1) XML SiteMap– Your site needs to have a XML sitemap that displays all your content pages in a format search engine bots can read. This page should already exist in the root directory of your site, but if it doesn’t, you can use tools like theXML Sitemap Generatorto create one quickly and easily.
2) Robots.txt– While you’re at it, double check that your site has a Robots.txt file in the root directory as well (look for yourwebsitename.com/robots.txt). This is a file invisible to your visitors, but it communicates to search bots what pages on your site should be indexed.
3) 404 Error Pages– It’s quite all right for users to occasionally hit a 404 error page on your site, but it’s not OK for this page to be generic and create a dead end. Error pages should be customized with your logo, have playful text and images to lessen the disappointment, and include links to other potentially relevant areas of your site. Include a search box as well so they may redirect their efforts to find what they’re looking for. If you don’t feature these options, users are likely to close the window and abort the visit all together. Not only will you lose valuable traffic, but search engines will also ding you for a poor user experience.
4) URL Structure– Search engines like Google love shorter, keyword rich slugs (the last portion of your URL.) Avoid URLs that are over 3 directories deep, as flatter slugs tend to index faster after the page is published. Shorter URLs are also a lot easier for users and bots to comprehend. The cardinal rule is no more than 100 characters for your URL, and 3-5 words for each page’s slug. Keep them descriptive, and avoid stop words like ‘in’, ‘a’, and ‘the’.
5) Page Titles– Each title on your site should be descriptive and concise. Titles need to communicate exactly what the page contains, in the shortest form possible. Optimal length is 70-100 characters, including spaces.
6) Headings– It’s also important to include headings (H1, H2, H3) on your site’s pages. These help to divide the content into coherent sections, providing more value to search bots trying to decipher the content. Headings should also include your page’s key terms, and while they don’t need to be as concise as the other components, they should still express topics in a somewhat brief manner.
7) Site Speed– Users and search engines love fast loading sites, so make sure your gorgeous content doesn’t have high file sizes that bog down load times. Use a free tool likeGTmetrixto regularly test your site’s speed.
8) Meta Data and Rich Snippets– While it’s true that meta descriptions do not affect your rankings, they do help the click-through rates of your listing. Rich snippets and accurate meta descriptions increase your opportunity to get a visitor’s attention, and therefore should not be ignored.