Simple SEO For Web Developers (AKA The Web Developer’s SEO Checklist Part II)

I made a post when I first started blogging with an SEO Checklist for Web Developers.  I recently reviewed the list, noticing that while all those things are great to remember, sometimes it’s the simple parts of SEO we forget.

I also decided to write this post after thinking about office alignment.  Ahh, alignment, a term I grew sick of all through college (and one of my professors in particular, I’m sure, would be ecstatic to know I noticed it in the real world).  I realized that even though I work in an office of only eight people and our work constantly overlaps, we sometimes forget the effects our roles have on others’ work.

I, for example, forget that even though I have knowledge about so-called “easy” SEO best practices, not everyone I work with knows them.  So here are some major points to remember (and I apologize for any repeats from other posts):

  • Use hyphens (-) NOT underscores (_).  It seems to have been handed down from the old school programming and web developing generation to tech gurus today that underscores should be used.  Don’t use them!
    Search engines see hyphens as a space (example-page is example page) and underscores as no space (example_page is examplepage).
  • Keyword rich domain name.  There is debate about this – some say a domain name doesn’t matter as long as you can say it out loud and someone can easily spell it back to you (which is very true).  But I say – why not make it keyword rich while you’re at it?!  (While also remembering other domain rules: short, sweet, and memorable.)
  • Title URLs intuitively.  When creating secondary and tertiary pages, make sure they make sense!  For example, NOT category2/animal12.html, BUT marsupials/kangaroo.html.
  • Titles/Headers/Meta-descriptions.  These should all be keyword rich, unique, and accurate portrayals of what is on each individual page.  However, I caution you: these become difficult to create when a keyword analysis has not been done.
  • Links. Links should be those important points web users will want to click on.  Links should have keyword rich anchor text, not a simple “click here”.  Also, try to use as many text-based links as you can; if images are necessary, use keyword rich alt tags.
  • To have a site map or not to have a site map? I wrote in the original Web Developer’s Checklist that yes, you do need a site map.  This is another SEO conundrum.  What I’ve heard most recently is that site maps are important for large sites (retail, especially – with a ton of products).
  • Directories…do I submit? Every SEO has his/her own opinion about this one too.  In my mind, you should absolutely submit a client to niche directories for their specific industries – especially a free directory.  Also, submitting to a well known directory like DMOZ never hurts either – it’s free!  I’ve heard it’s also good for new sites, especially, to buy a $299 for a Yahoo! directory listing.  Since you have to pay this fee every year, why not have the link for the first year for getting started??
  • Most importantly…(drum roll, please)…design sites for web users AND search engines.  Site design and development is an art, and should be treated as one.  However, try not to get caught up in the fever that is making a website beautiful instead of the web user’s pleasure of a site being functional.

I’d like to add that SEO is most successful when done before and during a website’s existence.  Therefore, this list should really only be necessary when a site is built without optimization being done simultaneously.

Nicki Hicks
Advocate for Alignment

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