Why developers must understand SEO

Applications and webpages can fulfill a wide range of functions, from simple sources of information to advanced user interfaces. However, no matter what purpose your app or webpage is supposed to serve, it should be easy to find online and that depends on SEO on-page optimization. What’s more, you need to think about SEO right at the start of creating a website or an app because well-planned SEO will save you advertising costs later on.

When is SEO important?

Not all pages or apps require the full SEO treatment. Those which are intended for internal use only such as a company’s message board might, for instance, be based on, parameterized links or that reload content through sending forms or using JavaScript. From the point of view of web crawlers, such pages or apps’ functions work perfectly well – it’s not indexed and it cannot be found in search engine results. And in such cases, there’s no need for full SEO because the users already know how to find it, access it and use it.

The situation is different when the app or page is going to be public and its contents must be available without logging in. Most certainly, you want every element of a website to be easily found by its users. In this case, the website must have well-executed on-page SEO.

The core elements of SEO

Let’s make it clear: every SEO-geek appreciates programmers’ hard work. I’m one of them, so I know. The challenge is to develop a page creation mechanism that will give the desired results without having to work on the specific content or backlinks leading from the outside to the page or app. However, developers must be aware of the core SEO elements and the important details of each one. Below, you’ll find a list of the most important SEO basics.

Robots.txt 

A text file which is placed in the main domain catalog. It shows the web crawlers which sections (catalogs) on the website should be indexed and which should be excluded from the index and not shown in the SERP (search engine results page). Below, you can see sample contents of a robots.txt file.

User-agent: *
Disallow: /cgi-bin/
Disallow: /tmp/
Disallow: /admin-panel/

Sitemap.xml

Just like the previous element, this one doesn’t belong to a specific subpage. Still, both have a great impact on a site’s SEO. The sitemap.xml is a list (a simplified map) of all the HTML documents which should be indexed. A well-constructed map represents the priority of particular elements expressed in decimals from 0.0 to 1.0 and indicates the recommended frequency of reindexing, showing the time intervals of data updates on particular pages. On webpages where the updates are frequent (e.g. blogs), it’s good to have a dynamic sitemap.xml file generator, so that each new post is immediately present in Google search results. Below, you’ll find a sample sitemap.xml file construction:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<urlset xmlns="http://www.sitemaps.org/schemas/sitemap/0.9">
<url>
<loc>http://www.example.com/</loc>
<lastmod>2017-04-06</lastmod>
<changefreq>daily</changefreq>
<priority>0.8</priority>
</url>

…..

</urlset>

Title

Among all the metadata in an HTML document, <title> is the most significant SEO element, as it indicates the main topic of the contents. It’s extremely important for each page to have a unique title that adequately reflects its contents. The title also serves as a link anchor displayed in SERP, so it should be 50-62 characters long, including spaces. From the perspective of CMS, ideally, it should be possible for this element to be edited by a non-technical subpage editor.

Description

This is a description of the website, a short explanation – in 150-160 characters, including spaces – of what can be found there. Although according to many specialists, the description does not play a direct role in the positioning process, it’s the second most important metatag in an HTML document. The description is used by search engines (including Google) and is shown in the SERP directly under the website link. When you enable this element in CMS, the editor will be able to write a catchy excerpt from the text with the goal of encouraging users to click the link.

Canonicalization

On many webpages, several links lead to one subpage. Those links, depending on their specific function and method of creation, may often contain additional URL parameters. Below, you can see examples of various links leading to the same element on a website.

 https://www.example.com
 https://example.com/
 https://example.com/index.php
 https://www.example.com/index.php&sessid=123 

In order to avoid indexing duplicate content (for Google this means various links showing the same content), use the canonical attribute. You should place one canonical (original) element in the <head> section of the site, and then others will not be taken into account in searches. In the example given above, the best solution would be:
<link href=”https://example.com/” rel=”canonical”>
This is the shortest version of the link, as the “www” element is generally avoided in pages’ URLs. If for some reason the client decides to use the “www”, you should of course respect this choice in canonicalization.

Links

In an app or website CMS, try to use mechanisms which can generate simple links. If possible, avoid parameters in URLs and utilize user-friendly keywords instead (this doesn’t refer to, for example, pagination).

For example, this:

http://example.com/path/to/right/place.html
… is better than this:

http://example.com/index.php&go=124&p=678

H1

This is the main headline on a subpage. It shouldn’t be repeated within the website and it should be used only once in a document. If this element can be edited through CMS, the editor is able to include a catchy subpage title containing the most important keyword for it.

H2-H6

These are less important but they’re still headlines. If they can be managed by the editor, he or she is able to introduce the less important (but still significant) keywords and give titles to particular sections of the text.

Images and pictures

Graphical elements are essential not only because they make the website visually attractive. If they’re properly described, they can contribute to the easier finding of the site in search results. That’s why it’s recommended to use the ALT and TITLE attributes with images. You should consider how to enable these attributes, especially if they’re assigned to the main images illustrating particular subpages.

Summary

There are many other details which determine an SEO strategy’s success or failure but the above are the basic elements that developers are able to influence. Without these, your app or webpage is unlikely to perform well in searches.

Obviously, as a developer you have many other parameters to pay attention to when creating a product but on-page SEO is a standard design feature nowadays and it’s not unusual for it to be the client’s main hidden requirement. In fact, it’s often hidden even from them, until they start using the app or page you’ve made for them.

Source: https://d2eeipcrcdle6.cloudfront.net/seo-cheat-sheet.pdf

Written on 6 July 2017 by

Marcin Janicki

Marcin is a Senior Marketing Specialist at XSolve. He is expert in inbound marketing, specializing in SEO/SEM. Marcin is in charge of XSolve’s web traffic and attracting new leads.

Marcin is a Senior Marketing Specialist at XSolve. He is expert in inbound marketing, specializing in SEO/SEM. Marcin is in charge of XSolve’s web traffic and attracting new leads.

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