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1.4 General Site Quality

People come back to quality. If your site looks sloppy you can kiss goodbye to return visits.

1.4.1 Improve the built-in search

The built in search isn’t particularly good. My advice on this is exactly the same as that given on Yoast – Show results by relevance not date, show an appropriate excerpt, show more results per page and offer typo correction. These can all be achieved with the plugins recommended on the Yoast article

1.4.2 Avoid broken links

Broken links are annoying. They’ll also knock your search engine ranking. To avoid them, use the broken link checker plugin. In addition, to save any future hassle if you change your domain name or your permalink structure – use RB Internal Links for any internal site links. This also makes it possible to apply a styling to internal links that is different from styling applied to external links. Using such styling is also user-friendly – making it possible to see instantly if a link is going to an external site.

1.4.3 Provide content ratings

Content ratings help reduce the chance that your site is blocked by parental security settings. Equally, if any of your content is unsuitable for some audiences, the ratings will protect those audiences. It is simply good practice. I have heard, but haven’t been able to confirm, that content ratings can be beneficial for your search engine ranking too.  The best way of doing this is via a PICS.rdf file, rather than meta entries in the header. This will also avoid any invalid code problems, and avoid the data being loaded unless it is required, saving bandwidth. There is an excellent guide to this at SixRevisions.  See these content rating sites for more information: ICRA, RSAC, SafeSurf and WebUrbia.

1.4.4 Paginate long posts

Really long posts and pages are harder to read, and losing your place is common. Paginating your longer articles improves readability, is better for SEO, and provides more places to put ads. Simple insert the code <!–nextpage–>

1.4.5 Provide a contact method

People like to be able to get in touch, so it’s important to provide a quick and easy method. Unfortunately because of e-mail being harvested for spam, just providing an e-mail address is not recommended. I suggest providing a dedicated page with a contact form. This functionality can easily be added with the Contact Form 7 plugin. I also advise providing a vCard, but only as part of your microformats.

1.4.6 Use appropriate categories and tags

Including appropriate tags in your posts improves your listing on blog directories like technorati. It also makes it much easier for visitors to find related posts. Using categories also makes navigation easier for visitors. Both tags and categories can contribute to your SEO.

1.4.7 Spelling, Punctuation & Grammar

Poor writing is harder to read and undermines your credibility. This is bad news for multiple reasons. Users are less likely to trust your content, are less likely to remain on the site, and less likely to return. Google have already said that there is a strong correlation between sites with high quality SPG, and ranking. Everyone makes the occasional mistake so I recommend using the after the deadline plugin.

1.4.8 Create an ‘About’ page

Your readers want to know a bit about you. A personal feel is more likely to get people back for return visits. Being open about who you are also helps your credibility. You can also use the about page to provide information about or links to copyright information, your privacy policy, author archives, and any other policies (e.g. comments and advertising) as we have here on DIY Media Home.

1.4.9 Use images and styling

No-one likes seeing pages full of text. Get some images, illustrations and colour on your pages. Set yourself the target of having at least 1 image associated with every post. For more thoughts about images see section 2.1.2.  You can also apply styles to external links and use headings to break up blocks of text. Videos (see section 2.1.3) will also brighten things up.

1.4.10 Be authoritative and credible

If you are thorough, clear and confident in what you say, your readers are more likely to have confidence that you know what you are talking about. Whilst you should avoid coming across as arrogant, it is equally important not to appear to be providing a poorly thought through piece or not having conviction. Where possible enhance your credibility by providing reference links to sources (see section 1.4.11). Whilst many of your readers may be happy to just accept whatever they hear, many of them will be “critical” readers. These readers will assess what you say and if they find it not credible they will be less likely to return. Where possible you should enhance your credibility by supporting your assertions in the following ways…

  • Self-evident statements: These are statements that no “reasonable” person would be likely to dispute
  • Subjective statements: These are statements about you, your experiences, your beliefs etc.
  • Supported statements: These are statements that you support by providing references to other credible sources (see section 1.4.11). This is easy online – simply include links to other credible experts. In this article for example there are frequent links to external resources.
  • Self-supported statements: These are statements that you support by providing your own evidence. Be as open and clear as possible with any evidence that you present.

Note: I have paraphrased these statements based on the chapter “Reliability, validity and credibility” by Dr. J Scaife, found on pages 58-72 in “Doing educational research” by Dr C. Opie.

1.4.11 Credit your sources with links

If you got an idea from another site, especially if it’s from another Blogger then say so. Give credit where it is due, and you can expect others to do likewise, increasing the number of incoming links. If you just copy others work without adding much value you are likely to get blacklisted by other bloggers. If you do provide proper links it puts you in a position to confidently challenge any claim of plagiarism.

1.4.12 Don’t use www

Most sites still use www at the start of the name. This is pointless, it lengthens the address and adds nothing. You site should always accept requests with or without the www, but it is better to host your site primarily without the www, and redirect the www requests to the www-less version. You’ll notice that this site is DIYMediaHome.org, not www.DIYMediaHome.org. Reducing the length of the address of articles also reduces the chance that e-mailed links will get broken by a line wrap (see 2.2.4). I personally think non www sites stand out better in google search results too.

1.4.13 Get the dot-com

You may not want a .com domain – but some of your visitors may not remember you TLD and just type in your-site-name.com regardless. You don’t want a domain troll grabbing the .com and stealing your traffic, so if you choose to have a non-dot-com domain then buy the .com as well and redirect it. Just like we have.

1.4.14 Create a favicon

Just about every popular site has one, and wordpress includes one, but you should customise it. You need a png or ico file which is 16x16px. Icons with alpha transparency look better if you can create one. The free utility IcoFX (on our downloads page) may prove useful. Include a meta line in the header to specify your favicon if your theme doesn’t offer a way to set it. Name the file favicon.ico or favicon.png and put it in the web root. Add the following code to your header <link rel=”icon” type=”image/png” href=”http://your.domain/favicon.png”>

You can also provide an icon for apple devices, which should be rectangular and 57x57px. Reference it with the code <link rel=”apple-touch-icon” href=”path-to-your-apple-icon.png” />. You can also use .ico or .gif formats for the Apple icon.

1.4.15 Tables

Only use tables where they’re needed – for tabulated data, never for page structure. Make sure you use the full features of tables properly. You should usually include headings with <th> tags, and you may want to break your table into <thead> <tbody> and <tfoot> sections too. Also consider adding a script to enable your reader to manipulate your tables, e.g. sort them by the data in various columns if this is appropriate. Finally – consider how your tables are presented – it can be easier to read the content of tables where alternative rows are different shades.

1.4.16 Semantic HTML

Use HTML properly. For example, start by including <acronym>, <abbr> and <dfn> tags to define words and to explain what all those abbreviations and TLA‘s mean.  This is good for your readers and search engines.  If you are happy delving into HTML then see section 1.1.5 for more about Semantic HTML.  If you’re too lazy to manually insert acronym tags you can use the Acronyms 2 plugin to do it for you.  W3Schools has a helpful summary of the most useful semantic tags and Joost de Valk (of Yoast fame) has written an excellent article with more information on using semantic HTML properly.

1.4.17 Use a humans.txt file

Rather than embedding a lot of code with credits and details of contributors or authors of your site in the main code, put it in a humans.txt and reference this in the header of your site. For more information see the guide on SixRevisions.

1.4.18 Locate yourself

Keep things personal by locating yourself on google maps. This is especially important if you are a business, but even if you aren’t it is worth doing. To do this create a Geo.kml and Geo.rdf. More information is available at SixRevisions.

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