search engine optimization — basics
Site Structure and Navigation
Site Structure and Navigation
One "top level" (literally) decision you will need to make is what the actual address of your site will be. You register example.com and your hosting site enables you to install WordPress using that domain. Not a problem so far. The address of your site is www.example.com. The recommended best practice is to use "example.com" as the definitive address and redirect users who enter "www.example.com". This seems confusing but implementing a solution is important for SEO. Google will track both addresses separately and this dilutes the traffic reports. The actual step-by-step for solving this varies depending on your web site host. Excellent instructions and a more complete discussion are available at Google Webmaster Central's discussion of "Preferred domain (www or non-www)." While this is more technical than other aspects of SEO, do not skip this. You only need to do this one time and the Google directions are well-written. You web host will also be familiar with this process and will be able to help.
Your site must be easy to navigate or users will leave. You will be amazed at the "bounce rate" when you begin to monitor user behavior on your site. The "bounce rate" is the count of users who arrive at a page on your site and leave without viewing any other information on your site. One of the best ways to help users find good related content in addition to the content at the page they land on is to provide clear navigation to other content on your site.
Here are specific site recommendations:
- Keep your site focused on a topic. Do not mix gardening information with a petition opposing the current American war(s).
- The number of pages is important. A site with 1 page on a topic does not rate as high as site with 10 pages on a topic. The amount of content you have to offer matters.
- The amount of text content on a page should be at least 200 words. Recommendations vary, but 500 words is a good target for word count.
- The growth of pages informs Google that your site is adding valuable content. If it makes sense, grow your site with additional pages over time. Ideally you should add some new content to your site every day.
- Avoid using subdirectories on your server for your content pages unless your site grows beyond a few dozen pages. Search engines consider pages in subdirectories less important.
- Focus each page on one keyword phrase. Adding more keywords dilutes the SEO value. Focusing on one keyword phrase will also help you better edit and target your content.
- Spend extra effort shapening your keyword phrase and all SEO element for your home page. This is most likely the page that will be highest in search and is a good gateway to your in-depth content.
- Use text links for your site navigation. Use keywords as your text link words. This clarifies the site navigation to users and gives additional SEO significance to the target page of the link. This also helps direct users to the key content that matches their interest.
- Do not use graphics for navigation. Graphics cannot be read by search engine bots.
- Add an HTML sitemap to help users navigate your site. This is in addition to the sitemap.xml file that you upload to help search engine bots index your site. XML-Sitemaps.com will generate both xml and html sitemaps for you automatically and for free if you have fewer than 500 pages. Here is an example of an HTML sitemap produced by the commercial tool Site Map Pro. Here is the sitemap for w3schools.com.
- Add a custom "404" Page that matches the look and feel of the rest of your site. Add the (free) Google 404 widget to your custom 404 page to provide visitors with useful ways to continue with your site.
- Add "breadcrumb navigation" to aid in site navigation.