Search engine optimization may seem like a different language, but as Jim Ryan, cofounder and developer at Room 118 Solutions explained, it only takes a few quick steps to incorporate good SEO (and new thinking) into your development practices.

Ryan suggested these seven tips to help developers enhance the search engine optimization of their websites and applications, both old and new.

Semantic markup
Ryan said all headings should be marked h1 or h2 in the codebase to help “spiders” (Web bots that search for websites based on specific characteristics) find your site.

Specifying canonical URLs
“Especially in a Web app, where there are several URLs that may lead to the same page, it is important to specify canonical URLs,” Ryan said. These tell Google how to index your site and will prevent it from splitting your rank across the URLs that lead to the same page. (Instructions on how to do this can be found here.)

Image alt tributes
Labeling your images with keywords that describe the image will help get your site get picked up by crawlers because they are readable, Ryan said.

Image replacement
When adding an image to your website, Ryan suggested using shorter links to replace your images so that spiders can find keywords quickly. He said that instead of using an image source (img src=“image”), it would be better to directly link the image to a specific word or phrase (a href=“image”) and use CSS to turn that anchor into a block element, hide the text, and set the background to whatever you’d like.

“Pretty” URLs
Ryan suggests developers and content managers use these “pretty” URLs (as he calls them) to designate new posts and pages on a given site. A pretty URL is a readable string of words that better define the content instead of using arbitrary numbers and script names. Blogs typically employ this, as this example demonstrates.

301 redirects
“If a page moves, don’t let it ‘404,’ ” Ryan said. “Have it 301 to the new URL.” The search engine will automatically update its index to bring end users to the new location.

Unobtrusive JavaScript
“JavaScript should be used to enhance a site, not create it,” said Ryan. “Crawlers don’t run the JavaScript on the sites they crawl, so if your JavaScript is moving or producing content, it won’t be picked up.” Unobtrusive JavaScript separates the functionality of a Web page from the structure and presentation. It helps when dealing with different browsers, he explained.

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