Knowing who visits your site can be incredibly useful. Let’s look at ways of measuring how the site is performing. Initially, we’re looking to make sure visitors are coming to your site (and how they’re discovering it). To do this, we’re going to add some simple code snippets to your RapidWeaver project that allows you to view visitor statistics via either Google’s free Analytics service or a GoSquared analytics account.
If you’ve never used Google Analytics before, this Moz.com guide explains the basics.
RapidWeaver 7 Changes
We’ve merged the “Google Analytics” and “GoSquared” fields from earlier versions of RapidWeaver into the Site Wide code areas: they’re now part of the “Head” and “Body” areas respectively. This change means you can add even more code to your RapidWeaver projects, and keep it all in one location.
Adding Google Analytics
At the end of the Google Analytics registration process, you’ll be asked to add a site to your account. After entering your website address, Google will present you with the code that you need to carefully copy, and enter into RapidWeaver. You should place the code that Google provides into the Code item in the sidebar, under the Body sub-tab.
Google Webmaster Tools
While Google Analytics provides you with details of how people are using your website, search engines Webmaster Tools is a free service that allows you to see any potential search engines that visit your site. The service highlights potential issues with broken links, missing sitemaps, and dozens of other items that may impede your appearance in search engine results.
Search Engines use a wide variety amount of different “signals” to judge the quality of a page - everything from the speed that a page loads, to the quality of the links to the page and the number of times any given phrase appear on each page. Unlike the early days of search engines, where pages could easily “game” their way to the top of a results page with keyword density, almost every aspect of your site can be used to rank it.
Google produces a great SEO Starter Guide to teach the basics - and there’s also a number of tools that you can use to inspect how your site performs once online. We’ll show you some of these in the next chapter, but first, let’s make sure we cover the fundamentals that your site should include before we publish it!
The Importance of Mobile
In April 2015 Google started gauging how mobile-friendly your website is, and uses mobile-friendliness as part of its ranking algorithm.
The good news is that, if you’re using a responsive theme, this means you need to do absolutely nothing! There’s a number of themes in RapidWeaver 7 that are fully responsive (check out the New Themes option in the Theme Browser) which, in combination with any of the built-in plugins or version 3 of the Stacks plugin, allow you to build a fully-responsive site that works beautifully for mobile devices and desktop computers!
Optimise your Site
Over the years, we’ve learned a few tips about how to make your website sing when a search engine visits it. Here are some top tips for preparing your website - we recommend you run through this checklist before you publish your site for the world to see! This checklist also forms the basis of RapidWeaver 7’s new Health Check feature - to get started, click the Health Check toolbar item and run a check!
Make sure you’ve added descriptive browser titles in the RapidWeaver Page Inspector. Don’t be overly-verbose, or potentially spammy. Google and other search engines penalise sites that use “keyword stuffing” (the practice of cramming in lots of keywords you’re wanting to appear under).
Use concise but descriptive filenames for web pages. For example, the Realmac Software About page uses http://realmacsoftware.com/company as its web address. Keep web site addresses short - some users will attempt to guess the address of pages, and http://realmacsoftware.com/about-realmac-software-app-studio-brighton-website-creation-rapidweaver isn’t that guessable.
Test your website on a few different devices to gauge how the page displays, and how quickly it loads. If your site is responsive, don’t fret about making your site layout pixel-perfect at any given screen size. The whole point of responsive design is to allow the content to dynamically re-flow: as long as there’s no quirks or overlapping content,you’re good to go.
Make sure you've added concise description metatags in the RapidWeaver Page Inspector for every page. While “description” metatags are no longer used by Google to determine your page’s ranking, they are used to generate the short snippets on Google results page. e.g. “Learn more about RapidWeaver, the award-winning website creation app for Mac”.
Add “Alternate” descriptions to images in the MediaEditor. Double-click on every image in your site, and in the popover ensure that the Alt Tag is something meaningful and human-readable. The Alt tag is shown when an image isn’t downloaded and helps visitors who may not display images (e.g. visitors with a visual impairment may be using a screen reader to read pages aloud, or users using a mobile connection while abroad may choose to disable images to avoid expensive roaming charges). Don’t try and overload this with extra information, simply describe the content the user would otherwise see, and avoid generics such as “Logo” or “Button”. If you’re using photos, you may want to describe the content of the image: “Brighton Pier at Sunset”.
Use the built-in Search Engine Sitemap feature. RapidWeaver automatically adds your pages to a special, machine-readable, XML file that is automatically submitted to Google and other search engines on your behalf. If you want to hide a page from this sitemap, you’ll need to uncheck the Show in Navigation option in the Page Inspector.
Use CSS consolidation (a feature that is automatically enabled on new projects), to ensure your pages download and display as quickly as possible. RapidWeaver brings together all the files that layout your site into as small a number of files as possible, and removes unnecessary whitespace. This means that pages load quicker, and depending on the theme, ensure compatibility with older legacy browsers which placed a limit on the number of CSS style sheets a page could use. If you haven’t enabled this feature yet, Health Check will help you enable it on existing projects.
Consider using OpenGraph and Rich Data code on your pages. When adding code to your site, it’s worth remembering that it’s just one of many things you can do to your site - especially as search engines use more than just machine-readable data to analyse your site. That said, giving search engines some hints about the page’s content offers more data that can be analysed and used in other locations. Just like description metatags on your pages, Open Graph and Rich Data code can help make Google aware of a product, company, or review that’s on your page - and consider displaying extra information when your page appears in search results.
As with all SEO tips, be aware that these are merely a set of suggestions and not all-encompassing ways to appear on your chosen results page. Google uses a huge number of different “signals” to rate your page, and ensuring there’s great content to make it worthwhile for visitors should be your primary focus before embarking on any optimisations specifically for search engines!
Remember also that changes made to your website will not instantly impact your appearance in search results, and it could be a month or more before substantial changes have any effect.