Basic Search Engine Optimisation

date_range  24 December 2013

Getting websites recognized by search engines is a difficult task. It is by no means a science and I have found that there are no hard and fast rules for getting up to that top spot. In some cases it might be impossible. For instance a Google search for “James Dibble” is topped by a Wikipedia article about the late great ABC news presenter. Without paying for anything though I tend to float around 3rd or 4th just by using optimisation.

First off, your domain name is crucial. Starting with its content, having your brand name, and nothing but your brand name is important. The Top Level Domain (TLD), the last portion of the domain, should also be relevant to your location. If you are a UK only company, having a .co.uk domain could be better (and cheaper) for you than a .com and certainly better than a .au or .jp. One factor that you cannot get over is the age of the domain. A freshly registered domain is hard to get ranked upon. Google appreciates an older domain, so if you have a business you’re thinking of starting, buy up a domain for it now!

Second is making sure you have some of the basic HTML elements on every page. A title that succinctly describes the content of the page is a good start. I have always been recommended that a maximum of 75 characters is best. Another tip I’ve picked up is is to use dashes to separate things in the title. This is what Google themselves use so I tend to agree. The next thing is adding the basic sets of meta tags. I tend to always put these in as a starting point:

<meta name="Description">
<meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html;charset=utf-8" />
<meta charset="utf-8" />
<meta name="viewport" content="width=device-width, initial-scale=1.0" />

The first tag is the most important; adding a description of the page that just slightly expands on the title in less than 150 characters is essential. The other tags are just letting Google and therefore your clients browsers, how to decipher the HTML code. The last one (viewport) is tell tell mobile devices how to scale each pixel. Have a look here for a more detailed description.

The last thing is to make sure that your server-side code is helping out too. A really important step is to make sure that your domain can only be accessed with or without www. Not to say that if you go to jdibble.co.uk instead of www.jdibble.co.uk you get nothing, instead redirect permanently to the other address using the HTTP code 301. Google treats the pages as the same and therefore as duplicate (read as spam) content and therefore demotes it. There are far too many ways to avoid this across far too many platforms. For all you lovely ASP.Net developers you can use this in your Global.ascx.

protected void Application_BeginRequest(object sender, EventArgs e)
{
    const string properUrl = "http://www.jdibble.co.uk";
    const string nonWwwUrl = "http://jdibble.co.uk";
    string currentUrl = HttpContext.Current.Request.Url.ToString().ToLower();

    if (currentUrl.StartsWith(nonWwwUrl))
    {
        Response.Clear();
        Response.Status = "301 Moved Permanently";
        Response.AddHeader("Location", properUrl);
        Response.End();
    }
}

If I have to use code, I prefer to use this method, only because it stops all requests before they hit the MVC pipeline.

That rounds up all the things you can do without even writing any content to get your site off the ground and into search engines indexes. A great tool for checking you’ve ticked all the boxes is WooRank. Give it a go and let me know your before and after scores!

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