Digital Marketing

On-site SEO opportunities most developers miss

14th of November, 2019
Google Chrome's Lighthouse audit report.
Source: Google Chrome / Caption: Google Chrome’s Lighthouse audit report.

As a web developer and SEO, I get to build sites as well as optimise them too.

By doing so, I always pre-implement the basic SEO structure for these websites, when building them, saving me much of the on-site SEO implementation time after.

However, from time to time, I get handed on a site to optimise from another developer, which is usually something I’ve never touched. Meaning, I can usually see all the on-site SEO optimisations which I’d usually make, missed.

So… if you’re one of these developers who’s handing me non-optimised sites or perhaps you’re just a website owner looking to find missing on-site optimisations — then this article is worth a read for you.

Before I go on, I’m not going to tell you about any general on-site SEO optimisations, such as caches and SSL certificates in this article.

However, this article is more for those looking to finesse their website, in order to cover absolutely every basis of their SEO.

Optimise images

Image optimisation usually only involves speeding up the load-time of the image, therefore, the web page too, which affects performance for the better, as Google prefers to rank faster websites, rather than slower ones.

Scale images to correct sizes

In order to speed up the image, a simple trick is to always scale the size down.

GTMetrix report example of Point & Quack
Source: gtmetrix.com / Caption: GTMetrix report example

A tool I commonly use to check the right scaling is GTMetrix. It literally tells you how the width and height (in pixels) that each image on your web page should be at.

Compress images

Another reason to use GTMetrix (and probably the best reason), is because it pre-compresses all the images found on your web page for you. Meaning you just need to open them, save them and then replace them on your website —super useful, right?

Set-up external links correctly

Open external links in new tabs

Opening links in new tabs using target=”_blank” allows you to retain your traffic.

Imagine what your Google Analytics would say if someone clicked onto your Facebook page via your website, for them to simply “drop-off”.

Your bounce rate would be going through the roof — which may send bad signals to Google!

Use the noopener attribute

Google recommends that any external link you have (ones that do use target=”_blank”), you add rel=”noopener” to them too.

The reason for this is is for the website’s JavaScript performance and also the user’s security.

Set-up redirects

When developers make websites live, they often miss doing the redirects as it’s more of an SEO’s task to sort  — unless the developer knows what they’re doing.

Choose a variation for your domain

SSL redirection code snippets
Source: wpza.net / Caption: SSL redirection code snippets

Imagine you’ve operated your site using the domain https://www.example.com (note the www) for years.

Now you make the website live on https://example.com (note the missing www), not noticing that all the domain’s history has been build upon that www-subdomain.

You’ll have essentially told Google that all the www-subdomain’s history and backlinks have moved.

Even if the website redirects from the www-subdomain to the non-www version, your SEO still won’t be as strong as it would have been, since you’re redirecting and not using the original URL any longer.

A developer can check what Google prefers (in terms of variation) by simply Googling the company name before making the website live and seeing if the results are shown as www or non-www.

Submit a change of domain request for an old to a new domain

If the domain of the website has changed, you need to follow this optimisation.

Google Search Console's change of domain tool
Source: search.google.com / Caption: Google Search Console’s change of domain tool

The same concept as the domain variation applies here too — especially when it comes to backlinks.

In terms of changing the domain, you must ensure that Google knows you’ve changed domains so that it doesn’t penalise you for any duplicate content and knows how to try to maintain any of the previous domain’s history.

Redirect old-URLs to new-URLs (301 redirects)

A big must when it comes to rebuilding sites is to understand the original URL structure and to try to match it as closely as you can.

Obviously, this isn’t always possible, especially when you’re building the site on a content management system, which has specific URL structures.

Therefore, you should have the correct 301 redirect set-up in your htaccess file accordingly. Telling Google and your users that the page has been moved from an old-URL to a new-URL.

Find the old-URLs

Using Google Search Console's 404 error report
Source: search.google.com / Caption: Using Google Search Console’s 404 error report.

You should always try to find all the old-URLs before making the site live.

You can find these URLs by:

Find more missed on-site SEO opportunities

If you’re looking to find more on-site SEO opportunities, I’d recommend running a Google Chrome Lighthouse audit, as it’s always up to date with Google’s best practices.

Finally, if you feel there’s something else a developer usually misses, please let me know — as I’d be keen to know what else developers could improve upon.