Cheesetoast » SEO Brain Food for Web Developers Mon, 07 Jul 2014 23:18:22 +0000 en-US hourly 1 9 Simple Tips to Improve Web Usability Mon, 16 Jul 2012 23:56:01 +0000 Advice on copy writing, linking, font styling, and more. These simple steps can help improve website usability. Continue reading

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Keep Your Content Concise
Website content (headers, lists, tables, paragraphs, etc.) should be concise and logical. Headers should be given short, accurate descriptions that use familiar terms so that users can quickly scan them. Keep paragraphs reasonably short and use lists where necessary to improve readability.
Use Sensible Link Names (Avoid “Click here”)
Link names should have an accurate description of where they lead. For example:

Learn more about <a href="#">feeding bonsai trees</a>.

is far better than

<a href="#">Click here</a> for more information on feeding bonsai trees.

This is also better for SEO, since the link has some context.

Color Code Links
Make sure users can tell that a link can be clicked on. If you have to change the default link color for aesthetic reasons make sure it still stands out as a link. Visited links should have a different text color from links that have never been visited. This isn’t usually a problem, since you need to go out of your way to change it, but it helps users a lot if they know where they’ve visited already. Especially when interlinking is so important…
Interlink Your Site
Interlinking involves creating links to other pages within your site. It’s not only great for SEO but it provides a good way for users to explore your site. Don’t confine internal links to the navigation menu, make sure you include them in your content so that users can find new pages while they’re reading.
Use Bold
Remember, users don’t read content, they scan it. Strip paragraphs of unnecessary language and draw attention to key words or phrases by putting them in bold. Highlight keywords so that they stand out when users are scanning. They can conduct more in-depth reading if they find the snippet of interest. Just don’t go too crazy with it and be careful that your bold text isn’t competing with your headlines.
Line Length
Content can be hard to read if the line length is too long or too short. Research has shown that around 11 words per line is optimal for adults. Children tend to prefer slightly shorter line lengths. Obviously these days with flexible and responsive designs this can be difficult to control, but it’s worth considering when designing your layout.
Use White Space
Don’t be afraid of white space. Not only can it look sophisticated but it can act as a great separator between content areas and is excellent for avoiding a cluttered site.
Use Sans Serif Fonts
Sans serif fonts have been shown to be easier to read for main body text, although serif fonts can work well in headings as it gives them a distinct look.
Keep Color Blindness in Mind
A lot of people don’t realize this but around 8% of males (and only about 0.5% of females) are color blind (myself included). Don’t forget to take this into consideration when choosing colors. Red & green color blindness is the most common, however other color combos such as blue & purple can be problematic. For information on which colors combinations to avoid read about color blindness at

Further Reading

For more tips on how to make your website more usable take a look at my other articles on website usability.

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SEO – Optimize Your Website for Search Engines Sun, 10 Jul 2011 18:46:51 +0000 If you want to improve your search engine ranking, here are some tips for search engine optimization (SEO).

This article talks about how to write well written content, how interlinking can help with page rankings and, if you're using Wordpress, which plugins can help.

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Looking to improve your search engine ranking? Here are some tips on how to optimize your site for search engines such as Google, Yahoo! and Bing.

Well Written Content

A lot of people look for shortcuts to give their site a high search ranking but the truth is that one of the best ways to get your site a good spot on Google is simply to produce good, well written content.

By writing detailed, useful information you’ll not only engage your users but you’ll be populating your pages with relevant key words and phrases. If your content is interesting, your users are more likely to recommend it to other people and link to your site.

Inverted Pyramid

The Inverted Pyramid

To write well written content you should use the ‘inverted pyramid’ style of writing. This style is used by in newspapers and involves putting the most important information at the top of the page and with additional information following in descending order of importance.

Since users generally scan content, instead of reading everything on the page, writing in this style will ensure that they get the most out of the article (especially if there is content beneath the ‘fold’). Make sure that you’re using header tags (e.g. <h2></h2>) where appropriate.

I wrote more about this style of writing in a previous article called ‘What Makes Good Usability?’. For more tips on how to produce well written content, I recommend reading “Writing for the Web” by Jacob Neilsen, especially his article on How Users Read on the Web.

You should also bear in mind that a picture is worth o words to search bots. Images and flash elements cannot be interpreted by search engines (with the exception of HTML tags).


Have you ever gone onto Wikipedia to look up an article and found that you just kept bouncing from article to article. That’s because Wikipedia has fantastic interlinking (linking within the page content) that makes it easy to find related content. Not only does interlinking make navigation easier for users, but it will contribute to your search rankings.

Here are a few interesting bits of information you may not have known about:

  • Links originating from the main body of your page will generally hold more sway than those in sidebars and footers.
  • Links higher up in the markup will count for more than those lower down.
  • Links to external sites will be more influential than internal links.

Speaking of external links, you may be interested in this article from seomoz which goes into more detail about linking.

Titles and Descriptions

It’s always good to give your pages relevant titles and descriptions. Ideally each one of your pages should have it’s own title and description. If you’re coding your own site then you’ll need to use the following code at the top of your HTML code (between <head> and </head>):

<title>[Page Title goes here]</title>
<meta name=”description” content=”[Description of page goes here]” />

Your title should be 60 characters or less and your description should be 160 characters or less. Make good use of your characters; make them keyword rich, but don’t overdo it.

If you’re using WordPress then you can (and should) use the ‘All in One SEO’ plugin (I’ll go into more detail about this further down).

It’s also important to give your images relevant filenames as well as descriptive alt tags. In addition to helping with SEO, it’s also very important for accessibility; users with screen readers rely on these alt tags so don’t overlook them.

SEO for WordPress

WordPress Plugins – All in One SEO Pack & Google XML Sitemap

If you’re using a WordPress site then these plugins are a good place to start. The ‘All in one SEO pack’ will give you greater control over your titles, descriptions and keywords. It also helps by limiting duplicate content that wordpress creates by archiving. The XML sitemap plugin creates a search engine readable file in your sites root directory that helps with your rankings.

Update: Yoast has developed a plugin called WordPress SEO which offers complete search engine optimization for WordPress. It combines many of the features from All in One SEO Pack and Google XML Sitemaps (page titles, meta descriptions, XML sitemap generation, etc.), while adding new features such as robot meta and .htaccess configuration, breadcrumbs and more.

Note: If you’re using All in One SEO Pack or Headspace and want to switch over to WordPress SEO, it also comes with a migration option that makes it easy. If you want to want to read more about migration or have any concerns about switching over, read the Yoast migration article and check out the comments too.

For more tips I recommend you read this article from Yoast on SEO.

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Recommended WordPress Plugins Sun, 19 Jun 2011 20:09:34 +0000 A short list of Wordpress plugins that I would recommend. These plugins can help with SEO, improving download speeds, database backup and contact forms. Continue reading

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  • All in One SEO Pack – This is probably one of the most popular WordPress plugins, and for good reason. The SEO pack, as the title suggests, optimizes your website for search engines. It does this by allowing you to add meta titles, descriptions and keywords to all your pages and posts. This can be done automatically or manually. It also helps avoid duplicate content on your site by adding noindex tags for category and archeive pages. For a guide on how to setup your SEO pack, checkout this useful guide.
    Note: You can find other SEO plugins like Headspace and Robots Meta, however, you have to be careful with conflicts since they both deal with meta tags.
  • Google XML Sitemaps – This handy plugin is another useful resource for improving your search engine rankings. It generates an XML sitemap, which helps search engines work out the structure of your site more efficiently. Additionally, it notifies all major search engines every time you post new content.
  • WordPress Database Backup – Lets you backup your database with ease. You can choose to save your backups to disk, to the server or even have it e-mail it to you. The backups can be scheduled whenever you like and you can even choose to exclude specific tables. For convenience you can also setup the plugin to automatically delete older backups so that it doesn’t clutter up your server. In addition to backing up your database it can also optimize and repair it.
  • W3 Total Cache – A great plugin for speeding up your site. This plugin boasts a 10x increase in overall site performance (when fully configured) by caching your pages/posts, CSS, HTML & Javascript files as well as database objects. This is a very important plugin when it comes to improving download times and improving the general user experience. If you want more info on how to setup the plugin, you can watch this instructional video from Yoast.
  • Contact Form 7 – A simple and flexible contact form plugin which enables you to manage multiple contact forms. You can customize each form to include elements such as text fields, radio buttons, file uploads and CAPTCHAs.
  • TinyMCE Advanced – Adds functionality to the TinyMCE WYSIWYG editor: “Advanced HR, Advanced Image, Advanced Link, Advanced List, Context Menu, Emotions (Smilies), Date and Time, IESpell, Layer, Embed Media, Nonbreaking, Print, Search and Replace, Style, Table, Visual Characters and XHTML Extras.”
  • Simply Exclude – Allows you to exclude/include pages, posts, tags and categories from some of the actions carried out by WordPress. These actions are: is_front (the front page), is_archive (category or tags archive), is_search (search results page) and is_feed (when a feed is viewed/requested). This plugin is great if you want to exclude pages from your in-site search results.
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