Search Engine Optimization (SEO) can seem pretty daunting for those who are just beginning to build their own website or a simple portfolio. Even those who already have an established website need to keep up with changing SEO trends. Sevaa is here to relieve some of the anxiety that comes from taking on SEO: taking care of the hard-to-understand data, making sure your website translates clearly on mobile devices, and standing out from the competition. However, it wouldn’t hurt to review some of the basic pillars of SEO before getting started.
SEO is one facet of web marketing specifically geared towards getting your website more exposure on search engines. Ultimately, you want your website to appear as the top hit (or close to it) on major search engines when people search for a specific topic. Search engines use algorithms to rank websites based on relevancy and popularity. These algorithms take into account a variety of “ranking factors” to determine that. A few of the most important ranking factors include meta information, relevant content, linking, and mobile-first user experience. The more you enhance these aspects, the higher your rank in search results will be, and the more traffic your website will see.
Meta tags are pieces of structured information that appear in the <head> code of almost every web page. They are a strong driving force behind SEO; from the perspective of the search engine, they define your business’ purpose and brand.
With metadata, it’s important to use keywords that adhere to your marketing strategy, as they are what people might type into the search bar when looking for a specific topic. Although there are other factors that affect SEO more than keywords, they are still important. These short descriptions allow you to advertise your website to searchers and hopefully gain clicks. The keywords within your meta information allow search engines to find you based on relevancy.
Structured data is like in-line meta data and is a way to provide search engines with hints about your website’s content. Structured data is coded using in-page markup, therefore should describe the information on each page. There are three aspects that make up structured data markup:
- Itemscope-describes a specific item, contained in the <div> block
- Itemtype-describes what kind of item it is
- Itemprop-describe the specific property such as name, URL, review, etc.
In-page markups are possible through collaborative projects like Schema.org, which promote schemas (or the organization for a database) for structured data markup known as rich snippets; this helps search engines understand your website in order to categorize and index your content. Schema provides an extensive list of tags that you can add to your HTML in order to improve the way your website is represented in search engine results pages (SERP). Here is a complete hierarchy of Schema’s values.
Rich snippets provide more information than just title tags and meta descriptions on results pages; they include anything from reviews to prices, among other aspects of your business. As the above graphic exemplifies, rich snippets provide more than just our company’s name and description; the graphic displays a star rating,location, and Facebook likes and views. Although rich snippets aren’t required, they do improve your website’s click-through rate and help search engines read your website, thus positively affecting your SEO.
Search engines still need to define your website, therefore, you should pay attention to the keywords that appear in your meta titles and meta descriptions, as they take priority when search engines are “crawling.” However, when it comes to body content on your website, you can rest easy and write naturally; the quality of your content will drive your website’s search ranking organically. Search engines are no longer just looking for keywords and phrases; instead, they’re interpreting your website’s data to come to determine if your content is relevant.
Search engines then categorize your website based on synonyms of keywords. So, instead of “stuffing” specific keywords and phrases into your content, you can comfortably write with the intention of becoming a relevant source within a specific category. Search engines will pick out relevant information from your content to determine if your website is right for the searcher.
In addition, search engines have also begun to implement “semantic search.” Instead of picking out specific keywords in a query of a website’s content, search engines find the meaning behind those keywords. For example, if a user searches for “website developers in Atlanta,” search engines find any website with the words “website,” “developers” and “Atlanta” in their content, which encompasses a large population and could even include any Atlanta construction firm with a website. Instead of ranking searches based strictly on keywords, search engines understand the context behind “website developers” as the “idea” of “companies that build websites.”
Search engines strive to find the most relevant information for users, and trends are consistently tailored toward that goal; writing to answer a user’s query or to fulfill their needs is vital. That being said, it is still important to provide quality content in order to gain authority in a given category. Your content should embody a voice and a brand.
“Who is my target audience?”
“Why are they coming to my website?”
“What purpose does my content serve?”
Social Media Optimization
Similar to search engines, social media sites also use meta tags to understand and display your content. While this doesn’t directly affect your SEO like a meta tag would, it entices users to click on your content. Like a meta description, social media allows you to advertise your website.
Facebook and Twitter are the most popular social media platforms, and it’s pretty simple to share a post. However, you can optimize your social sharing with platform-specific meta tags, such as Facebook’s Open Graph tags. Open Graph tags allow you to control how the information you share from your website is presented. Open Graph tags are found in the <head> tag alongside other meta tags. Open Graph is widely used as an open standard, and even though it was developed by Facebook, sites like Twitter also make use of it. Specific sites may have their own meta tags that can and should be used as well, such as Twitter’s Cards.
Open Graph tags affect conversion and click-through rates. By implementing Open Graph tags on your website, you can control:
- The graphic (og:image)
- The headline (og:title)
- The description (og:description)
- The canonical url (og:url)
- The type (og:type)
The images below show the Open Graph tags if we were to share our blog post, “Catch Sevaa at DrupalCon Baltimore” on Facebook.
Open Graph tags allows you to determine the information for each page on your website that will appear on your social media posts, as opposed to the automated (sometimes unsatisfactory) version that platforms like Facebook provide.
Links are the backbone of the web, thus they are the backbone of SEO; without links, documents would float around without a sense of community. Links connect everything online, and search engines need to “crawl” across interconnected documents on the web, whether they are internal, external or backlinks. Internal links are links throughout your content that connect to other pages within your webiste. Each page on your website should be able to be reached by at least one internal link, because search engines cannot index a page that it cannot find, and links are how they find most pages.
External links in your content connect to outside websites. These links should be credible and relevant to your own content, as they reflect on your website’s own credibility. Maintaining your content’s credibility, improves your website’s relevancy and authority in a given topic. As stated in the preceding section about content, writing with the intent of informing searchers will contribute to your ranking, rather than providing content “stuffed” with keywords. Well-researched content will lead your voice naturally, and user’s will gradually begin to look to your content as a credible source.
You also want other trustworthy websites to link to your content as a credible source; these links are called backlinks. Increasing your backlinks requires a bit of manual work: try creating infographics displaying information about your content and distribute, be a guest blogger and invite others to contribute to your content, share your content on as many social media platforms as possible, etc.
According to the Pew Research Center, the percentage of adults who use smartphones has more than doubled in 5 years and is consistently growing. With users in mind, you should be creating and maintaining your website to follow that trend. Search engines are ranking pages higher that work towards this goal. Optimizing your website to be mobile-friendly and accessible to everyone has become increasingly important for SEO; in fact websites are often penalized for not being properly optimized.
There are several ways you can make a site more mobile-friendly. Websites are encouraged to employ readable text, meaning that users shouldn’t have to zoom in on text on their mobile devices. A good rule of thumb is that websites should take no longer than 3 seconds to load on mobile devices.You can also make your website mobile-friendly by using something called responsive design.
Responsive design uses traditional HTML and CSS to create a flexible layout. No matter what size the user’s screen is, elements will move accordingly for optimal readability. If your website can’t be made responsive, you may try creating a separate mobile site on a subdomain or mobile app to better present your content. You may want to also investigate technologies like Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), which creates a fast-loading, lightweight version of content that exists in parallel to content on your site, or Facebook’s Instant Articles, which allows for immediate loading of a slim page on Facebook. These technologies can put you in specialized displays on search engines that cater specifically to the speedy demands of users.
Check out these additional resources to help your website become more mobile-friendly:
Google Search Console
Accessibility and SEO
Making websites accessible to everyone has proven to be quite a challenge for developers, but many of the changes and optimizations that are made for mobile, or the addition of structured data, also help make sites easier to use for people with disabilities. Furthermore, working to make a site more accessible is important: Recently, there have been multiple Americans with Disabilities Act (ACA) lawsuits against companies with websites that aren’t tailored towards the blind and hearing impaired with features like text-to-speech capability. Although aspects of the ADA don’t have a lot of legal precedent when it comes to the web, the lawsuits have encouraged developers to pay attention to the accessibility of their websites. Resources like The A11Y Project offer guides and checklists for developers in order to guarantee accessibility for everyone.
Finally, maintain your website’s ranking with the help of analytics tools like Google Analytics, which offers easy-to-understand tutorials on how to implement analytics on your site. Keeping your website updated will increase the amount of followers as well as keep loyal users coming back for more:
- Measure traffic
Learn which pages are most popular. Tailor your marketing strategy accordingly.
- Check your links
Make sure they lead to working websites and internal pages.
- Produce quality content regularly
And share it on all social media outlets! The more people that click on your content, the more popular your website will be. Your SEO ranking will increase and before you know it, users will be using your website as the most relevant go-to source, making your website the most popular organically.
Sevaa Can Support Your SEO Goals
Although this is a very basic guide, SEO requires a lot of legwork and can seem overwhelming. Sevaa takes SEO into account when building any website and can work with you to maintain or improve your search engine visibility. If you want help in upping your search rankings, guidance on what could be improved, or implementing some of the technologies we’ve mentioned, don’t hesitate to reach out to Sevaa Group.