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10 SEO Best Practices for Web Developers

You've built an amazing website, but how do you make sure people can find your site via search engines? In this article we cover 10 best practices to make sure your article not only stands out, but ranks well with search engines.

1. Take time to research keywords


To determine the best keywords for your site, you'll need to do some keyword research. This usually consists of combing through your competitors' sites for the keywords that are driving them the most traffic. There are several ways you can get started with keyword research. One recommended way is to create a spreadsheet with your competitors' sites listed and add keywords that you can copy and paste your competitors' keywords into Google's Keyword Tool and Google Webmaster Tools Keyword Analyzer tool. Analyze your competition's site's website titles to find out what keywords they are using tools such as Ahrefs, Moz, SpyFu, or SEMrush to find out what keywords others are using on your competitor's site.

2. Focus on your Title tag


This is the headline for every article. It needs to be bold and attention grabbing so it can catch the eye of potential users. Pick it somewhere around 60-90 characters to make sure it is displayed properly in search engines as well as readable in the browser tab. As you write your title, focus on the unique keywords your readers are likely to search for. Also make sure that the keywords you select are relevant to your page. Another good practice is to make the title tag and your header (h1) the same.

3. Carefully craft your H1, H2, H3 tags


Careful usage of header tags helps search engines identify keywords within your page. To get the best results from your header tags, use H1, H2, and H3 in order with keywords in your H2 and H3 headers that support your H1 tag. Remember, your H1 tag should mimic your title tag, whereas the H2 and H3 can expand and add additional context. You can also utilize multiple H2 and H3 tags, however be sure that these headers are supporting the H1 tag and relevant to the content on your page. Using irrelevant header keywords can actually work to your disadvantage.

4. Avoid loading content with JavaScript


Despite it's popularity, JavaScript is not yet well supported by search engines and can mask important content. Progressive Web Apps in particular can suffer as key content is loaded after the page is spidered, or in the case of many search engines that do not yet index JavaScript not loaded at all. This is also the case for many social media sites, meaning that content loaded dynamically is not evaluated or pulled in, resulting in the default skeleton of your site being what shows up in search engines and in link previews.

5. Carefully name images


In the past search engines would evaluate your images based on their alt tag, however as more and more developers loaded irrelevant keywords into this hidden image text search engines instead added more emphasis to the actual name of the image itself. This means using generic image names such as 1.jpg can actually hurt your site ranking as search engines might be looking for seokeywords.jpg. Now, just because you're carefully naming your images with relevant keywords describing the image doesn't mean you should ignore the alt tag. Be sure to continue to include alt tags for older search engines, in the case the image doesn't load, and for accessibility (ie screen readers).

6. Work to improve your page load time


It’s not a secret that faster sites rank higher in search engines. Most search engines use the PageSpeed Index from Google to determine the speed of websites. One thing Google looks at is how fast images are loading. For this reason, we recommend taking a look at how long it takes for the first image to load on your site or even take advantage of lazy loading for non-critical images. You want images to be loading within 30 seconds at the absolute latest, before the user can actually click on the page. You also need to make sure that if you're using multiple images that they load as one group. Next, take a look at how long it takes to load a webpage. Are pages taking longer than three seconds to load on your site? You want to have pages that load fast for users, but your code and templates can easily be causing this to happen.

7. Optimize text throughout your page


Beyond your title tag, headers, and images it's important to work keywords into your standard content, while also working to avoid overloading keywords. To help prevent overloading and increase search engine rankings across multiple keywords you can use alternative phrases. In the case of "PHP training" an alternative phrase might be "PHP tutorials" or "PHP course." This both helps support the primary keyword, while also allowing the page to rank for these keywords as well. Remember to use the tools referenced above to find the keywords that are right for your site, and then work them in to natural sentences without forcing keywords or becoming overly repetitive. Also keep in mind, just as important as the content and keywords on the page are to search engines, how users engage with that content is also critical. If your page experience's high bounce rates or low engagement with the content, it is likely to be deprioritized by search engines, meaning a page highly optimized for search engines but not humans may enjoy a higher ranking, but only for a short time before it is heavily penalized.

8. Build your Domain and Page Authority


Domain and Page Authority are determined not just by the number of back-links (or sites linking to your domain or page), but also the quality of the sites and pages linking to you. One practice that has made obtaining a better DA or PA harder has been purchasing or acquiring bulk back-links. Note this practice is actually against Google's TOS and may result in your entire site being banned from their search results! Because of this practice, it's important to focus on high quality sites and work to get back-links naturally either through partnerships or syndicated content (such as blog posts). You can also check your DA here or using one of the many tools referenced above.

9. Take advantage of social media


Speaking of back-links, social media can be a powerful tool for increasing page visibility while also improving your search engine rankings! Remember, most social sites do not support or read JavaScript, so ensure your content is available on the page. If you do have a progressive web app with JavaScript loading your content, look into using Headless Chrome to render a JavaScript free version of your site for specific bots (note - the content MUST be the same content a user would see or your site may be blocked). There are also numerous tools to allow you to build the content via JavaScript on the server backend before passing it to your readers. To help get even more exposure, consider adding social share links or tools like AddThis.

10. Good SEO takes time


The truth is that there really aren't any special secrets or ingredients to ranking well in search engines (well not that Google has publicly shared). Instead it's about properly formatting your page, making sure it's readable to search engines, and providing content that your readers will engage with. As you provide more valuable content, and more people like and link to your content - your site's Domain Authority will gradually increase, giving your site and pages more powerful - resulting in a higher ranking.

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