There are more than a billion websites online today, and new ones are being created at a rate of about 500 per minute. The breakneck speed at which online content is being created makes search engines an indispensable tool for finding your way on the web. Conversely, businesses looking to expand their customer-base online have to rely on search engines to drive traffic to their websites. This is where search engine optimization comes into play. To sustain and increase online presence, it is not enough to simply create and maintain a website, and hope that search engine algorithms will do the rest.
A website needs to be optimized in several key areas in order to increase its likelihood of appearing as a relevant search result. These include technical, content, on-site and off-site optimizations, and others. Depending on the size of the business operation, investing in each of these optimizations to some extent is proven to have an impact on search engine rankings on services like Google or Bing. Ideally, a company should implement every kind of SEO for maximum effectiveness, but those with limited resources will likely have to choose a few areas on which to focus. The following article will try to give an overview of what these areas are, and how to utilize them properly.
Technical SEO refers to the practice of optimizing the design and structure of your website so search engine crawlers have an easier time indexing it. More importantly, search engines take into account technical characteristics when determining search rankings. Technically well-made websites score higher among users than those that are barely functional, which is why search engines rank them higher. Here are two example strategies that utilize technical optimization which any small business can use to improve their rankings.
- Focus on speed. According to Google, page load times of 3 second or less should be adopted as the standard for website speed. Anything longer risks lower rankings, as well as increased bounce rates for visitors. To optimize page load speed, websites should be hosted on reliable servers, have a proper load order for various page elements, and compress their images for lower bandwidth usage.
- Adapt for mobile. Recent data shows that more users now browse the web on mobile devices than on desktop ones. To reflect this change, Google has announced the introduction of the mobile-first index sometimes in 2018, which will rank websites based on their usability on portable devices first. Optimizing for mobile can be do by implementing principles of responsive design into your website, ensuring that it scales well on different screen sizes, and maintains the same level of functionality.
Content SEO is simply the practice of adapting text, images and video of your website to include relevant search keywords and long-tail answers to popular search queries. Content optimization is an area where most improvements can be made. It can be done relatively cheaply, making it attractive for smaller companies. Writing quality content involves a no small measure of creativity on the part of the content writers, whether they work in-house, or if they work for a white label SEO service. Two strategies to keep in mind while optimizing content are to follow.
- Create Credible Content. The be-all and end-all of content creation is quality. In this sense, there is no difference between writing for SEO purpose, and writing something that meets user quality standards and expectations. Creating good content can be a timely investment, but one that inevitably pays off in the long run.
- Promote Content. Creating good content is essential, but further adaptation is necessary to ensure it has marketing appeal as well. There are always multiple ways a sentence can be phrased while retaining its meaning, but some ways are just more common among search engine users. Optimizing content to sound enticing while maintaining quality is not easy, but it can be done with some effort.
This form of optimization has overlapped with the others mentioned above, in that it involves both content and the way it is implemented. Specifically, it refers to all forms of optimization which are focused on the website itself, in contrast to off-site optimizations which are done through developing links from other websites. On-site SEO is broader in scope than technical and content optimization, and as such it involves a variety of different strategies. The two mentioned here are only the tip of the iceberg.
- Create a quality user experience. Technically- optimized websites make access to content easier. Well-written content keeps visitors engaged. The two combined create a positive browsing experience, which generates good user feedback, social media sharing, backlinks, and numerous other benefits. All of these factors contribute to search engine rankings, and companies such as Google are increasingly stressing their importance as well. Creating a positive UX is equal parts art and science, but that just means you can use principles of both to your advantage.
- Try local SEO. Ranking well on global search engines such as Google is important, but smaller business that target a local market can benefit greatly from optimization aimed at state, regional or municipal levels. Studying local competition, tracking relevant keywords on the level of everyday discourse, and similar strategies can take on a wholly different shape in comparison to their global application. Make sure to use them extensively, if your products and services allow for it.