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Evaluate your Website

Try your best to be objective. If you were coming to your website for the first time, what would you think of it? How does it make you feel? Irritated? Overwhelmed? Calm? Happy?

There are a lot of things that can contribute to these emotions, such as overall design, colors, fonts, navigation, and images.

Your goal — Take 30 minutes and jot down some things you notice. Consider:

  • Where your eye goes to first
  • If the company contact information is easily found
  • If the site loads fast or slow
  • If the product or service information is up to date
  • Whether the navigation bar makes sense or not
  • Broken links

There. That was easy. Now you have to decide what to do about it. I suggest asking a friend or perfect stranger to evaluate your site too. Someone who is honest and you trust. Because sometimes we think something looks good, but we’re wearing rose colored glasses.

Once you have a second or even third opinion, it may or may not be time for a re-design.

Website Accessibility

Site owners should periodically verify that the site is completely accessible for both search engine spiders as well as users.

Robots.txt, for example, can be useful at times when you do not want a page to be indexed, but accidentally marking pages to block the spider will damage rankings and traffic.

Brands should also look closely at their Javascript coding to ensure that the vital information for the website is easily discoverable. Since customers also regularly complain about error messages and sites failing to load, brands should be checking for 404 pages and related errors.

Given that more searches now occur on mobile than desktop, and the impending switch to a mobile-first index on Google, brands should also ensure that any content published is constructed for mobile usage.

When speaking about the user experience, visitors themselves also pay a considerable amount of attention to load speeds. Brands should optimize for load speeds, watching site features such as cookies and images, that can slow down pages when not used correctly.

Things to do to improve your site’s accessibility:

  • Check that robots.txt is not blocking important pages from ranking
  • Make sure the robots.txt contains the sitemap URL
  • Verify that all important resources, including JS and CSS are crawlable
  • Find and fix any 404 errors
  • Check that all content, including videos, plays easily on mobile
  • Optimize for load speed

Do not use single word keywords

Single keywords words cannot be promoted effectively.

For example, it is not likely that someone looking for “free accounting software download” is going to type just “software” into the search box.

Avoid the most popular keyword phrases because you’ll be competing with millions of other pages for a search engine’s attention. It is unrealistic to think that a new website could rank number one on a popular phrase like “mp3”. More established companies who have been on the Internet for several years will have the big advantage of a high link popularity.

People who whose multiple word keywords are in the compare or buying phase. They are more likely to purchase goods or services than those using fewer words (source: Oneupweb Research).

Create an XML Website Google Friendly Sitemap

You’ll want to make sure search engines know what’s going on with your website. That’s where sitemaps come in handy — particularly XML sitemaps.

What is a WordPress XML Sitemap?

Sitemap is a list of pages on a website that is accessible to all users. An XML sitemap is a way for website owners to tell search engines about all the pages that exist on their website. WordPress XML sitemap also tells search engines which links on your website are more important than others and how frequently you update your website. While sitemaps do not boost your search rankings, it allows search engines to better crawl your website.

Why You Need an XML Sitemap

From a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) point of view sitemaps are extremely important. First we would like to clearly state that adding a sitemap does not affect search rankings. However, if there is some page on your site that is not indexed, then sitemap provide you a way to let search engines know about that page, so it can be indexed properly.

Sitemaps are very useful for new websites and blogs. As most new blogs usually don’t get many backlinks to their individual posts, it becomes harder for search engines to discover all of their posts and pages. Sitemaps allow those websites to help search engines crawl their sites more efficiently.

For popular websites, sitemaps allow your website to interact with search engines more effectively. Search engines can guess how often your site is updated, which parts of your website are more frequently updated than others, set crawl rate for your site, etc. This improves the overall visibility of your site to search engines.

An XML Sitemap is not to be confused with the HTML sitemap. The former is for the search engines, while the latter is mostly designed for human users (although it has other uses t00).

XML Sitemap serves two purposes:

  1. This helps search engines find your site’s pages more easily.
  2. Search engines can use the sitemap as a reference when choosing canonical URLs on your site.

Picking a preferred (canonical) URL becomes necessary when search engines see duplicate pages on your site, as we saw above.

So, as they don’t want any duplicates in the search results, search engines use a special algorithm to identify duplicate pages and pick just one URL to represent the group in the search results. Other web pages just get filtered out.

Now, back to sitemaps. One of the criteria search engines may use to pick a canonical URL for the group of web pages is whether this URL is mentioned in the website’s sitemap.

So, what web pages should be included in your sitemap? For purely SEO reasons, it’s recommended to include only the web pages you’d like to show up in search. You should include a more comprehensive account of your site’s URLs within the HTML sitemap.

Website Structure

Navigation throughout the website should also be a main priority.

Look at the organization of the site’s pages and how easily customers can get from one part of the site to another. The number of clicks it takes to get to a desired location should be minimized.

Many sites find it to be convenient to build websites using a taxonomy hierarchy. Creating clear categories of pages can help websites organize their content while also reducing the number of steps that visitors must go through to adequately engage with the brand.

As you explore your site navigation, also verify how well the pages have been interlinked so that prospective customers engaging with one piece of content are easily led to other material that they will likely enjoy. Check also for orphan pages and other content that might be hard to find. The key to a strong site structure is to consider the user experience so that useful material can be found intuitively.

Things to do to ensure your site structure is optimized:

  • Create a hierarchy that ensures important pages are 3 clicks from the home page or less
  • Uncover orphan pages and either delete them or add them to the site hierarchy
  • Check links for broken or redirects and repair them

Assessing URL Structure

Our URL has an underlining effect on the entire SEO campaign. The first aspect which needs to be taken care of is the existence or non-existence of extraneous characters— including the likes of #, @, % and a few more.

Having these characters in between the URL name reduces the overall focus on the existing keywords. In case, we need to use at least one or few of these characters— it is advisable to bring in dashes and underscores for highlighting a keyword phrase. This is turn is expected to improve SERP rankings.

The next important factor is the URL length. As mentioned, most of the successful streaming websites have smaller names which in turn makes it easier for users to pronounce or remember the same. If detailed reports are to be believed, the top 100 URLs have an average of 38 characters with the nominal limit being somewhere in the ballpark of 36 characters.

A perfectly structured website is probably the first step towards a successful SEO campaign. If we are to segregate the process of website creation, conceptualization will surely preside over other acts. Once we are done with planning, each of the five mentioned strategies needs to be applied in a step pronged manner.

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