Posted on January 29, 2013 by
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Getting some definitive answers in SEO can be a bit troublesome. There are so many factors involved when it comes to best practice. Factors include: the site, the domain, the server, how large the site is, the type and quality of content, frequency of content published, etc. Below is an example of some common questions we run into:

Can I use more than h1 on a page?

It is best to have just the one H1 on a page. Having more than 2 or 3 H1s across the site might lower the value of the main keywords you are after. Stuffing H1s with keywords might have some search engines getting suspicious.

Should I leave out the description meta tag?

Google, to a large degree, does ignore the meta description tag but it still displays them when appropriate. They are particularly useful for click through rates. A good description of your content will likely encourage visitors to click. If you are to use description tags make sure they are unique, relevant and inviting.

Should I use the Keywords meta tag?

Entirely up to you. There’s no harm in it. Some search engines still use them. If you do decide to use them do not spend too much time on them. Keep them short, sweet and relevant to the resource – 5-10 one word keywords separated by commas. Definitely stay away from keyword stuffing – repeating the same keyword is fruitless.

Do all image alt tags need to be populated and filled in?

No. For those using it for accessibility reasons or have images disabled, they really do not want to know every nook and cranny of a site. Just save the descriptive text for the most important images on a page. Again, be short, sweet and relevant. And if it is an internally linked image then definitely use the alt tag as if it were an anchor text link. Images that are used for layout purposes are best replaced by using css.

Tables or DIVs?

This one still pops up from time to time… DIVs. Tableless content has far more benefits. It is easier to maintain with reusable code, cleaner code, resulting in faster loading pages and likely to be more semantic as a result. Use tables for tabular data – not for styling. Check out an earlier post on the benefits of using semantic markup.

Should I use <b> or <strong>?

Both are acceptable for highlighting keywords in SEO. Although best practice would be to err on the side of <strong>. Using <b> is for display purposes, ie. your bolding rather than emphasizing the keyword/s, whereas <strong> is semantically correct for emphasizing text. The same goes for <i> and <em>.

Will having an X/HTML valid site increase my rankings?

No. But the consequence of using leaner, cleaner code does help. It is best practice to have a semantic, compliant site, ensuring that your site will work on most devices. Google, for instance, accepts coding enthusiasts will make mistakes, and old sites with vasts amounts of good info might be hard to update or left for posterity.

Do URL shorteners pass anchor text?

Yes. Although a direct link to your website with no hops would be more beneficial – one less hoop for Googlebot to jump through. Choose wisely the URL shortener you are to use, 3rd party services could disappear over time.

Can internal anchor text links within my site vary?

Try to keep anchor text the same for each target page within your site (allowing for slight variations, synonyms, etc). There’s no problem with having many different anchor text pointing to a single resource but keeping them almost the same makes lighter work for the search engine bots. Check out a post on contextualisation to get an idea of how anchor text links work.

When should I use rel nofollow?

In short, use nofollow on any external links you do not trust such as blog comments and adverts. Use nofollow sparingly when it comes to internal links mostly on pages which you feel have absolute zero value – in which case you might have to question if those pages should exist at all and implement something better instead, or remove them from indexing altogether.

Should I use a robots.txt file?

It is dependent on your server configuration – but in most cases yes – even if it means uploading a blank robots.txt file. Some servers can throw different error pages if the robots.txt is missing and search engines can get the wrong message (although 99% of the time most search engines will get it right). Always check that the file is working as intended.

Should my URLs have keywords in them?

Yes, it is best to have keywords in your URLs. Don’t overdo it though; keep them relevant to the resource. If you currently have bad URLs in place and thinking of updating them, check whether your current set up allows it. Make sure to 301 all the old URLs to their new URL counterparts.

Should I use a 301 or a canonical for redirects?

Using a 301 redirect is best – almost all search engines understand them. Although a canonical is best used when the server is hard to configure or your site’s software, such as a CMS or ecommerce package, is controlling many different URLs to the same resource and producing duplicate content.

Is site speed important?

Yes. Bonuses are to be had here – why miss out? A faster loading site using compression with cleaner code, css, and optimised images has its advantages for both rankings (albeit however tiny) and user experience.

Should I only optimise for Google?

No, of course not. A well optimised site should do reasonably well or better in all or most search engines. Why miss out on the potential traffic and conversions that other search engines could offer.

Do misspellings affect SEO?

To a degree, it can. Google recognises most typos and provides the correct spelling instead. It certainly looks unprofessional and may affect user experience – and a lost visitor is a lost conversion.

How regularly should I publish posts to my blog?

Ideally, it is not about frequency but the quality. The point of having quality content is to attract users and having them link to your articles naturally.

Below are some relevant links on best practice that you might find helpful too…

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