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SEO Best Practices


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The following are the best practices outlined by Google to make it easier for search engines to both crawl and index site content. This article is based on Google's Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide (pdf). Please note that search engine optimization effort affects only organic search results, not paid or "sponsored" results, such as Google AdWords.

Optimizing Title Tag

A title tag tells both users and search engines what the topic of a particular page is. The "title" tag should be placed within the "head" tag of the HTML document. Titles should be unique for each page on your site. The title should accurately describe the focus of that particular page and, also, might include your site or business name.

Optimizing Description Meta Tag

A page's description meta tag gives Google and other search engines a summary of the page's content. Whereas a page's title may be a few words or a phrase, a page's description meta tag might be a sentence or two or a short paragraph. Description meta tags are important because Google might use them as snippets for your pages. Description meta tags should accurately summarize the page's content.

Optimizing URL Structure

Creating descriptive categories and filenames for the documents on your Web site can not only help you keep your site better organized, but it could also lead to better crawling of your documents by search engines. Also, it can create easier, "friendlier" URLs for those who want to link to your content. Visitors may be intimidated by extremely long and cryptic URLs that contain few recognizable words. It is suggested that you use words in URLs.

HTML Sitemap Page

It is recommended to use an HTML sitemap page on your site. A simple sitemap page, with links to all of the pages or the most important pages on your site, can help search engines to discover the pages on your site.

404 Page

Users will occasionally come to a page that doesn't exist on your site, either by following a broken link or typing in the wrong URL. Having a custom 404 page that kindly guides users back to a working page on your site can greatly improve a user's experience. Your 404 page should probably have a link back to your root page and could also provide links to popular or related content on your site.

Optimizing Page Content

Creating compelling and useful content will likely influence your Web site more than any of the other factors discussed here. Users know good content when they see it and will likely want to direct other users to it. When you write content, 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.

Optimizing Heading tags

Heading tags are used to present structure on the page to users. There are six sizes of heading tags, beginning with "h1", the most important, and ending with "h6", the least important. Since heading tags typically make the text contained in them larger than normal text on the page, this is a visual cue to users that this text is important and could help them understand something about the type of content underneath the heading text. Multiple heading sizes are used in order to create a hierarchical structure for your content, making it easier for users to navigate through your document.

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