There are many factors that go into ensuring your website is going to achieve optimal results within search engines, and many of these factors have changed significantly over the last 12 months.
Firstly we don’t want to be doing anything that will upset the likes of Google and Yahoo, google are very very wise to most of the old black hat techniques that webmasters and developers used to use to try and get sites listed and ranked highly like keyword stuffing and hidden text etc, good solid rankings today is all about good quality content, but more than that you need to ensure that the content you work so hard on is also presented properly to the search engines.
Below are a number of key points we need to ensure are covered within our website in order that Google etc will read them correctly, and make the most of the information we give them.
A must for every website, an XML sitemap is a list of pages within your website that can be submitted, automatically via your .htaccess file or manually via Google Webmaster Tools etc, this file tells the search engines how to find the pages within your site and acts as an index so they can ensure all your content is read and digested by the search engine. Whilst your site will still rank and be listed without a sitemap, it will be read more easily and more quickly with one.
Resource Rendering CSS, JS & Images etc
It has been common practice in the past to discourage or block search engines from reading some resources within our websites for instance CSS (Cascading Style Sheets), JS (Java Scripts) and Images etc, the reason for this was that they added no value to the search engine spiders and the rendering of pages to the various search engines, in essence search engine spiders were nothing more than text readers, so why give them the rich content and waste bandwidth.
This all changed in 2014 with Google especially now reading and rendering full web pages, as such if you have not modified your robots.txt file to unblock those resources and allow access then your Google Webmaster Tools will be looking a-lot like this.
Of course you can choose if you like to ignore what Google is asking you for, but on your own head be it.
Rich Snippets are additional markup that can be placed into the HTML of your website pages which add additional information markers for Search Engines etc, the aim is to annotate your content to allow spiders and other programs to understand it.
Rich Snippets can be used to highlight products, events, reviews, and much much more within your pages and the more of this data that you markup, the more the search engines will understand of your content.
You can read more about rich snippets and how to use them on the Google Developers Website.
The Internet is increasingly become mobile with many people now accessing the web predominantly via a mobile device or tablet, rather than via a traditional desktop or laptop computer, and Google etc are starting to reflect this in their search rankings.
On April the 21st 2015 Google has scheduled a move towards mobile and has openly stated that from this date the will be expanding the use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal¬†this is incredibly good news for those that have invested in mobile apps and responsive sites that are 100% mobile compatible, but it is incredibly bad news for those that have not.
Google has provided us with a tool for testing mobile friendliness of your site, and our advice would be to use it. There is also a page within Google’s webmaster tools which will show you if your pages are mobile compliant or not.
HTTP vs HTTPS
Back in August 2014 Google announced it would be giving a small ranking benefit to pages that were delivered via HTTPS rather than HTTP, no this is currently a very lightweight ranking signal within Google’s overall ranking algorithm, however if you are going after highly competitive keywords then even a very small ranking signal can make the difference.
If you do consider changing your site over from HTTP to HTTPS then think very very carefully as Google will treat the new HTTPS version of your site as a totally new domain, and everything will need to be redirected properly or you will lose significant history, backlinks and ranking.
In Essence SEO today is about doing things properly, a well structured, well coded and secure website with good original content is what Google etc are looking for, and if you give it to them, then they will give you their love in return, if you try to bluff them, then you will risk being cast into the wilderness by a Penguin,Panda or even a Humming Bird.