A friend recently asked me to give SEO tips for a solid website. Here are some backend, not-so-glamorous website tips that you need for a solid site. It is a bit boring to do, and it will take time.

However, I believe you will find the result of applying these SEO tips — improved organic rankings on search engines — will make the effort required from you worth it.

(1) Navigation bar SEO tips

The important items go left to right, as people view things in an F pattern. You want them to see your shop, services, or portfolio first.

In simplest terms, “left is best“. As one example of this…I sent this navigation order to someone earlier this week, who had asked for feedback on her website in an online forum. I recommended to her that she rearrange her navigation bar in this order.

HOME (optional)
SHOP
LOOKBOOK
PRESS
ABOUT
CONTACT

If you skim this article, it will give you the “why”: How to design websites that mirror how our eyes work. You should memorize the F Pattern below, which shows clearly the order in which users view a web page.

Source: Understanding the F-Layout in Web Design
Source: Understanding the F-Layout in Web Design

If you still aren’t sure how to order your site, look at major retailers with similar products, and copy their navigation order. Navigation is an art and a science. Learning the science will help your users get around your site easily and cut your bounce rates.

You also want to separate your navigation into major and minor sections. Major goes at the top of the page, with subcategories off of them, if needed. Minor navigation can go in the footer, or in the subcategories off of the major navigation.

Use a bullet list to decide on the major/minor/subcategories in Word, Pages, or text file. Alternately, create paper index cards with each of your categories, and sort them.

If your users are middle-aged and older, you will want the navigation bar to be explicit and visible. If your target market is younger, you can use a more hidden navigation like the hamburger.

My personal preference is to have navigation visible at all times, so that users are not searching for it.

(2) Give search engine crawlers something to eat.

Search engine crawlers are hungry little beasts. Give them something to eat. It will up your ranking in search engine results. It is a simple thing to do, although if you have to play catch up because you haven’t been doing it, it can take some time to go back and re-do.

This means, take advantage of the meta title and page descriptions, and always use the alt tag for your images. For example, instead of “image 1” in your alt tag, write “artist name – painting name – year – style” or something like that.

Develop a method and be consistent across all of your posts and pages. If you have WordPress, install a plugin like Yoast’s SEO WordPress plugin and use it.

I have a blog post here where I take the ideas behind Yoast’s plugin to apply to SquareSpace, and you can see some “cataloging” examples from one system to the next. You can use these examples on any website on any platform: Checklist for SEO for SquareSpace Users.

(3) Optimize your site, and clean up your code.

Use YSlow to check your pagespeed, and things like the W3C to check your broken links and validate your HTML and CSS.

It is tedious and frustrating to fix, but it also helps your site rank higher in search results. Google and Bing LOVE clean sites. If you think it doesn’t matter for organic rankings, think again.

This site lists 10 ways to clean up and optimize your WordPress installation. However, watch the image optimizer this site recommends, as I am not convinced it only picks images that are not used.

(4) Content. Have something for crawlers to find.

This is where Yoast’s SEO WordPress plugin comes in handy, or the checklist I made from it for SquareSpace users. Aim for a 100 word minimum on all pages and posts, but 300 is better.

Try not to write more than 1000 words per post. Write about things that solve a problem or a pain point. We all want to write about ourselves and our lives, LOL, but other people are not as fascinated with our life as we are.

Ask how you can serve your clients, how can you answer a question, what can you do for THEM?

Sure, you do need to do announcements and talk about yourself a bit and all that, but you mostly need to answer the “so what?” question: “So what, why should I read your post? What does this do for me?”

You don’t have to teach or inspire. Can you make people laugh? Brighten their day with a piece of your artwork? There are many ways to give to your readers. Find your gift, and share it with them.

(5) Theme quality matters.

If you are on SquareSpace, et al., no problems. With WordPress, do your home work and go for quality as much as you can afford.

I recommend and love StudioPress’ Genesis Framework + Child Themes. They are SEO-friendly, well-coded, modern, and responsive. They will work on any device, whether desktop/laptop, tablet, or mobile.

(6) Re-check or sign up for Google and Bing Webmaster

If you are already registered, then re-check your sitemap.xml and robots.txt files via Google and Bing. If you are not registered with Google and Bing webmaster tools, then do so immediately.

Google and Bing need to know you exist so they will know to crawl your site. You can also ask Google and Bing to crawl your site once you have completely optimized your site, per the above list.

SEO Tips Conclusion

I cannot guarantee a number one organic search result listing if you do all the above suggestions.

If you optimize your site’s technical “guts”, pay attention to meta descriptions and alt tags, write quality content, and make sure page speed loads are quick with minimal broken links and redirects, you should see improvements in how your website ranks in organic search results.

I wish you luck, and I hope these SEO tips will help you get started.

If you would like to work with to get your website found online with better SEO, then please take a look at my SEO services page.

Six SEO Tips for DIYs to Build a Solid Website

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Comments

    • Thank you! I try. As I said to a DIY solopreneur yesterday — she’s an artist — it is the subtle things that make a difference between something resonating with a user/viewer, and not. It is the little, subconscious things that can mean the difference between selling and not selling, buying and not buying. If a user has to stumble around a page in an awkward, subconscious way to find what you do or sell…you may lose a client or a sale.

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