Question for the Expert:

Which SEO techniques have the highest ROI?

Answer from the Expert:

In a previous post, we looked at user-facing on-page tactics in response to the question –

Which SEO techniques have the highest ROI?

Today, let’s look at behind-the-scenes site tactics. Each of these impacts SEO results to varying degrees. Here we’ve ranked them in order of highest ROI to lowest.

1. XML Sitemap

Where menus help users navigate your site, XML sitemaps allow Google, Bing and other search engines to crawl and index your site. This ensures new site pages as well as deeper site pages get indexed in a timely and effective manner. It also identifies the hierarchy of site content and reports on web page priority.

To use sitemaps, first you need an XML sitemap generator. Then you need to alert Google and Bing to its existence. You direct the engines to your XML sitemap by including its URL at the bottom of your Robots.txt file as well as submitting it through Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools. There are many free XML sitemap generators although many have a cap on the number of URLs that can be reported making them impractical for most businesses. Once the sitemap is created, reporting it to the search engines only involves logging into the webmaster tools and pasting the XML sitemap link.

2. Robots.txt

This file tells search engines what pages or directories to skip, or not index, also called “disallow.” It’s used to omit content you wouldn’t want to direct a user to like resources for your CMS templates. These helps maximize the efficiency of Google’s time crawling your site. Two important rules for robots.txt:

  1. Place it in the root of your domain
  2. It’s essential your sitemap and robots.txt file sync. A robots.txt file blocking essential sitemap pages can impact your SEO results.

3. Canonicalization

For SEO purposes, this refers to web pages that can be reached from more than one URL. For example, and It can become problematic when pages contain the same content but have different URLs. It splits up links and degrades the relative popularity of the page. To prevent this, add a canonical tag with the link of the preferred URL to all non-canonical URLs. It is also important to have a canonical tag on the preferred page that points to itself.

4. Schema and Microdata

This data allows search engines to provide more valuable results to users. Schema informs the search engines of the meaning of your data. It could be location, schedule, product information for example. Many Content Management Systems include schema tools or offer plugins to apply it to desired pages. Once the schema is implemented, it can be checked in this Google tool.

5. Image Alt Tags and Titles

Alt Tags describe the content of image files. It tells Google and other search engines the subject of the image, but it is also used by screen readers. These are tools used by the visually-impaired and blind to tell them about an image. Make Alt Tags as descriptive as possible, like “red air jordans by nike”. For users, it provides a clear description while it also provides search engines with vital keywords for SEO purposes.

6. 404s and 301s

A 404 page error reports the server failed to find a URL matching the request. This error can reflect a broken link, a deleted page or that the user mistyped the URL. Rather than losing the user looking for your site, customize your 404 message with helpful and friendly language to assist their finding the information they’re looking for. Add links to your home page or popular posts if appropriate, but don’t add links for the sake of adding links. To protect your SEO, ensure the webserver returns a 404 HTTP status code to search engines so the pages don’t get indexed. Pages that issue a 404 code should be redirected to a valid page with similar content using a 301 redirect.

A 301 code tells search engines the web page has moved to a new location. This code should be used when a URL is rewritten to rank for a specific keyword or if a page is moved. Using a 301 redirect will help ensure the value of the previous URL gets passed along to the new one.

These 6 on-page but behind-the-scenes SEO tactics can resolve many of the problems that negatively affect SEO. Take the time to check these or hire a professional to do a site audit to ensure you are delivering the best experience to users and search engines. After all, that is your goal.

Check back next Tuesday for the third post in the series, Off-Page Backlinking Tactics.

Until then, you can always take a look at our article, How to Measure SEO ROI, to get a broad overview of what the equation entails.

Also published on Medium.