The majority of website traffic comes from search. There are 3.5 billion daily searches on Google. We can now not only search on desktops, but also on phones, tablets, voice devices (such as Alexa), and other internet connected wearables. Basically, search is important and a key way users get to your site.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of improving your website for search engines so that the online visibility of your site increases.
How Search Engines Work
The best way to think about the internet is that it is the roadmap connecting all the websites in the world.
Crawling – Search engines such as Google or Bing to send automated robots known as “crawlers” or “spiders” to the billions of web pages on the internet.
Indexing – Once the crawlers hit your web page they dissect the site to understand what it is saying, how it is set up, etc. With this information, they store pieces of it in databases for recall later.
When a user searches something – When someone searches “What is SEO” into Google a few different things happen. Google dissects the question to understand what the person is looking for and then picks the most relevant pages to share with that user. Google decides which web page to share with the user based on myriad things such as: how many times is the search term on the web page? Is it in the title? Is this page from a good website?
Watch this video from Google to learn more: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BNHR6IQJGZs
Link Building & Keywords
One way that Google indexes web pages is by their page rank. Your page rank is dependent on how many outside pages link to your web page and how important those links are.
Link building is the process of getting other websites to have links directing back to your website.
So, how do you do this?
Content Creation – Create high-quality content other pages will want to link back to. One way you can do this is to work with industry leaders to create joint content.
Promotion – Promote your best content and share it with the world! Have people review your product or share it on Facebook.
Partners – Work with others in your industry to link to each other. I’m not talking competitors but other key people in your industry such as blogs, magazines, et al.
Link building won’t happen overnight, it takes time to build quality links.
When someone searches something, the search engine looks for web pages with similar or the same keywords. So, it is important to use keywords on your web pages that match those you expect your users to search with.
Don’t just throw a bunch of keywords on your page – Be intentional. Create compelling content that provides value to your users.
Be Relevant – Use keywords that are actually relevant to your content and make sense in context.
Keywords in title and URL – If you can, work your keywords into your title or URL, this makes it more noticeable to search engines.
User Experience & SEO
Search engines are pretty good at telling which websites will provide the best experiences for users. With that in mind, having a good user experience is essential. If a search engine doesn’t think your website will provide a good experience they won’t rank it as highly.
Design for users, not for search engines –Keep your users at the forefront of your SEO and design strategy. Search engines are there to support users, not to show your page. If users are at the center of their strategy, they should be at the center of yours as well.
Navigation and Structure – Ensure the organization of your site is clear and have links pointing to each page. Not sure how to organize your site for your users? Try card sorting.
<title> & <alt> – Make sure your title and alt element in your HTML are clear and descriptive of what the page contains.
Keyword Research – Create keyword rich content that matches the search terms you expect your users to use.
URL Structure – Ensure your URLs are clear, clean, and include keywords from the page it directs to.
Mobile – Be sure your website is responsive and has a mobile format.
Know Your Users
Understanding your users is extremely important in SEO strategy. You must understand how they think, the terminology they use, and what is important to them in order to build the best website.
Make use of personas and involve users in the design process with activities such as card sorting, usability testing, interviews, et al.
How Users Search
There are three primary ways users search online.
Do – This user wants to do something on the internet, such as purchase a concert ticket.
Know – This user is searching for information. They have a question they need an answer to.
Go – This is where the user wants to go to a specific place on the internet, such as LinkedIn.
With the rise of voice, we see more and more people searching in the form of a question. We used to search for things such as “weight of an apple,” but now we would search things such as “What is the weight of an apple.”
SEO in 2018
In August Google updated its core algorithm, while they are many smaller updates throughout the year this update is the first major one since 2012. This update, known as the “Medic” update greatly affected sites in health and wellness, but was seen to affect other areas as well. In order to familiarize yourself with the changes in Google’s algorithm, Moz has a page titled Google Algorithm Change History that has all you need in one place.