To help you start off 2016 with your best organic foot forward, I wanted to share some quick SEO tips and tactics that a lot of folks have questions about, have forgotten or simply don't know. The list of items is near endless, but I thought 16 seemed like a fitting number. So, without further ado, here are 16 SEO tips to kick off the new year:
1. Capital Letters in URLs Don't Matter
While you may see slightly different search results for a capitalized versus lowercase search query, it has nothing to do with your URLs. Using capital letters in your URLs won't positive or negatively impact your site. It simply doesn't matter.
2. Numbers in URLs Don't Matter
Having numerals in URLs (e.g., www.xbox1.com rather than www.xboxone.com) does not impact a site's ranking positively or negatively.
3. But Special Characters in URLs Do Matter, And You Shouldn't Use Them
Avoid using commas, semicolons, colons, spaces, quotes and other special characters in your URLs. When discovering links via HTML, these special characters can be very confusing to Googlebot. If your site has URLs with these characters, 301 redirect to a cleaner URL format.
4. URLs No Longer Need 3 Digitals for Google News Inclusion
Another URL tidbit for all the publishers out there. As of September 2015, Google no longer requires three digits in URLs to be included in Google News.
5. Don't Dynamically Generate Robots.txt File
Google doesn't crawl robots.txt every time they crawl a site, so if your robots.txt is continually being updated, they may miss something or accidentally cache the wrong version. Rather, keep the file more static, and manually manage for better control and not to confusion Google. However, you can still use a dynamically generated XML sitemap.
6. Use Rel=prev/next For Pagination
Lots of websites, especially ecommerce sites, have paginated series of pages that show related content. Users navigate these paginated series by clicking on a "next" button or number, and URLs are appended with something like "/page-2.html" and "page-3.html." While these subsequent pages have separate content and are user to consumers, you don't necessarily want them to index. Rather, you want the main starting page to index and all value to be consolidated to there. To let Google know you'd like to do this, you can use rel="next" and rel="prev" tags, showing the relationships but consolidating link value and other ranking factors on the main page.
7. Block Common Superfluous Pages in Robots.txt
Every site has pages that simply don't make sense to index. These pages include site search results, personalized shopping cart pages, checkout or thank you pages, test pages, shopping wishlists and 404 pages. You should include directives in your robots.txt file to block these pages from ranking in the search engines.
8. Don't Use Huge Mobile App Interstitials
On November 1, 2015, Google began taking note of mobile sites that use a pop up for app downloads, which block a significant portion of the site. These sites will not be deemed "mobile friendly" and thus not receive the call out on mobile search results pages and won't receive the ranking boost.
9. Add An HTML Sitemap
SEOs talk about XML sitemaps all the time (because they're extremely important). But HTML sitemaps are important, too. They're useful because they allow every page on the site to be one click from the homepage, and provide more internal links for better bot crawling. Create an HTML sitemap with links to all live pages that you would like to index. Add a link in the footer of your set and set the page to "noindex, follow" so that it doesn’t appear in search results but Google can follow links.
10. 404s Don't Hurt Your Site
Don't fear the 404! A 404 error page is normal part of the internet. Content and pages come and go, and the search engines understand this. So having some 404 errors on your site is nothing to worry about. Unless it's a ton of 404s and nothing has changed. Google won't penalize you for it, but there's obviously something afoot and you need to look into it. But if it's a normal day and a normal amount of 404s, there's nothing to see here.
11. Avoid Embedding Text in Images
When you embed text within an image file, the search engines can't crawl and "read" that text. This often causes duplicate content issues or may result in the page not indexing due to lack of unique content. Instead of embedding text in images, overlay it as HTML.
12. Use Schema for Features "Answer" Snippets
Want your website content to show up in the features "answers" box that displays above organic search results? Using schema or structured data may help get it there. There's no guarantee of placement, but making it easier for Google to read and understand your website content makes it more likely.
13. You Can Request Removal of Sitelinks
Google automatically adds sitelinkes under you main SERP listing to other pages on your site. You cannot control which sitelinks Google includes nor the order in which they appear, but you can demote any individual sitelinks that you do not wish to show. Demoting a link doesn't mean that it will be removed instantly or at all, but it's likely that Google will honor the request. You can demote sitelinks in Google Search Console.
14. Noindex Your Crappy Content
Do you have pages that provide little value to users and have low organic traffic numbers? Of course you do. Every site does. To reduce the number of pages that Google has to crawl and index, focusing on only the most relevant and valuable content for users, you should "noindex" these low-value pages.
15. Keep 301s Active for At Least One Year
It can take Google six months to a year to recognize that a site has moved. To ensure they find and index your new site and pages, make sure that 301 redirects are in place for at least one year.
16. Switching to HTTPS Can Give You a Ranking Boost
In August 2015, Google began rewarding secure sites with a ranking boost. The boost is minor, but every little bit helps, right?