0: Do Not Cheat. Period.
If you walked into a room full of genius scientists with PHDs, do you think you could outsmart them all? No. Google has hundreds of rooms full of genius scientists with PHDs, and their job is to work 60 hours a week to make sure you can’t fool Google. You can’t outsmart them. Ever. Ignore any advice on trying to cheat the system and focus on making great web sites with great content, and your sites will show up fine in searches.
1. Proper use of <h1> and <h2> tags
Headers and sub-headers are not only useful for making up a good layout. Search engines do also love it when we use headers. But that is when we use them wisely. This means that you should use them in a way that makes sense – do not spam your site with various headers as it is a sure way of keeping both the search engines and the visitors away. Most important sections of a page should be H1 and H2 and then smaller sections should be H3. H4-H6 are rarely used tags.
2. Remove useless code
The purpose of optimizing your site is to make it as available as possible for all involved – you, the visitors and the search engines. This is just as important when we are talking about the code of the website. Take advantage of an XHTML validator to make sure that all of your code is readable.
If you own a blog and tend to write drafts in MS Office, copying and pasting back into WordPress is a code nightmare. Check the “HTML” tab when in the writing new post page of WordPress; Office adds a lot of garbage code. Remove it. A good alternative is to copy & paste your article into a text editor and then copy and paste the article into your next blog post.
3. Internal linking
Search engines pay a lot of attention to the links on your site, and the words used in those links. Never use “click here” or “see more” for a link. The link text should describe where the link will take the user, such as “more examples of CSS web design” or “learn how we can improve your SEO.”
The more relevant the links on a page, the more findable the page becomes. Don’t go overboard, and don’t link to anything irrelevant. If your page is focused on minimalist web design, a link to the Design MeltDown page on minimalism will boost your SEO. A link to a hilarious picture of a cat will not.
And most importantly, don’t create orphan pages; pages that are not internally linked anywhere.
4. Footer links are to be kept at a minimum
One type of link that gets close to no attention by the search engines are the footer links. Sure, they are good from an internal navigation purpose but that is about it. You should thus try to keep the bottom based links at a minimum.
5. Do not use images as links
As the search engines try to crawl everything on your website, your task is to make it as easy as possible for them. This is the reason why you should not use images (excluding banners) as links. Proper text is much easier for the spiders to read. Another quite common mistake that designers tend to make is embedding much of the important content in Flash, which search spiders obviously will not be able to read. While Google has begun to read websites based in Flash, it is not a good idea to have a site that cannot be searched.
6. Keep the URLs friendly
Not only your domain name and onsite content should be optimised for keywords. Make sure that you implement the same strategy for ALL of your URL strings as it is a great way of increasing your ranking on search engines.
7. Use the noarchive and noindex tags
8. Social bookmarking
Social bookmarking is beneficial for search engines as well as for the visitors. Since the bookmarks are saved to the web, instead of to your browser, they are easily shared with friends – good for all parties involved. Be careful though, many plugins for social bookmarking have 100 links that pop up and they can break the external link count of a page. Too many external links devalues all the links on a page, so make those social bookmarking icons “nofollows.”
9. Do not overuse Ajax
For some reason many developers and designers seem to feel as if they have to impress their visitors and implement Ajax features all over the place. Big mistake. Ajax will not get indexed by search engines and your visitors will not be able to send the page to their friends, as the URL does not reload.
10. Stick to Your Keywords
Pick a few keywords or phrases that describe your site. Use them, and words related to them, whenever it’s natural to do so. Repeating them uselessly is no good (rule Zero), use them in sentences, headlines, and links.
11: Content is King
Users don’t search for design, they search for content. If your site doesn’t have content people want, no one will look at it.
Every page on your site should follow the Inverted Pyramid. Each page should lead with a relevant H1 tag with one of your keywords, and the first paragraph of text should be a summary of the rest of the page.
12: Clean Code is Searchable Code
Build your sites in a text editor, and write clean, human-readable HTML. The HTML should follow the conceptual structure of the page, navigation first, followed by the H1 tag, then the first paragraph, etc. Try to use descriptive tags when possible. Use UL for lists, P for paragraphs, H tags for heads and subheads, and STRONG for bolded text. Don’t overuse Divs.
Your site can still be artistic and cool, that’s what CSS is for.
13: The Home Page is the Most Important Page
Your home page is the key to your site being found by search engines. It should summarize the rest of the site, and give a clear, compelling reason for a user to look at the other pages in the site.
14: Title Tags for the Win
Every page in your site should have a title with the site name and a short description of the page. About 60 letters total. Include a keyword. Remember that the page title is what appears in search results, it should give users a clear reason to click on it.
Your navigation links should have title attributes that match the titles of your pages. This looks like <a title=”name of page” href=”link”>. It’s a small thing, but it will give you a significant SEO improvement.
15: Alt Tags Matter
Every image on your site should have an alt tag. Especially images that are relevant to the page. If your page is focused on CSS tricks, labelling a screenshot “example of rounded CSS corners” will improve your page’s findability. Labelling it “screenshot” or “image” will do the opposite.
16: Ignore Most Meta Tags
A long time ago meta tags were the secret to SEO. Those days are gone. The only meta tag that really matters now is the description tag. Search engines may use it to provide the text under the link to your page in their results. Make sure it describes the page in a way that explains why a user searching for your content would want to look at your page.
17: Have a Site Map
Make sure you have a site map. This is an xml file that describes the structure of your page. Make one, and give it to Google.