SEO’s and internet marketing professionals like to credit themselves with any and all of a customer website’s success in the search engine rankings. Most SEO professionals do work hard to promote the pages of clients and boost their position in the SERP’s but there are other influences at play. The fact that many SEO’s always seem to forget about is that the foundation to any SEO or internet marketing campaign is the website itself.
Before a successful online marketing campaign can begin, the customer website must be put through a series of checks to ensure its ability to rank well. If a website is not properly designed, and optimized for SEO, it can and will never rank on the search engines.
The first thing an SEO should do before considering taking on a client is to look at there website and make a first impression judgement of the site.
- How old is the domain?
- What kind of web platform is the client using?
- Is the site visually pleasing?
- Is the content quality and useful?
This first overview is very important, because if the website is in a poor state it will need to be updated and fixed before a SEO campaign can start. Clients that have chosen Java and Flash as the platform for their website will find it much harder to rank in the SERP’s than someone using a basic CMS like WordPress or Joomla. I usually try and convince customers to switch to a user friendly CMS in order to rank faster and easier in the SERP’s. Not only do these platforms rank better with the major search engines, but they also allow clients with very little computer knowledge the ability to make small changes on their own sites. Empowering the client is always a plus.
Once it has been established that a website has a firm foundation, there are a few basic SEO tips that need to be completed before a link building campaign can begin.
Sitemap creation and submission to the major search engines, Google, Yahoo, and Bing.
Sitemaps are a great way for bots to rapidly index the pages of your website. The information is available to them in a quick and easy to read manner. Sitemaps are a necessity.
Meta descriptions and titles
Not long ago people would stuff meta tags with keywords in order to rank better for those particular search terms that were spammed throughout the meta tags. This caused the search engines to de-value their significance in ranking websites. Many people feel that meta tags are no longer as important as they once were because of this change. However, I disagree because the meta description and title are what will appear in the search results. If your meta description is not something compelling that will drive traffic, you have lost the interest of potential customers by failing to create quality meta descriptions and titles. They are no longer used for manipulating rankings, but to simply attract the interest of people using the search engines.
HTML and crawl errors
Modern web browsers are extremely intelligent and because of this, they have decreased the severity of HTML errors on effecting SEO campaigns. If minor HTML errors are present on a website, most browsers can work around the problem. These errors will not have a negative effect on your rankings, however severe HTML problems will prevent a website from ranking well. Severe errors are distinguished by extremely slow load times and visual problems on the pages, ie upside down images, text in the wrong location, blank areas. HTML errors that cause these types of problems will have adverse effects on an SEO campaign.