SEO - What Search Engines Love and Hate About Websites
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a common word and if you have worked within the web development industry or even manage a simple personal website, you will likely have come across this word. It affects websites and will significantly determine its placement in search engines and visitor traffic to your website. In this post, we shall examine the key friendly factors that search engines love and which if implemented, will affect your website performance.
What is SEO?
First, let us refresh our understanding of what is SEO. SEO is the umbrella term for all the methods you can use to ensure the visibility of your website and its content on search engine results pages (SERPs).
The methods vary from the practices you can achieve behind the scenes on your website (we tend to refer to this as on-page SEO) to all the promotional off-page approaches you can use to raise your site's visibility (link-building, social media marketing).
For the purpose of this article, when we talk about visibility, we mean how high up the SERP your website appears for certain search terms in the organic results. Organic results refer to those that appear naturally on the page, rather than in the paid-for sections. Paid search is also a large part of search engine marketing.
Why do you need SEO?
Good SEO through building a strong site architecture and providing clear navigation will help search engines index your site quickly and easily. This will also, more importantly, provide visitors with a good experience of using your site and encourage repeat visits. It's worth considering that Google is increasingly paying attention to user experience.
When it comes to how much traffic is driven by search engines to your website, the percentage is substantial, and could perhaps be the clearest indicator of the importance of SEO.
In 2014, Conductor suggested 64% of all web traffic comes from organic search, compared to 2% from social, 6% from paid search, 12% direct and 15% from other referral sources.
Of all organic traffic, in 2015 it was found that Google accounts for more than 90% of global organic search traffic. So obviously the rules set by Google will be very important in your SEO practices and you need a strong presence on Google SERPs.
One study from Advanced Web Ranking shows that on the first SERP, the top five results account for 67.60% of all clicks and the results from six to 10 account for only 3.73%.
It's therefore vital that your site appears in the top five results. Much of our efforts have been put into achieving this though we rank well for less competitive keywords.
How are you going to achieve this? The following tips will help.
What are search engines looking for?
Search engines try to provide the most relevant results to a searcher's query, whether it's a simple answer to the question, (the answer of which Google will likely provide without you having to leave the SERP) to more complicated queries.
How search engines provide these results is down to their own internal algorithms, which we'll never truly determine, but there are factors that you can be certain will influence these results and they're all based around relevance.
Also read: An SEO Guide on the Top 3 Factors That Guarantee Success For Every Website
2) The quality of your content
Helpful content counts. You have to publish helpful, useful articles, videos or other types of media that are popular and well produced. Write for actual human beings rather than the search engine itself. Well, you should. Latest research from Search metrics on ranking factors indicates that Google is moving further towards longer-form content that understands a visitor's intention as a whole, instead of using keywords based on popular search queries to create content.
Basically, stop worrying about keywords and focus on the user experience.
3) User experience
There are many SEO benefits for providing the best possible user experience. You need an easily navigable, clearly searchable site with relevant internal linking and related content. All the stuff that keeps visitors on your webpage and hungry to explore further.
4) Site speed
This has become a ranking factor and you should be interested in how quickly your webpages load.
5) Cross-device compatibility
;Is your website and its content equally optimized for any given screen size or device? Bear in mind that Google has stated that responsive design is its preferred method of mobile optimization.
Also read: A Search Engine Friendly Guide to Link Building
6) Internal linking
Internal linking can help push traffic around the site and that may lead to higher trust signals for Google. Internal linking has many advantages:
It provides your audience with further reading options. As long as they're relevant and you use clear anchor text (the clickable highlighted words in any give link). This can help reduce your bounce rates.
It helps to improve your ranking for certain keywords. If we want this article to rank for the term SEO basics then we can begin linking to it from other posts using variations of similar anchor text. This tells Google that this post is relevant to people searching for SEO basics. Some experts recommend varying your anchor text pointing to the same page as Google may see multiple identical uses as suspicious.
It helps Google crawl and index your site. Those little Googlebots that are sent out to fetch new information on your site will have a better idea of how useful and trustworthy your content is, the more they crawl your internal links.
Also read: A Complete Guide To Good SEO For Beginners
An authority website is a site that is trusted by its users, the industry it operates in, other websites and search engines. Traditionally a link from an authority website is very valuable, as it's seen as a vote of confidence. The more of these you have, and the higher quality content you produce, the more likely your own site will become an authority too.
8) Meta descriptions and title tags
Having a meta description won't necessarily improve your ranking on the SERP, but it is something you should definitely use before publishing an article as it can help increase your chances of a searcher clicking on your result.
The meta description is the short paragraph of text that appears under your page's URL in the search results.
9) Schema markup
You can make your search results appear more attractive by adding Schema markup to the HTML of your pages. This can help turn your search results into a rich media playground, adding star-ratings, customer ratings, images, and various other bits of helpful info.
10) Properly tagged images
Adding the alternate attribute when uploading images to a website content is definitely something you shouldn't overlook because Google cannot see your images, but can read the alt text.
By describing your image in the alt text as accurately as possible it will increase the chances of your images appearing in Google Image search.
It will also improve the accessibility of your site for people using screen reader software.
Also read: 7 SEO Tips That Will Help Your Website Rankings, Yet Are Not Often Talked About
11) Evergreen content
More thoughtful and helpful articles can lead to huge long-term wins in terms of driving traffic and occupying highly visible positions in the SERPs.
12) Domain names
You should use sub-directory root domains (www.todhost.com/host/blog) instead of sub-domains (blog.todhost.com) as this is better for your overall site architecture.
You should also stay away from hyphens (tod-host.com) and alternative Top-level domain names (.biz .name .info) as these are considered spammy.
Having a keyword rich domain name may lead to closer scrutiny from Google. According to Moz, Google has de-prioritized sites with keyword-rich domains that aren't otherwise high-quality. Having a keyword in your domain can still be beneficial, but it can also lead to closer scrutiny and a possible negative ranking effect from search engines - so tread carefully.
Also you should make sure that if you operate a site without the www. prefix, someone who types in www.example.com will still be redirected to your site. If this isn't happening, Google may assume these are two different sites and your visibility could be compromised. This is called canonicalization.
13) Headlines and permalinks
The headlines for your articles should be under 55 characters to ensure their complete visibility in SERPs. Make sure they're snappy, attractive and as descriptive as possible (this is often an impossible balance).
The permalink (or URL), which you can normally alter in your website design even after it's been set automatically, doesn't necessarily have to match the headline exactly. Google has stated that you can use three to four key words that you should put the most important keywords first.
Do not turn off your comments system. Having a thriving community of regular commenters engaging in dialogue under your posts shows that visitors care enough about your content to either make their own relevant points or to praise it. Either way, at least people are reading it.
15) Local SEO
Increasingly Google is serving results to users based on their location. This is particularly important to businesses out there in the real world who need to catch a searcher's attention just at the right moment. You should register with Google My Business and ensure that all of your information is accurate and up-to-date, such as opening times, contact information, customer reviews and that your categorized correctly.
You need to make sure you're present on all relevant social channels (wherever your audience may be), and not just broadcasting your content in a faceless manner, but by using it as a customer service channel and genuinely interacting with people in a friendly, helpful and entertaining manner.
Things to Avoid - Bad SEO Practices
There are many black hat practices that can bring the full weight of a Google penalty down on your site, so it's best to avoid doing the following, even if it looks like a brilliant easy win at the time.
17) Keyword stuffing
Avoid overusing keywords on your pages, especially when they obviously affect the readability of your site. It's debatable whether Google even still uses keywords as a ranking factor anymore.
18) Link buying or excessive link exchanging
Thinking of buying or paying someone to post a link for you - a link farm? Just don't do it. The most valuable links to your site are the ones that come from authority sites within your own niche.
19) Annoying ads
Anything overly intrusive that destroys the pleasure of reading your content and slows down your site speed.
20) Mobile app interstitial
Don't present mobile visitors with a full-screen advert to download your app, Google will consider you no longer mobile friendly.
21) Duplicated content
If Google finds two identical pieces of content, whether on your own site, or on another you're not even aware of, it will only index one of those pages.
22) Hidden text and links
Avoid using white text on a white background, positioning text off-screen, setting font size to zero or hiding a link in a single character like a comma or a full-stop. The temptation to put a link in that last full stop was incredibly high.
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