stronger brand loyalty
- increased potential for posts going viral
- Search engines rank websites with numerous quality-incoming links from external sites (like social medias and directories) higher than those without.
However, be weary of "spam directories" and irrelevant social sites. Such spam directory websites do not help to increase SEO, rarely help consumers find helpful information, and often exist simply for creating numerous, non-related links without adding value.
Resource libraries can add a powerhouse of relevant information and content to a website; thus improving customer usability and SEO. Resources within a library section can range from:
- weekly articles on the industry in general
- specific industry tips & gossip
- frequently asked questions (FAQ's) regarding the industry, company, services, or products
- new testimonials, case studies, or project galleries
- YouTube & other video libraries
- help & tutorial sections
- and more
Regardless of industry, there are always numerous industry related resources that a business can improve upon, and offer to online visitors.
Adding relevant resources will greatly increase the value a site's content as an authority on a topic; in turn helping a website to potentially receive first place ranking for related search topics.
Using Proper Tags & Anchor Text
The proper use of
ALT tags, as well as
ANCHOR TEXT, is important to SEO:
HEADING tags are used to help search engines like Google determine the main objective of content to follow, as well as its importance in relation to other headings on the page.
- Headers use the
Htag 1-6 to signify the importance of the heading related to the page's content.
- Semantic use of
HEADINGtags helps optimize the content for both readers and search engines.
HEADINGtags should utilize the most important or relative keywords to the topic about to be addressed.
HEADINGtags should be descriptive and concise.
TITLE tags are used in the hidden code of a website's link to describe "where" the link will take the visitor; as well as what content to expect on the other end:
TITLEtags should be descriptive & relevant keywords; avoid nondescript words such as "it" or "that".
- Search engines like to see a
TITLEtag with a brief description or phrase; let the user know what will be found at the other end of the link. Detailed descriptions reduce ambiguity, unwanted surprises, and improve user expectations.
ALT tags are used in images to describe what the image file is about:
ALTtags are important because most search engines cannot see, nor recognize the subject of an image like a human can (although this is quickly changing as computers become smarter; such as Google's Lens technology that is in development.)
- All site images need an ALT tag accurately describing the image with relevant keywords & phrases.
ANCHOR TEXT is the visible, readable words that are used in a link:
ANCHOR TEXTis important for SEO because search engines look at the words (text) used within a hyperlink as relative to where that link will take the visitor.
- When selecting the words (text) to use as a link, it's important to choose keywords that are closely related to the information to be found on the other end of the link.
- Avoid using "click here" or other non-descript phrases for a link when possible.
Regularly reviewing for improvement opportunities will help any site's success potential, improve ranking in search results, in turn increasing sales and profits.
For those already receiving top ranking, regular review for opportunities to improve, helps maintain top ranking in search results for the given industry, keywords, products, or services.
There's no special magic to receiving top ranking; just make sure to cover the basics, and continuously review for possible improvements and usability.