12 essential SEO tips you likely don’t know

Pay any attention to your site’s footer? You should. It plays an important role in your Google rank. Here’s what else you may not know.

If you think link building, writing content, and keywords are all you need to know about search engine optimization (SEO), wake up. While these factors are extremely important, there is much more to SEO.

I want you to consider how you can tweak your website or blog using these SEO tips:

1. Speed

You are probably most familiar with this one. When Google launched its page-speed service, it announced the importance of sites that load quickly. According to an article in The New York Times, Google engineers figured out that if a website loads in more than 400 milliseconds (the blink of an eye), searchers will leave. Use Yslow, Pingdom Tools, and CDN to keep your website loading quickly.

2. Mobile

The message of mobile gets lost when we talk about responsive design. While responsive design is a cool way to meet mobile needs, it is not the only one. All websites need to have a pared-down version of their site that loads quickly on mobile devices. There are many ways to do this.

3. Coding

The structure of your website matters a lot. Downloading a theme from the Internet is like a Jack in the Box. Use themes created by trusted resources, or pay a competent designer to do the work.

4. Safety

I bet you didn’t know that safety matters. Have you ever seen the warning in Google that says a website is infected? That big red warning is scary. Getting hit with one of these will prevent people from finding you in search. Be aware of the vulnerabilities of your platform, and guard against them.

5. Image optimization

You can save a lot of load time if you learn how to control the size of your images. WP Smush.it is the most common plugin that will reduce the size of your images when you upload them to a WordPress website. You can also run images through any of the various tools online.

6. CSS sprites

You already use sprites; you just don’t know it. Video games use sprite sheets (one huge graphic that contains all the images for the game), and they work the same for a blog. You cannot sprite everything, but compressing some background images into a sprite sheet can make your website load much faster. SpriteMe makes the process painless.

7. Web host

Your Web host matters for more than just customer service or price. Most bloggers, especially those just starting out, use shared hosting. This keeps costs down, but it also means you have neighbors on the network that share the same IP. If someone in your neighborhood gets hacked and flagged in search, your website could, too.

8. Code bloat

Themes can come fully loaded with CSS and JavaScript. The trouble is that a lot of scripts have to load when people come to your website. The fancier the theme, the more likely you will have some code bloat, or features you don’t use. The best thing to do is to remove what you don’t need to run your website.

9. Code optimization

You can optimize code, just like images. This means you strip comments, spaces and other unnecessary things that you added in the design phase. The more minimal your code, the faster it will run.

10. Plugins

That sweet add-on might make you happy, but it could cause a massive slowdown. Plugins conflict amongst themselves and with your theme’s code. On WordPress, you can use the P3 plugin to analyze what is slowing down your blog. It is good to aim for 30 plugins or fewer.

11. Using CSS3

Images are becoming passé for text effects. There is so much that CSS can accomplish instead. It provides text that search engines can read, and can make your website load faster.

12. Footer

There is no reason why you have to know this, but the best practice for calling code is to put it in the footer of your page. Look at your code by viewing page source. At the top of the page, you should see that your theme loads your CSS and JavaScript in the header. Designers should put JavaScript in the footer of your website because it is better for speed. You can often move it there yourself by cutting and pasting.

This is why I believe bloggers need to learn some code. Code Academy just started lessons on Python, a language similar to the one used as the basis for WordPress. I signed up for the course, and have started to understand what all those crazy things in the WordPress Codex are.

Plus, how can you go wrong learning a language named for Monty Python?

Susan Silver is a contract copywriter. A version of this article originally appeared on 12 Most.


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