Make Your Website SEO-xy
You’ve probably heard that SEO, search engine optimization, is pretty important. But...why? Being certain that you understand not only what SEO is but how it works is the key to ensuring that the website you’ve been polishing gets the attention it deserves.
Search engines look at every single webpage in existence and synthesize that astronomical amount of data down to usable information. That information about each site is stored in a database called an index. Indexing allows a search engine to spit out the most relevant sites to a user’s search almost instantly. While the indexing algorithms themselves are a closely kept secret, the main aspects of your website that affect your ranking are common knowledge.
Simply put, your words matter. The copy on your website is combed through for keywords that show a search engine what your page is all about. Working key phrases and words into your copy organically is key. You don’t want your website sounding like a fourth-grade book report where you got bonus points for using that week’s vocab words.
Each page on your site has a title in its code, even if you don’t see it from a users’ perspective. Search engine algorithms weight those titles heavily because it’s assumed that they sum up the content of the page. Unfortunately, “homepage” isn’t doing you any favors.
These algorithms take into consideration any external links to your site across the internet. (Remember, they look at every page.) That doesn’t mean you should spam the internet with as many links as you can cook up yourself. Not only are there repercussions for being a spam spewer, the algorithms take into consideration the ranking of the website where your link is posted. This is another time where words matters. If you’re a florist and a wedding coordinator links you as a preferred vendor with the word flowers, it shows the algorithm that your business is associated with flowers.
Reputation is an important aspect of SEO. Having recent, positive reviews and check-ins tells a search engine that your business is relevant. Improving your rating on review sites shows the algorithm that your business is growing. Relevant + Growing = A website algorithms will highlight to users.
Someone will always find a way to work the system, but it’s best practice to follow Google's Webmaster Guidelines. The short cuts are usually against the rules and can get you hit with a spam action or removed from Google’s index forever. If you’re doing SEO the right way it can take time to build your presence on the web. Still, it’s worth the investment to generate long-lasting results that will be sustainable over time.
To be effective in your SEO efforts (or to know where to start) you need to know where you stand. Here are our favorite tools for checking your website’s performance for free:
Google Search Console - Google Search Console helps users monitor the performance of their website. Pull up a list of keywords you’re currently ranking for and see the keywords that are missed opportunities. From here you can work on updating your copy to increase your ranking.
(Pro Tip- if you’re having a hard time coughing up a list of keywords that you should be using, there’s a tool for that too! Check out the free keyword suggestion function of Ubersuggest. Just type in a keyword you’re already working with to see a list of top-rating suggestions.)
SEOquake - SEOquake is a free plugin that provides you with your SEO metrics and runs a full SEO Audit on your website. It’s a great tool for getting a zoomed out look at how you’re doing and for monitoring the ongoing effectiveness of your SEO efforts.
Keep it Friendly
Search engines can change their algorithms at any time. According to Google's CEO, Eric Schmidt, in 2010, Google made over 500 algorithm changes – almost 1.5 per day. (You can read more about it here.) The biggest change to hit 2019 is Google’s shift to Mobile-First Indexing.
Mobile-First Indexing means that Google will use the mobile version of your website as the primary version for indexing and ranking. With recent analytics showing that over half of users are loading sites on their mobile devices, it makes sense to make mobile-friendliness a top priority.
While page speed has been a ranking factor for a while, mobile speed ranking is brand new. It’s the “two” in the one-two punch Google is throwing on behalf of mobile users. Here are a few things to consider as your work towards improving your mobile speed ranking:
Compress Your Content- Google recommends that you gzip all of your compressible data to reduce your content size. Compression will reduce download time, data usage for the user, and improve your website’s load time.
Get Rid of Redirects- Landing page redirects are a buzzkill for the mobile experience. In a best-case scenario, they’re adding a single HTTP request-response roundtrip. In a worst-case scenario, your page is in a redirect loop from hell, running multiple HTTP requests before it can find a landable page. The best way to remove this issue is to avoid redirects altogether. If you must, use a 301 redirect to permanently redirect from old deleted content to new content. If you don’t have a permanent redirection to put in place, don’t redirect at all.
Optimize Your Images- Images are usually the bulk of the data weight on your page. You can optimize them to reduce their size without significantly impacting their visual quality. Reduced size means reduced download time and less of a toll on your user’s bandwidth.
Putting in the effort to reduce the size of your data and streamline your mobile user experience will add up to a better mobile speed ranking and a better mobile index rating overall.
Don’t Be Afraid to Call In An Expert
Unfortunately, SEO isn’t something you can address once and leave alone forever. With consistently changing algorithms, updated indexing policies, and the constant need to create new compelling content it can get pretty overwhelming. If you run your analytics and have concerns about your SEO, don’t panic- we can help.
Consider rewriting copy on your website for sections that don’t naturally include many of the keywords relevant to your business.
Invest in your reputation management. It won’t just drive traffic to your store, it will help you gain prominence on the web.
Take the time to do it right. A short burst of attention isn’t worth getting your website banned.
Optimize for mobile. You can’t avoid it any longer.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. This is complicated stuff and having an expert on your team can pay for itself in the long run.