One of my favorite things about search is that it is always evolving. For example, what used to be a focus on keyword “dense” content written specifically for the search engines has turned into quality content written for the user.
I also appreciate the fact that usability and SEO, once two separate entities have really started to come together. It makes my job more interesting, my clients more successful and the internet a better place (ok, I made that part up). That being said, I got to thinking about some tactics that benefit both usability and SEO.
Here is a list of 8 simple best practices than can help your site:
Overrated. Underrated. You be the judge. Either way, the title tag is a simple way to let search engines and users know what your site is about. It should be concise, describe the page and make the user want to click.
Ex: Search “Celtics Shirts”
Good Title Tag:
Poor Title Tag:
Page headings tell the user where they are and what the page is about. They can also show the search engines the most important keyword on the page. An H1 tag is typically given the most importance with an H2 right behind it.
Ex: “Virus Information”
Breadcrumb Trail Navigation
Breadcrumb navigation can be good and bad all at the same time. It helps users easily navigate back to a page or section and it also gives search engines an additional means to crawl a page. If done right it can be a valuable asset, however if done incorrectly, breadcrumb navigation can result in page duplication.
Cross Links/Anchor Text
Adding cross links to the appropriate text can help spiders crawl the site, provide keyword relevance and help users to convert. Good anchor text lets users know what they are clicking into and may or may not help your rankings for specific keyword. Even so, cross linking can be beneficial.
Breaking up Large Pages
There is nothing that drives me away from a page faster then seeing a long page of text and only text (or loads of Adwords but that’s another story). Especially when I am looking for something in particular.
You may think a lot of text helps rankings but it may be more beneficial to break up those pages into sub-pages. This in turn creates more “targeted” content. It also makes it much easier for users to find what they are looking for.
Most people know that a sitemap is a best practice when it comes to search engine optimization (And no, I’m not talking about a Google sitemap). Just a regular sitemap that can help search engines crawl the site and users locate what they are looking for.
The sitemap is typically linked from the footer or the top of the page. Here are a couple of good resources for creating a sitemap:
404 Error Page
Mainly for usability purposes but also for search engines, a custom 404 error page can help users and spiders navigate back to the site when they reach a broken page. Set up a 404 page that looks like the rest of your site, apologizes for the inconvenience and directs the person on their way. Of course you could always just be funny.
When it comes to usability ALT text is mainly recommended for accessbility issues. When it comes to search, ALT text is becoming more important with the integration of images into search results. Make sure to include ALT text that describes the image in as succinct a way as possible. Ex:
Good Example: Adidas Celtics Sweatshirt
Bad Example: Adidas Sweatshirt
Those are just a few small things that can benefit both users and a search engine optimization campaign. Also check out SEOMoz’s post on ‘Do Little Things in SEO Make a Difference?‘ for some good discussion points.