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I have had numerous customers write to me asking why their web pages do not appear in the search engines even though they directly search for terms that should yield their page. More often than not, a quick visit to their site reveals that they have created a web page that is not search engine friendly.

The following is 7 steps checklist on how to make your website search engine friendly.

1. Add Page Title

Accurately describe the page’s content – Choose a title that effectively communicates the topic of the page’s content. Create unique title tags for each page – Each of your pages should ideally have a unique title tag, which helps Google know how the page is distinct from the others on your site. Use brief, but descriptive titles – Titles can be both short and informative. If the title is too long,
Google will show only a portion of it in the search result.

2. Add Meta Tags

Accurately summarize the page’s content – Write a description that would both inform and interest users if they saw your description meta tag as a snippet in a search result. Use unique descriptions for each page – Having a different description meta tag for each page helps both users and Google, especially in searches where users may bring up multiple pages on your domain (e.g. searches using the site: operator). If your site has thousands or even millions of pages, hand-crafting description meta tags probably isn’t feasible. In this case, you could automatically generate description meta tags based on each page’s content.

3. URL Structure

Use words in URLs – URLs with words that are relevant to your site’s content and structure are friendlier for visitors navigating your site. Visitors remember them better and might be more willing to link to them. Create a simple directory structure – Use a directory structure that organizes your content well and is easy for visitors to know where they’re at on your site. Try using your directory structure to indicate the type of content found at that URL. Provide one version of a URL to reach a document – To prevent users from linking to one version of a URL and others linking to a different version (this could split the reputation of that content between the URLs), focus on using and referring to one URL in the structure and internal linking of your pages. If you do find that people are accessing the same content through multiple URLs, setting up a 301 redirect from non-preferred URLs to the dominant URL is a good solution for this.

4. Add Site Navigation

Create a naturally flowing hierarchy – Make it as easy as possible for users to go from general content to the more specific content they want on your site. Add navigation pages when it makes sense and effectively work these into your internal link structure. Use mostly text for navigation – Controlling most of the navigation from page to page on your site through text links makes it easier for search engines to crawl and understand your site. Many users also prefer this over other approaches, especially on some devices that might not handle Flash or JavaScript. Use “breadcrumb” navigation – A breadcrumb is a row of internal links at the top or bottom of the page that allows visitors to quickly navigate back to a previous section or the root page. Many breadcrumbs have the most general page (usually the root page) as the first, left-most link and list the more specific sections out to the right.

5. Content is the King

Write easy-to-read text – Users enjoy content that is well written and easy to follow. Stay organized around the topic – It’s always beneficial to organize your content so that visitors have a good sense of where one content topic begins and another ends. Breaking your content up into logical chunks or divisions helps users find the content they want faster. Use relevant language – Think about the words that a user might search for to find a piece of your content. Users who know a lot about the topic might use different keywords in their search queries than someone who is new to the topic. For example, a long-time baseball fan might search for [nlcs], an acronym for the National League Championship Series, while a new fan might use a more general query like [baseball playoffs]. Anticipating these differences in search behavior and accounting for them while writing your content (using a good mix of keyword phrases) could produce positive results. Google AdWords provides a handy Keyword Tool that helps you discover new keyword variations and see the approximate search volume for each keyword. Also, Google Webmaster Tools provides you with the top search queries your site appears for and the ones that led the most users to your site.

Create fresh, unique content – New content will not only keep your existing visitor base coming back, but also bring in new visitors.

Offer exclusive content or services – Consider creating a new, useful service that no other site offers. You could also write an original piece of research, break an exciting news story, or leverage your unique user base. Other sites may lack the resources or expertise to do these things.

Create content primarily for your users, not search engines – Designing your site around your visitors’ needs while making sure your site is easily accessible to search engines usually produces positive results.

6. Add Test to Your Images, Flash and Video

Choose descriptive text – The anchor text you use for a link should provide at least a basic idea of what the page linked to is about. Write concise text – Aim for short but descriptive text??”usually a few words or a short phrase. Format links so they’re easy to spot – Make it easy for users to distinguish between regular text and the anchor text of your links. Your content becomes less useful if users miss the links or accidentally click them. Think about anchor text for internal links too – You may usually think about linking in terms of pointing to outside websites, but paying more attention to the anchor text used for internal links can help users and Google navigate your site better.

7. Add Sub Titles

Imagine you’re writing an outline – Similar to writing an outline for a large paper, put some thought into what the main points and sub-points of the content on the page will be and decide where to use heading tags appropriately. Use headings sparingly across the page – Use heading tags where it makes sense. Too many heading tags on a page can make it hard for users to scan the content and determine where one topic ends and another begins.

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