Attracting visitors to your site can be tough considering the fact that there are more than 1.5 billion active websites that want the same. Get a slice of the pie and gain as much traffic to their website as humanly possible.
So you want to compete, grow your traffic and gain visitors. You know that displaying your site on the first page of Google could potentially bring in a huge amount of traffic from organic search. You don’t know the how, you just know the why. It can either make or break your business.
You may also happen to know that in order to achieve this, you need to wander into the mysterious land of SEO. There’s a lot of confusion about the exact meaning of SEO, even for developers.
To clear the confusion, let’s see what SEO actually is. Then we will see why you should care about it, and how you can rank your site higher in Google with its help.
If you haven’t heard about SEO yet, it means Search Engine Optimization. But what does it mean exactly? Why do we need to optimize for search engines? And what do we need to optimize?
You may think the answer is your content. And while this is true, it is only a small part of the whole picture.
The short answer is: basically everything on your site. Your content, your site’s performance. Things that you don’t usually see, like meta-information or even your design.
But why does it even matter for Google how does my site looks like? To understand that, we need to look into how search engines work.
Imagine you go to Google because you are interested in what SEO is, and how does it work. So you search for the term “SEO” and Google returns you a list of results. SEO can mean different things. The question is: Are you looking for “Social Engine Optimization” or for “Search Engine Optimizer”? Maybe you are looking for “Sociedad Española de Ornitología”?
None of the above. Of course, you are looking for articles on Search Engine Optimization. Google somehow manages to find articles for you on the subject. But how did it know what you were looking for?
Google constantly indexes websites to create a giant digital collection of pages that you can think of as a library. When you search for a keyword, Google loops through these millions of indexed websites, looking for possible matches. It tries to create a page for you, putting the most relevant information up top.
In the early days, Google worked on simple principles. The pages that had the most links to them from authentic and trustworthy websites must be the most relevant page for a given search. If everyone references the same resource, it must be important, right? Things have changed since then. But the basic principle stayed.
There are now hundreds of factors that go into ranking a site. Things that in the early days weren’t taken into account. Like user experience. This is why your design also matters. This is what we are interested in. If we know what are the factors and what to look after, we can rank our site higher. But before we begin, let’s see why you should even care.
So what are the reasons to care about SEO, apart from the fact that you can rank higher in Google?
One of the most important things is that it builds trust over time and gives your site credibility. Whatever you provide to your audience, if you don’t have authority, they will leave because of the lack of credibility. By establishing your site on the first page of Google, it will indicate that your site is relevant to their search.
It’s also important to mention that — even if you are not a developer — you can still improve your SEO score massively by keeping an eye on the different factors that will rank you higher. But only if you constantly measure and monitor key metrics and resolve any issues related to SEO. Therefore, it is relatively cheap to implement good SEO. You mostly invest time.
In the end, it will mean increased traffic for your site which eventually will mean more conversions.
So what are the factors to rank higher? What should we keep an eye on?
As noted before, there are hundreds of factors that go into ranking a page. So you won’t be able to comply with everything. Yet, there are some key factors which you should take good care of.
The most important is your content. Is it relevant to your visitors? Are they getting what they want? Here you should think about things like:
- Using a clear, descriptive heading for your content. This is what users will first see and can decide whether they choose to stay or leave.
- Structuring it with subheadings. It may sound obvious but your content should be easily digestible.
- Using the right keywords throughout it. If you want to rank for the keyword “custom action figures”, you should use it throughout your site. Avoid spamming keywords. Google is smart and it can rank your page lower if it categorizes it as spammy content.
The structure of your HTML document won’t be visible to the end-user. But it is just as important as your content. Keep an eye on:
- meta tags: These will hold meta-information about your site, that will be displayed in search results. You should also use open graph tags to properly format your site on social media platforms.
- proper, descriptive title tag: Your site must cater for the disabled. Title tags are not only used by search engines — to determine whether a site is relevant to a search — but by assistive technologies as well. Such as screen readers.
- alt attributes for images: Often omitted by people, but providing alternate text for images is also a factor that determines your SEO score.
- descriptive links: They help search engines better understand your content.
User experience has started to gain importance. These are some things you should be looking after:
- page speed: Speed is starting to become a large factor for ranking your site. The slower it is, the worse the user experience.
- mobile-friendly: In 2016, mobile users surpassed desktop. Your site must be responsive to be properly displayed on mobile devices, so users can easily navigate your content.
- appropriately sized tap target: For these devices, interactive elements such as buttons should be large enough for the user to be easily tapped without accidentally clicking on other elements.
- legible font-size: You should avoid using font sizes smaller than 12px. This helps to keep your content easily readable.
Of course, in order to know if you met the things mentioned above, you need to measure it somehow. There are several tools out there for measuring your SEO score. But you should also think about measuring other key factors.
Now that we know what are some factors that can rank our site higher, there’s only one thing left to do. Measure the results. If we can’t measure it, we don’t know if we are on the right track. But what should we measure exactly?
There are some key metrics that you should track. Probably the two most important are organic traffic and bounce rate. Organic traffic simply defines the traffic you receive from Google without paying for placement. The opposite of organic traffic is paid traffic.
Bounce rate on the other hand tells you how many visitors left your site after viewing only one page. The lower the number, the better. Having a high bounce rate can mean several things. Your visitors may didn’t found what they were looking for. Or they left immediately after they found what they were looking for. In either way, you want to keep users on your site by using internal links.
You also need to pay close attention to your click-through rate or CTR for short. There’s no use in appearing on the first page if visitors don’t click through to your site. This is what the click-through rate measures. Say you have 100 impressions, meaning your site has been seen by 100 people on Google. If one of them clicks through to your site, your CTR will be 1%. You can find out your CTR by using the dashboard on Google Search Console.
So how can you track these? Luckily there are plenty of tools out there — both free and paid — that can help us achieve our goals. The most commonly used that you probably already heard of is Google Analytics.
Google Analytics is completely free and is easy to integrate into your site. It gives you a detailed report on your traffic. Their geographic location, demographic data, and much more. You can also implement A/B testing which helps you to improve your site in small iterations.
To get the most out of your SEO, you also need to know where it needs improvement. You need to know what are the weak points of your site. Just as for measuring metrics, there are tools that can identify issues.
Lighthouse will probably be your best friend. It is built right inside Chrome’s DevTools. You can reach through the Audits tab. Apart from measuring SEO and giving you hints on what to improve, it also tests your site for performance. It is becoming a key factor for achieving higher ranks on Google.
If you take some time to monitor your key metrics and address any issues brought up by the tool, you will most likely increase your site’s ranking and get yourself in a better position on Google.
If you are also looking for extra tools that can help you along the way, make sure to check out my SEO checklist on GitHub. There, I provide additional analytics tools, SEO checkers, and chrome extensions. You can also find information on how to improve technical, on-site, and off-site SEO.
Although following the tips mentioned above will highly improve your ranking, we have to note that taking care of SEO is a long term investment. You won’t see results overnight. Keep improvements consistent and the invested time and effort will pay off.
What are some SEO tips you always look after? Share us in the comments. Thank you for taking the time to read this article, happy improving!