The latest version of the algorithm not only ties in over-optimization and site speed, but stresses the importance of having fresh unique content. So when building a new site or optimizing a current one, it’s important to know what on-site factors can have a strong impact on your rankings and what carries less weight.
So the next time you perform a site audit, be sure to take extra consideration and know where your efforts are being focused.
Here’s a list of the most common items looked at during a site audit and where they fall on the importance scale:
- Unique Content
Google’s Panda update mixed with the Freshness update has caused a need for fresh, unique content. If you can’t provide fresh content and start copying and pasting from another site, you’re going to get penalized.
- Keyword in Title Tag
The keyword in the title tag is a must-have, but you’ll need to tread lightly. I’ve seen with current sites I work on that if you have your keyword in the Title Tag, URL, content as well as alt text synchronized, then you are going to get knocked.
I’m not saying use irrelevant keywords, but focus on using synonyms and semantic keywords.
- Correct Canonical Tags
Rel=”canonical” was established to point search bots to index the correct content when a page had a several versions of the same URL (example.com is the same as www.example .com) or the same content on similar pages (www.example.com/autos/sedans/ could be the same as www.example.com/autos/type=sedan/).
Either way, if this tag is incorrect, your page isn’t going to rank.
- Site Speed
I feel site speed has become an important ranking factor. There have been a few sites as well as individual pages I had that weren’t ranking until we boosted the load times.
- Internal Links
Look at it this way, your site is your country, pages are the states and links are the roads that connect them. It’s going to be very difficult to get to New York from California if there’s not a road linking them together.
The same goes for your internal pages and links. You want to make it easy for your users to navigate your site. This includes internal linking and breadcrumbs.
- Keywords in Internal Anchor Text
No matter what anyone tells you, anchor text is important, especially for internal links. You want to be descriptive and use anchor text that hits the general keyword term you are going for.
- Keywords in H1
As always, keywords in you H1 tags are important. Keep the keywords towards the front and don’t keyword stuff, it’s not going to get you anywhere.
- Fresh Content
Google’s freshness update made it known that fresh content was going to get priority. Think about it, would you trust an SEO article on ranking factors if it were written in 2003?
- Content Above the Fold
Over and over again we have heard to keep your important content above the fold and that’s not changing. Just look at your in-page analytics and see how many people actually scroll down and click on your links below the fold.
- Keyword in URL
Having the keyword in the URL is definitely an important factor. Exact match URL queries are hard to beat and they also immediately tell the search bot what the page is about.
- Keyword Density
A month or two ago, keyword density would fall more under minimal importance; however, after Google announced their over-optimization penalties, I would have to bump this up some. There’s no really right number here, but I would recommend keeping your keyword density around 1-4 percent.
- Alt Text
Search bots can’t see a picture, so you need to tell them what they’re crawling. Alt text also shows up when your photo won’t load. This helps you rank for your keywords, but if you just keyword stuff here, you’re hurting yourself more than helping.
- Content Density
You need to be writing content that has some guts. How trustworthy would it look if WebMD articles were only 100 words long and barely covered their topic?
- Broken Link
If a search bot crawls your site and finds many broken links, they are going to devalue your site. Just as if a person was to go through your site and couldn’t navigate anywhere because all the navigation links were broken.
- HTML Code
You want to make sure your HTML code can easily be read and that there are no errors on your page. You can do this through markup validators like W3C HTML Validator.
This is all a light overview of what you should be focusing on, but always remember, don’t chase the algorithm, if anything, chase the user experience.