Basic SEO – DIY SEO for free

English: Tools

English: Tools (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you manage a site or a blog, you probably received at least one email from an SEO company, offering you their services. But do you really need an SEO professional? If you never did any optimization on your site before, here’s the good news: there are a couple of important DIY SEO  tweaks you can do yourself – for free.  It will help your site be the most search engine-friendly it can be.

Let’s look at them in detail.

Title tag

This is the single most important factor of on-page optimization. If you are on the home page of your site with a browser like Firefox or Safari, the title tag is the text appearing at the very top, sometimes in the tab of the open page. If you look at the HTML of the page, it’s the text between the <title></title> markers.

In the Home page, the title tag is the first thing that search engines get to know about your site when they crawl it, so it has to describe what it is about in an accurate and natural way. Remember however, that only 70 characters are normally displayed in search results, so you will need ability to wordsmith it to come up with something short, descriptive and appealing.

Products page. Take a look now at the title tag of your products page: is it the same as the home page? If that’s the case, it needs to be changed. Again, search engines use the title tag to figure out what the page is about and they assume that each one has different content, hence different titles are required. To sum up: when it comes to title tags, duplicates are frowned upon, and the more specific the better. If you find it difficult to come up with a detailed title for your products page, chances are that you need to further divide them into sub-categories, and this brings us to the next important SEO factor.

More info about Title Tags on our SEO FAQ’s page.

Site structure

Search engines like sites with simple and linear structures. The assumption is: if they are easy to crawl for them, they’re easy to browse for the visitors, and user experience is paramount. As a good rule of thumb (given by Google) for DIY SEO, each page of your site should be no more than three clicks away from your Home page.  Figure it out by laying out your sitemap on paper or a mind mapping tool.

The mother of all sitemaps?

The mother of all sitemaps? (Photo credit: hungrybrowser)

Sitemap

Whenever the structure of your site makes it difficult to search engines to craw all the pages, then a sitemap will do the trick. Simply put, it’s a list of all the pages of your website: once you have it in place, the search engine will easily find every single piece of content. Especially for WordPress users, sitemaps can be easily generated and updated with the use of specific plugins.  (Leave us your favorite in the comments.)

Meta descriptions

Search results are always displayed with a description right underneath the link. These short summaries are called meta descriptions, and are the first thing users look at, when they decide if the link is worth clicking or not. Although they’re not a ranking factor (and Google will not necessarily show them in search results), if compelling and clear, meta descriptions will likely boost your click-through rate.

Use SEO Mofo’s SERP tool to check what your meta will look like in Google.

Images

Whether you sell products or services, or you simply have a blog, your site needs images. Not only because visual aids make content more interesting, but also because they have now become one of the quality signals that search engines use to separate the wheat of legit sites from the chaff of spammy content.  Google has recently introduced changes to the way images are displayed in search results, which have reduced their importance as traffic source.  However, there is a detail that remains important: the ALT tag, which is the only piece of text attached to the image, that search engines actually crawl. Although it won’t necessarily boost your rankings, a well-phrased ALT tag will be a chance to include an extra keyword in the text of the page.

Site speed limit, Canna industrial estate

Site speed limit, Canna industrial estate (Photo credit: macspite)

Speed

There is actually another important factor to take into account when it comes to images, and that’s their size, as that affects loading speed, and speed is important. Again, this is related to user experience: when we click on a link and the page takes forever to load, we tend to bounce back. There are different ways in which site speed can be improved, and some of them are quite technical, but you can start right now, by optimizing your images and making sure that the size you upload is the one you want on the page. If you upload a huge image and then let your CMS do the resizing, your server will still have to deal with the size of the original, and more pixels need more bandwidth.

That is what we recommend to everyone as some simple, free SEO tips for DIY SEO – before you hire an SEO consultant, check out these simple but important SEO tasks.

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