With organic search contributing to more than 50% of your website visits, it’s very important in today’s world that you have a search engine-friendly website. Of course your website should be designed with your human visitors in mind but to get them there you’ll need to focus on a few technical aspects of your website to get it to rank well in the search engines so they can even find it!
Here are some important factors for a search engine-friendly website:
Crawlable links + nofollow
Search engines use crawlers to view your website, understand it, and index it based on your keywords and content. In order to crawl your website you need links and a good link structure! Every page of your website should be linked to from either the homepage or other related pages. Now, don’t go making all the text on your site clickable or just list tons of links at the end of the page as this looks like spam to Google and they won’t rank your site favorably. But if you’re talking about your accommodations and packages on your homepage, it’s acceptable to link to those two other pages as they’re relevant and you want the crawlers to visit those pages and index them.
If pages on your site aren’t linked from your homepage, navigation, or other pages, they don’t exist to the crawlers and therefore they don’t exist to the search engines as they haven’t been indexed.
Sometimes you might develop a page that you’re not optimizing or that you don’t want the search engines indexing as it’s a temporary page or a page you only want your email subscribers getting to. You can add a rel=”nofollow” tag to your link which tells the crawlers to not follow that link or index it.
Indexable content and images
With the search engines crawling your links and understanding your site – it’s imperative that they be able to understand and index your content and images. Your content should more often than not be presented in HTML text – the content that both the crawlers and your human visitors are reading. If you do use Flash or Java plug-ins or have videos embedded on your site be sure to add supplementary HTML text around them to tell the crawlers what they’re missing.
Crawlers are getting better at understanding different elements on a page but they still have trouble when it comes to images as they don’t see them the same way we do. Alt text tags are used to tell the crawlers what an image is in plain text so they do understand how it relates to the content around it. Alt text should be viewed as simply saying what a photo is and not a chance to add additional keywords to your page. If it’s a photo of your property’s pool then that’s what your alt text should say it is.
For a visual idea of how crawlers see a site, use Google’s Web cache text-only feature. Here’s RezStream’s homepage as text-only and this is pretty much the information that Google’s crawlers get about our site based on the HTML text we use.
Your URL structure can also impact how your site ranks and the user experience. For example, would you rather see www.brand.com/package1 or www.brand.com/adventure-for-two-package in your address bar? We’d bet the second sounds more exciting and you actually have a few ideas of what the page is about when compared to the first option. Make sure your URLs are descriptive and give hints about the page’s content instead of just /package1 or /room2.
Keywords are very important to crawlers as that’s how they index pages and websites from around the web. Instead of grouping every single website in one database, crawlers identify keywords and content to group similar websites so when a searcher enters a keyword only those similar websites that relate to that keyword will be presented to the searcher.
You want to include your targeted keywords, perhaps something like Denver boutique hotel, in your content, title tag, and meta tag but you also don’t want to go overboard using the same keyword phrase fifty times on a page and look like spam. Abusing keywords can hurt your ranking in the long run. Use your targeted term near the top of your content and then use secondary and tertiary keyword terms that are similar to your targeted term throughout your content to broaden your keyword matches.
Think of your title tag as the title of an article – it should be a concise and clear description of the content below it. Your title tag should reflect what the page is about as it’s shown on search engine results and added when you share that page’s link on social media. You’ll have about 65 – 75 characters for your title tag and it should include a keyword, branding, and be compelling to encourage visitors to continue reading.
Meta descriptions are basically summaries of what the page is about and these also show up in search engine results. Keep them close to 150 characters, use a keyword, and use creative copy to encourage people to click your link rather than a competitors’.
Rich snippets help the search engines display a bit more data about your website, such as a star rating, pictures, products, and more. This data is also called schema and helps your website take up more real estate in the search engine’s results page and provides more information than typical results listings.