Web Developers’ Guide to SEO for New Websites

When developing a new website, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) should be a consideration up front in order to avoid having to double back and add elements later or lose the SEO the current site has accumulated.

The following is a guide for SEO elements that should be added by the development team to a new site. Some Content Management System (CMS) packages account for any number of the following and it may be necessary to check to make sure each element is working properly or to build it in from scratch.

By abiding by the following guidelines, you can rest assured that the next website you build will have a perfect platform to perform well in search results.

1. Add Mark-up Language to Your Code

Google’s Knowledge Graph is the name for the instant Google results that show up in the right hand column and make it possible to not have to actually click into a site to get basic information (see “dog” example below).

The Knowledge Graph, along with most other search engines, is fed by the microdata markup format. Because Schema.org offers Google's preferred format and adds in vocabulary that has been agreed upon by other search engines, as well, it is the best place to go to get your markup format.

"Microdata uses simple attributes in HTML tags (often <span> or <div>) to assign brief and descriptive names to items and properties," (Google Support, "About Microdata"). An example follows.

Read more about Structured Data.

2. Forms and Captchas

Forms can be annoying for users to fill out if they feel too much information is being asked of them, an error occurs that isn’t immediately obvious how to fix, or a captcha is difficult. Therefore, the following is necessary for each for created:

  • Sample text should appear in each field.
  • A question mark with an explanatory pop-up should appear next to any item that could be confusing.
  • Any time possible , information already entered should be recalled upon the next visit, whether through a login that saves the information or through cookies.
  • Ensure that if form is filled out incorrectly, fields are highlighted in red with a clear explanation  for how to fill them out and information already entered is not deleted when page reloads.
  • Captcha should be easy enough not to drive people away yet effective in keeping out spam.

3. Allow for Meta Data to Be Added Using the CMS Everywhere Possible

Google and other search engines determine what’s on each web page using meta data as one of their primary sources. To make sure the sites you develop are ready, abide by these two bullets:

4. Be Mindful of Header Tags

Google and other search engines prioritize page content with <H1> tags as most important, then <H2> on down to normal body paragraph text. It’s important to assign styles to header tags that will complement each other, with <H1> as the largest in size, and <H2> as the next largest, and so on, to <H5>. Ensure that the <H1> on a page will also look good on a blog entry. Also, make sure to use the proper header tags to define text on each page, as a signal to the search engines about what the site topics are.

5. Use Keywords

Want to be an overachiever? Get a keyword list from the client before coding begins so you can use keywords where possible as you code. The top five to ten phrases the company uses to identify themselves and their services will do. For example, here’s an example list for a business consultant company:

  1. leadership team development
  2. sales coaching
  3. management consultant
  4. leadership coaching
  5. sales training programs

6. Ensure Blogs Have Maximum SEO Impact

A blog is a very worthy SEO addition for any site. The size of the impact the blog makes lies in the development details and meticulous organization. Each blog needs a method within the CMS to include the following:

6.1 Categories and Tags

Each blog post should be organized by category then tag. It’s common to confuse the purpose of categories versus tags. Categories will be few and broad, where tags are much more specific. For example, a beauty blogger may have broad categories the look like this:

  • Make-up
  • Skin Care
  • Hair Products

And tags that are more specific, like this:

  • Lipstick
  • Mascara
  • Blush
  • Moisturizer
  • Anti-Aging Serum
  • Toner
  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Hairspray

For each category and each tag added, a page should automatically be created with respective results. This is a strong signal to search engines as to what the blog is about and it is a good idea to align these with keywords and phrases whenever possible.

6.2 Authors

Including a field in the CMS in which to link to the author of the post, either to their bio on a Team page or to an Author page is also great for SEO and better user search capabilities. The author name should appear in a by-line at the beginning of the post and link to their biography. It should be possible to retrieve a list of all of the author’s posts within the blog within a bio section.

6.3 Archives Search

The search capabilities on the blog are very important since entries add up quickly and it becomes a pretty massive undertaking to navigate back a few years if there isn’t a good search to help you.

Ideally, for large blogs, the user should be able to easily search by any of the following:

  • Year
  • Month
  • Author
  • Tag
  • Category
  • Keyword

Furthermore, the results when pulled up should show around a 250 words snippet and other key information from each returned post like the image, author, tags, title, date, and categories.

6.4 Post Preview

The blog landing page should show preview snippets of the latest five or more posts. They should mirror the archives results with a 250 word snippet and other key information including a thumbnail of the blog’s main image. “Read more” links should appear at the bottom of each post preview.

6.5 Comments Captcha

A captcha should accompany each comments section after each post. The captcha should be tough enough to keep spammers out but easy enough to encourage responses.

6.6 Social Sharing

With each post, it’s important to include a way to share on as many platforms as possible. There are several plugins that make this easy. Here is a screenshot of a Creative2 client who opted for custom code and does a nice job of encouraging sharing and showing the post’s success so far.

An additional necessity of social sharing is to ensure that images transfer nicely to posts. When a user clicks to share on their Facebook page, for example, make sure the image that accompanies the post on their wall is the one that matches the blog post.

Stay Tuned

Use the six guidelines listed above and you are well on your way to an optimized site. Stay tuned as this list is updated with additions and changes as the web landscape continues to evolve around us.

Follow Steph McGuinn on Twitter, @HeartBuzzAgency.