Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of improving the visibility of a website or a web page in a search engine’s un-paid (“organic”) search results.
The earlier and more frequently a site appears in the search results list, the more visitors it will receive from search engine’s users.
SEO considers how search engines work, what people search for, the actual search terms or keywords typed into search engines and which search engines are preferred by their targeted audience.
Optimizing a website may involve editing its content, HTML and associated coding to both increase its relevance to specific keywords and to remove barriers to the indexing activities of search engines.
Backend SEO Ranking Factors (Code, Meta, Hierarchy, Etc.)
The website’s code should be built so that it is easily indexed by Google, and W3C standard/compliant when possible. This means all code in the files should be in a readable format for search engines. No Flash or other web applications should contain any relevant information you want to provide your users or the search engines.
Relevant content should be served to the user, and search engines, first. Meaning the code should have the main content area or topic area served to the user before sidebars, footers, pop-ups, other extraneous code, etc. The only exceptions would be <head> information including the meta, and relevant styling code, and the site’s navigation.
Ensure each page provides individual, unique, meta information (canonical url, meta title, meta description, etc.) to the search engine that directly represents the content you are providing to the user. Meta keywords used to be included in this, but since early in the meta keyword inception it was used to manipulate search engine results, it now has a very low ranking factor, and we actually do not use them. However, it would not hurt you to add meta keywords in a real, honest representation of what your page is about.
The site should have a clear hierarchy, especially if it has large amounts of quality information, or main topics from the broad all the way down to as specific as you can get.
Link / Sitemap information should be provided on every page. This is usually handled in a main menu, however, sometimes with fancy menus, it’s important to have static html links to every page in your footer. It is looked upon favorably by search engines if the user can reach any page on the site with just one click of the mouse. Html text links are also easier for search engine crawlers to find and follow.
The site should load quickly without display or code errors, and work in multiple environments (browsers, devices, resolutions, etc.).
Front-End SEO Ranking Factors (Content, Titles, Links, Etc.)
The website’s content should be original. It should be informative, and easy to read. Content should always be written for the user, not for search engines. No use of keyword stuffing, auto-generated, or ‘spun’ content should be used. We have been doing this a while and keyword density, or the % of particular keywords per page, is basically nonsense. If the content is about a subject, and it is informative, it should naturally have the keyword present anyway.
Content titles and sub-titles should be wrapped in an h-tag. H-tags represent to the search engine that you are telling your user this is what this section of the site is about. Content titles should contain a keyword naturally as well, as they are the heading of the page of content. There should only be one h1 tag per page, and hierarchy here is important as well. H2 tags should be used for main sub-titles, h3 for even further breakdown of a sub-topic, and so on.
Internal links inside your site should be clear and have a relevant keyword that is used for the hyperlink. It would be better to link to your Toyota Corolla page using Toyota Corolla rather than Click here.
Images should have informational alt tags. Search engines cannot yet “see” images. Neither can blind people. The alt tag was originally used as a descriptor for blind users providing them with a text description of what the image represents. Search engines picked up on this, and use it as well. So on your Toyota Corolla page, if you have a picture of one, you would add an alt tag saying ‘Red Toyota Corolla’.
Other SEO Ranking Factors
Site history / domain history can play a part if you’ve been around a while.
How often / regularly you add and update your content.
Do you have other reputable sites in your industry linking to your site?
If your content / site has been shared, or liked frequently on social media.
Negative SEO Ranking Factors
Anything opposite of what I’ve written above, and…
Duplicate(stolen) content from other sites, pages that lack real information or content especially if they are full of keywords(keyword stuffing), hidden content or keywords, cloaking(showing search engines different pages than users), too many links from low reputation, and non-relevant sources(link farming, paid links, spam links, etc.).