SEO mini guide

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization or how you can get optimal search results for your website. Clients ask me sometimes what I can do to make their website score better in the search results. With the current complexity of search engines algorithms, there is no easy answer. I will try to provide a summary for that answer with dozens of links to more reputable websites. I am a developer, not an SEO specialist. However, I did learn a lot over the years.

Search engines try to get their users the most relevant/valuable information. For this, they use complex algorithms to determine the relevance and popularity of a webpage, document, image, ... The information is based on hundreds of factors. Here are in my opinion some of the most important and what you can do to improve the traffic to your site:

  1. Content
  2. Backlinks
  3. Social Buzz
  4. Organic Search Traffic
  5. HTTPS encryption
  6. Page Speed

1. content

The most important part is obviously the content on your website. Good content is after all what sets your website apart from the competitors. If your website has little valuable information, chances are you will not score very high. What is valuable content? For a search engine, it's content where there is a demand for.
The order and structure of the content is also important to determine what and how important each piece of information is.

What you can do.

  • Add content. Write about your field of expertise. Offer something of value that people are interested in.
  • Pages with lots of content score better then short pages.
  • Avoid duplicate content!
  • Regularly add or change content. Search engines love frequently updated content.
  • The title of your page (in the browser) is extremely important.
  • The HTML title tags h1, h2, h3, ... are also important. Make sure your main header tag (h1) has the most important information.
  • Avoid links like index.php?id=4&cat=15, instead use readable links.
  • Use the meta description tag for a unique description. This will be shown in the search results.
  • Use a sitemap, especially if some of the pages on your website are hidden.
  • Use structured data. Useful to help the search engines to better understand the content your website.
  • Correct use of semantic HTML5 tags. Alt attributes of image tags and title attributes of links are other ways to add information and to help search engines to better understand your content.
  • Write valid code. Afterwards test it with a Markup Validation Service.
  • Place your most valuable content (logo, company name, ...) at the top of the page.

3. social buzz

When a page appears a lot in tweets, Facebook posts or on other social media (Pinterest, LinkedIn, Reddit...), this is usally a sign for search engines that the page is valuable.

What you can do.

  • Post on social media with content that people are interested in.

4. organic search traffic

How many times do visitors reach your site from the (unpaid) search results.

What you can do.

Unfortunately, there is not much that you can do, except make your search results stand out so people click more on them.

  • Write captivating titles since this will be the first things people read.
  • Use the meta description tag for an inviting and unique description. This will be shown in the search results.
  • Do not use a click farm :)

5. HTTPS encryption

Google now recommends using HTTPS encryption. At the moment, it is not a strong factor but over time, it will probably become more important.

What you can do.

  • Get a free certificate through a service like let's encrypt or buy a commercial one. Install it on your web server and redirect all http request to https..

6. page speed

Does your page take a long time to load? This will most likely have a negative influence on how Google ranks your page. Especially when on mobile!

What you can do.

  • Use a good hosting company
  • Use server caching
  • Optimize your images (vector based if possible)
  • Concat and minimize your css and javascript files
  • More advice at Google's PageSpeed insights.

Tip: Do not try to fool the search engines. They are rather smart.