GHI Internet Services has built a dynamic knowledge base of best practices for how best to technically architect, creatively design, build and comprehensively market websites.
Basic Web Exposure
Google Index Level – The index level of your site is an indication of whether Google is able to find, crawl and store your web site pages within its database.
Bing Index Level – The index level of your site is an indication of whether Bing is able to find, crawl and store your web site pages within its database.
Ranking in Google/Bing – Not only is a high rank for your own name a critical part of your online branding strategy, but it is a good indication that the search engines have given you some level of authority upon which to build.
Title Tags can be controlled to page level – Title tags are an important “on page” optimization tool, because search engine rely on the Title tag keywords to determine the basic information about each page.
META Description Tags can be controlled to page level – The META Description Tag is an “on page” method to provide a more complete description of that page’s content to the search engines.
Image ALT attributes can be controlled – The ALT attribute is an “on page” method to provide brief descriptions for each graphic or photograph on the web site.
Header <H1> tags can be controlled – Header (H1, H2, H3 etc.) tags provide a method to help search engines determine the most important text on each page.
Text content on each page can be controlled – The text content on your web site is the “meat” of the search engines’ method of finding relevant web sites to display in their results.
New pages and subpages can be added to navigation – In order to develop higher rankings for critical search terms, it is necessary that the web site is able to be expanded beyond the current stage.
Existing pages have plain, HTML content areas – Sometimes web sites are designed and programmed such that text content is invisible to search engines, such as images or Flash technology.
Menus are spider-friendly – “Spiders” are search engine programs that automatically “crawl” the web, following hyperlinks to deeper pages of your web site, in order to index the content on those pages.
Dynamic pages have static links to them – Search engine “spiders” are search engine programs that automatically “crawl” the web, following hyperlinks to deeper pages of your web site, in order to index the content on those pages.
Link integrity – Broken links can impact your ranking in search engines because search engines will ignore pages that they cannot access.
Footer navigation – To assist search engine spiders in crawling your site more effectively and help visitors navigate your site, it is recommended that each page contain text-based links that match the site’s main navigation.
HTML Site Map with link on every page – An HTML site map helps both search engine spiders and human visitors quickly find every page on your site.
Site is not in frames – HTML frames are a method of navigation that allows a link to open a page within another web page.
Home page navigation is the same as subpage navigation – Some web designs utilize a method whereby the home page utilizes a different navigation that the rest of the site.
No splash or routing page – Some web designs utilize a method whereby the home page presents a short movie or animation, sometimes with the option to “skip” the animation.
Proper use of 301 redirects if applicable – 301 Redirects are a programming method to allow search engines and users to find the new version of an outdated page.
All non-www URLs redirect to their www counterpart – Google could be indexing multiple duplicates of the home page, which is against Google’s recommended architecture for optimal search engine indexing.
Links to the home page point to / – Search engines may view 2 URLs as separate pages, and thus could present a duplicate content issue.
URLs short, use keywords and are search-friendly – Creating descriptive categories and filenames for the documents on your website can not only help you keep your site better organized, but it could also lead to better crawling of your documents by search engines.
Filenames use hyphens instead of underscores or spaces – Google doesn’t algorithmically penalize for not having dashes in the URL, but they do recommend that dashes are used instead of underscores or nothing between keywords at all, because Google actually recognizes the underscore as part of the search.
Organized directory naming and file structure – Use a directory structure that organizes your content well and is easy for visitors to orient themselves in relation to the other content on your site.
Domain registered for multiple years – The length of your website’s domain name registration can slightly affect the search results at Google, because Google considers domains that are renewed on a 1-year basis to hold less value.
Code is W3 validated – The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is an international community where Member organizations, a full-time staff, and the public work together to develop Web standards.
CSS design for layout – CSS design is not a “search engine friendly” method per se, but using style sheets to control your web site’s layout creates cleaner, lighter code that Search Engines prefer and makes it easier to update your site in the future.
Custom 404 page – CSS design is not a “search engine friendly” method per se, but using style sheets to control your web site’s layout creates cleaner, lighter code that Search Engines prefer and makes it easier to update your site in the future.
Optimize page speed – Google has begun scoring a web site at least in part on the speed of each page. They have provided standards that webmasters can follow to ensure they meet the minimum criteria.
Dedicated IP address – A common tactic to save significant hosting expenses is to host a site within a shared web hosting environments, resulting in the same server IP address for multiple domains. Although not an urgent issue, it has been noted that some servers that host hundreds of web sites tend to get some penalties from Google when compared to servers that host a single site.
Unique Title tags on each page – Title tags are a very important part of every organic SEO campaign.
Content-relevant, keyword-rich Title tags on each page – Search engines place a huge amount of importance on this tag so it should contain your chosen search terms for each particular page.
Unique, marketing-focused META description tags on each page – Unique META description tags for each page are recommended for two reasons. First, the Search Engines themselves recommend the practice, although there is no proof that the META description tag directly influences a page’s ranking. Second (and more importantly), the META description tag allows us to provide a short piece of text that can appear within the search engine results page (SERP) for specific search terms.
ALT / TITLE attributes with rich information and keywords – ALT and TITLE attributes provide a way for search engine spiders to index more site content.
Hx tags – Hx tags – H1, H2, H3, etc. – are “headers” on each page of content, and are an effective “on page” optimization technique.
No Keyword stuffing – Keyword stuffing is considered to be an ineffective and user obtrusive search engine optimization technique.
Site contains forms that can be tracked to Analytics Goals – Most modern web site analytics packages, such as Google Analytics, are able to assign tags to specific actions on a web site, such as when a user fills out a contact form or completes a purchase.
Sitemap.xml file – Most modern web site analytics packages, such as Google Analytics, are able to assign tags to specific actions on a web site, such as when a user fills out a contact form or completes a purchase.
Robots file – The Robots file provides a way for Search Engines to know which areas of the site to crawl and index, and which to avoid.
No duplicate content within site – Search engines devalue a “more is better” approach to identical content, so it is important to try to build original content pages within the site, and adjust the site’s technical parameters to avoid the appearance of duplicate content.
No duplicate content offsite – Search engines devalue a “more is better” approach to identical content, so it is important to try to build original content pages within the site as well as be careful to avoid (whenever possible) the appearance that you are spamming the search engines with external content, or attempting to co-op another site’s content.
No cloaking, sneaky redirects, or doorway pages – Cloaking is a technique in which the content presented to the search engine spider is different from that presented to the user’s browser.
No hidden text and links – Hiding text in the background of a web page, or at the bottom of the page in extremely small type, or attempting to hide links within the text itself so the user cannot see them is a technique that has been used in the past to try to fool search engines into thinking your site’s content is different than what your users experience.
No publishing stubs (“Under Construction” pages) – Google particularly encourages site owners to not engage in the practice of posting web pages without content or as “under construction” pages.
Proper link text usage – Search engines weigh the importance and relevancy of individual pages within your web site based in part on the hyperlink text it can find from other supporting pages.
Separate content for each primary search term – You cannot achieve high rankings for search terms that do not appear in the text content of your web site. New content and pages must be developed to provide relevancy for each search term.
Proper spelling & grammar – A professional web presence with easy-to-read copy written with proper grammar and spelling is a critical component of your overall branding strategy.
Photos/images optimized – Even with the common presence of fast Internet connection speeds, users are still looking for web sites that perform well and images that download quickly.
Not participating in link farms – Search engines – particularly Google – place a huge importance on quality inbound links associated with your web site. Each link to your site from a trusted source acts as a “vote” for your web site and can dramatically impact your ranking.
Site has external links pointing to it – Search engines – particularly Google – place a huge importance on quality inbound links associated with your web site.
Robust, diverse portfolio of links – Google’s algorithm has recently been expanded to place more emphasis on natural links from multiple sources and types of web sites, including blogs, directories, news sources and social media.
Pages laid out to prevent horizontal scrolling – Users are happy to scroll down a web page to read more content, but user testing has proven that they will quickly abandon a web site that requires horizontal, “side to side” scrolling if the site is too big for their browser window.
Consistent global navigation – The goal of your web site should be to help your visitors navigate to the content they need, easily. And one of the most important aspects of navigation is consistency, because visitors want familiarity.
Site ID (Logo or name of company on each page) – A “site ID” is usually the company logo, or some other branding item to identify the organization behind the web site.
Page Names on every page – The goal of your web site should be to help your visitors navigate to the content they need, easily.
Fully functional browser navigation tools – User tests have consistently revealed that a major annoyance to web users is a site that utilizes tricky programming to alter their browser in some way.
Hyperlinks standard link colors and styles – Textual links should be colored and underlined to achieve the best perceived affordance of clickability, though there are a few exceptions to these guidelines.
Hyperlinks point to same window – Opening up new browser windows when the user clicks a link has been proven an annoyance via many user tests. Designers open new browser windows on the theory that it keeps users on their site.
Logo links back to home page – Making the logo on each page of your site a link back to the Home page has become a de facto standard, so we recommend that this practice is carried out by every web site.
Copy optimized for scan-to-read online style – Users rarely read web site content – they scan it, looking for keywords and hyperlinks in order to get their questions answered quickly.
Non-HTML documents clearly indicated – Users get frustrated when a hyperlink that appears to lead to a web page instead leads to a non-HTML page, such as a PDF or a Word document.
Intuitive / standard navigation buttons – A web site is a computer program, essentially, so it needs to follow recognized standards. Therefore, navigation bars and buttons need to be designed in a way that users are familiar with and comfortable using
Proper text/background color – Your text should be easy to read, since it’s the single most important item in your web site. Therefore it should contrast well with the background color it is positioned upon.
Web-friendly font and font size – Computer screens have increased greatly in size and resolution, which means font sizes smaller than 12-point can be difficult to read.
Site renders properly on mobile devices – As mobile device use expands and more and more users access the web via hand held devices, it is becoming more critical that your site at least renders properly on these devices.
Social Media Exposure
Appearing in any universal search result – Google’s “universal search” results are keyword searches that return more than the just the traditional text results. In addition to the usual text results, they bring back images, news, local listings, shopping, video, blog posts, etc.
Corporate blog, updated at least once per week – If search engine marketing is the pure advertising and sales part of your internet marketing campaign, then blogging is the soft-sell “public relations” side to internet marketing.
Branded Facebook Profile – Facebook recently surpassed Google’s weekly market share of U.S. Internet traffic, with 7.07% of weekly Internet users visiting the site.
Branded Twitter Account – When used in combination with your other social media channels, such as Facebook and your blog, Twitter is an effective communications channel and an important part of your overall social media campaign.
Branded YouTube Channel – YouTube is the world’s #2 search engine, just after Google and more popular than Yahoo or Bing. People are watching 2 billion videos a day on YouTube and every minute, 24 hours of video is uploaded.
Branded LinkedIn Page – With more than 100 million users, LinkedIn is the most popular social network for professionals as well as one of the top social networks overall.
Branded Google+ Account – Google+ is beginning to gain some ground particularly with online users who are interested in networking and doing business online.