There are more advanced technical options that can be added on to a website and we'll cover those in another post. For now, we're focusing on the changes that you can make now, without any support from us to make sure you're getting the best out of your website.
A lot of this is covered in the content guide that we provide our clients with during a website project. If you can't track yours down, give your Account Manager a shout and they can share it with you again.
1. Page Titles
The page title you set when you create a page on a website is often used in several different places so it's important to get it right and make sure it's clear and useful. The title will appear on the page, in the page url, in the menu, on any signposts linking to the page (from your own site and from social media and other offsite sources).
All of these different uses of the page title are signals that are picked up by search engines and as such it's important to include relevant keywords where you can.
Drupal tip: Since space is often at a premium in navigations and menus, Drupal has a feature which allows you to specify a different 'menu link title' to balance these two conflicting needs. This allows you to call a page 'About The Best Theatre in the World' and just have 'About Us' appear in the menu without losing any SEO juice.
Your page title should be clear and descriptive and if it's too long to fit into a menu or navigation then use the 'menu link title' field to display an abbreviation in those locations.
A small detail - since the spaces in the page title will be converted into dashes in the url, try not to use any dashes for any other purpose. Usually a colon will work to replace the dash and will give you a much tidier and easier to read url.
2. Meta description
The meta description is the little bit of blurb that displays under the page title and site name on a search result. If it's not filled in then you may find that the body copy will usually be used instead but it may get cut off mid...
Drupal tip: The body text field on a page is accompanied by a summary field. It's not always on display by default, sometimes you need to click on 'view summary' to see the field. But it is important to fill this in.
Sometimes, this is used on the site as a teaser to encourage people to click to the page. It's always used as the meta description for the page.
To avoid that happening, you can fill in the summary with something pithy and enticing to make sure people click through to your site to find out more.
3. Headings and Typography
This is covered in the content guide that we provide to our clients during a project. Here's a quick recap if you don't have one of those to hand.
In the toolbar at the top of the text field you'll see a dropdown with different heading set in it. Usually you'll have a choice of heading 2, heading 3 (possibly even a 4 or 5!)and normal/paragraph. You might have something about blockquote as well.
When starting a new section on a page, use one of the headings defined in the dropdown rather than just using bold or italics. These headings are picked up as signals by search engines and can contribute to your search rank. Using bold does nothing and from an accessiblity point of view it can often make copy harder to read. So use headers.
The headings have been specifically designed to draw the readers eye to them to make it easy to spot. Some developers might also give you the ability to apply an h1 style but it's not advised that you use this. For SEO purposes you should only have the h1 tag used once on a page so if you apply it to other headers you may be causing yourself problems.
If you don't like your headers, or you need more, or you've lost your content guide - give your web designers/developers a bell.
4. Anchor Text
Anchor text is the text that links to something else. For example, if I were to invite you to contact us then the anchor text is the red text you see. Search engines do pick up on what's written in the anchor text compared to the link behind it. So if they anchor text includes keywords or phrases then that will help add value over time.
Anchor text is also often read by screenreaders so plays an important role in meeting accessibility requirements. Make sure that your anchor text is descriptive. To see if it's useful, read it outloud to a colleague and ask if they'd understand what was about to happen.
5. Alt Text
I'm putting this in text because it often gets forgotten about during image editing. This is descriptive text that appears if an image cannot be loaded. It's also often read out via screen readers so it's another incidence where good SEO supports your accessibility. It's especially important if the image also acts as a link.
This little bit of text is there in place of an image so it should clearly describe what the image is. In many cases, that will include a key word or two by default.
6. Duplicate Text
Now this is a tricky one for some of our clients. Google downgrades duplicate content. It's unclear to what extent this happens so we can't say exactly how much to change to make it unique.
Touring shows will often provide a venue with a set bit of copy to promote a show. If you can, adapt it to make sure that it's unique to you and makes some sort of reference to your location. If someone is googling a show, they are likely to want to look for venues near them so that could help you get a better ranking.
Generally the copy should be as long as it needs to be. People don't read online in the same way that they read print.
So keep things concise, clear and straightforward. But don't be abrupt. Some SEO advisers recommend around 200 words as a minimum for page copy but it's not a hard and fast rule.
This is another one that we cover in our content guides. Files should be named to the following convention to reduce technical problems and to improve SEO. The library in Drupal allows you to search by file name as well so following this will help you find files at a later date if you need to.
- use full words
- use a - instead of a space
- do not use any special characters - just letters, numbers and dashes
So, for example, that would give you tincan-goes-to-the-moon.jpg. Search engines recognise the convention of using a dash to replace a space.
Large file sizes slow down page loads. Page speed is one of the factors taken into account in building SERPs (search engine results pages). This is simply because users abandon pages if they load slowly so it's not useful for search engines to direct their users to slow sites.
You can help to keep the page speed snappy by making sure your files aren't too big. In the content guide we provide, we outline both the pixel size and the filesize that you should be aiming for depending on how/where the image is going to be used.
10. Set up webmaster tools
You may have noticed that Google Analytics gives you very little data indeed about the search terms people used to get to your site. It's been this way ever since they started encrypting search and now about 90% of the terms are usually hidden.
If you set up Webmaster Tools though, you will have access to more of this info. You will also be able to see what terms you rank well for and who is linking to what on your site. This can help you spot what's working well and identify areas that need more attention. This one's a bit of a cheat because you may need a little bit of help from your friendly web developer to verify your account but it's a quick and easy task compared to other work.
11. Check your 404 errors
Drupal shows you the url that someone was attending to access when they hit your 404 error page. You can find a breakdown of this in your CMS or in your Google Analytics (go to Behaviour > Site Content > All Pages and search for 404).
This will help you identify any redirects that you might need to set up to help customers get where they want to go.
12. Sitemap / Information Architecture (IA)
One of the considerations in developing a sitemap is to help with SEO. That's one of the reasons why it forms part of the 'architecture' of your site.
Your sitemap will define the relationships between different pages on your site and will have some sort of hierarchy. This heirarchy is reflected in the urls that each page has and this can be interpreted by the search engine.
For example, our clients Eastbourne Theatres and Reading Arts are both organisations which run multiple venues. Looking at the analytics we found that most people searched for a particular venue rather than the organisation's name. On similar sites we've seen examples where a user would come into an information page about how to get to the venue but it might be tricky to get to the events listing for this page.
These two sites have slightly different approaches. On each of them though, if you search for a particular venue you will come to a tailored landing page rather from which users can explore the venue. Have a go - try searching for 'South Street Reading' or 'Devonshire Park Theatre'.
All this means that if you're adding a new page at any point, you need to think carefully about where in the site the content belongs best. Bear in mind also that this structure has designed with your site users in mind. Identifying which persona this content is for can also help you work out where it needs to go. If it doesn't obviously belong anywhere that currently exists then you need to rethink the structure.
Organisations rarely remain the same forever, a new product, programme, season or leadership may required changes to your IA to help you best meet your audiences needs. So if you're stuck, chat to your Account Manager or your website developer.
Google's own Webmaster Guidelines gives tips on what to focus on and what to avoid.
Search Engine Land is a great resource. Our top reads are currently:
The Periodic Table of SEO Success Factors from Search Engine Land gives you an overview of various aspects of SEO