A Practical Guide to SEO

May 25, 2021

Point of View

SEO should be focused on quality, relevant content that is designed to be equally usable by humans and search engines.

Search engines expect information with a certain structure. Humans do too, even if it’s not as formulaic. The best future-proof SEO strategy involves a focus on the user and what will best satisfy her/his needs. 

The Pillars of Strong SEO Strategy

Technically-Sound 

Performant, accessible, and data-rich (meta, schema.org, alt text).

Brand-Supported 

Clear messaging and unique value.

Landscape-Aware

Unique value and long tail opportunity.

Human-Centric

Usable design and relevant content.

SEO Checklist

Page Titles

  • Ensure that every page has a unique title.
  • A page title should reflect the content of the content of the page and include keywords written in natural language. Do not force extra keywords where unnatural.
  • Titles are displayed in search results, on social channels, and in the tab at the top of web browsers.
  • Keep these to 50-60 characters wherever possible (Google generally displays the first 50-60 characters of a page title depending on the width of the characters, so users may not see what you intend for them to see).
  • Primary Keyword - Secondary Keyword | Brand Name is a good general convention.
  • Product Name - Product Category | Brand Name is a good convention for products.

Meta Descriptions

  • Ensure that every page has a unique description. Duplicate descriptions are bad.
  • Generally, page descriptions should be between about 50 and 160 characters long.
  • They should use natural language that is intended to accurately summarize the page content and entice clicks.
  • Page descriptions do not factor into ranking, but can improve clickthrough, which does indirectly impact a page’s standing with Google.
  • Try to include action-oriented words at the beginning of the description.

Task: Perform keyword research to identify important long-tail keywords to include on all pages.
Task: Write meta descriptions for all pages, following best practices.

Alt Text

  • All images used on your site should have a non-visual text alternative. This allows users with screen readers to understand the content, and also gives better context for search engines.
  • If an image cannot be loaded, the alt text will show instead.
  • Alt text should be very descriptive:
    • Bad alt text: Puppy.
    • Good alt text: Golden retriever puppy rolling in the grass.

Task: Identify all images and write descriptive alt tags.

Anchor Text

  • This text is used to link to other pages. It should always be descriptive of its destination.
  • Avoid generic tags, such as “Learn More”.

Task: When writing copy, make sure to include a focus on calls-to-action.

Headings

  • Headers H1-H6 should be used to indicate hierarchy on a page.
  • Every page should have one (and only one) H1 tag. This is used as the page title.
  • Each subsequent header should delineate sections and sub-sections on the page. Multiple H2 - H6 tags can be used on a single page.

Task: When planning content, make sure to think about hierarchy and include proper headers.
Task: Ensure only one H1 exists per page.
Task: Ensure all markup reflects page hierarchy.

URLs

  • The URL of a page should reflect the hierarchy of the website and include human readable text.
  • Its text should describe the page.
  • Try to keep URLs under 75 characters where possible. If a content management system automatically generates titles for content such as blog posts, it’s especially important to review the length and manually adjust the URL if it is excessively long.
  • For example, /category/sub-category/product-name would be a good structure for a catalog with many products.

Task: Ensure URLs use plain language and avoid long character strings.
Task: Check URLs for length prior to launch.

Redirects

  • If a page is removed from a site or moved to another location, the URL should always be redirected to a new, relevant page.
  • This type of redirect should be a 301 redirect, which indicates to search engines that the page has permanently moved. It helps to avoid 404 errors.
  • This is especially important for website redesigns. All old URLs must be redirected to new pages in order to avoid a loss of search rankings.

Task: Create a list of all necessary redirects from the old site.
Task: Implement 301 redirects for any old URLs.

Duplicate Content

  • The content on every page should be unique from all other pages on the site.
  • Duplicate content harms search credibility, can confuse users, and “confuses” search engines regarding what is most important.

Rich Markup

Schema.org, Rich Snippets, Structured Data — all of these terms relate to additional markup that can be added in order to provide search engines (and social channels) with specific direction for displaying certain types of information.

It is particularly useful for product information and articles.

Task: Implement relevant schema.org data for products.
Task: Implement relevant schema.org data for blog posts.

Related Topics

Performance

Overall, a fast site is good for SEO. It improves the user experience and is becoming increasingly important in search rankings. There are many facets to ensuring a performant website, so specific documentation and review can be provided as necessary.

Accessibility

Accessibility and SEO go hand-in-hand. What is good for SEO is also good for Accessibility (and vice versa). Much of this also applies to performance. More specific documentation and review can be provided as necessary. To learn more about accessibility, check out our Accessibility Overview.

Task: Run automated performances and accessibility scans during the QA process.