An effective search engine optimization strategy is multi-faceted, combining a healthy mix of both onsite and offsite tactics. There have been many changes to SEO in the past few years, and tactics that no longer apply, however there are many SEO best practices that remain important for today. In this article we’re covering a handful of the key onsite elements that you can optimize to enhance your website’s visibility in search results for topics and queries that are key to your business.
Invest in website usability
When you first start thinking about onsite optimization it’s helpful to remember what the goal of a search engine is. Google and other search engines compete to attract search traffic (because, ultimately, more searches mean more revenue from ads), and the best way to attract users is to consistently return high quality results to user queries. For this reason, algorithms reward websites that provide good user experience.
User experience is a broad category, and it includes everything from the basics like intuitive site navigation to the nitty gritty details like breadcrumbs and effectively worded calls-to-action. Before pouring resources into building out site content (although this is also an important optimization), it’s critical to first ensure that the overall architecture of the site is designed to serve both your content needs and your user’s objectives.
Create unique and relevant content
Perhaps the most important ranking factor, which is also requires the biggest investment in time and effort, is the creation of quality site content. Site content that is highly relevant to the topics you’re trying to achieve visibility for is the backbone of any effective onsite SEO strategy.
The key is that the content you create needs to be unique and fresh. Google will give less equity to site content that’s deemed to be thin, redundant, or outdated. Look for areas where your brand can create articles, white papers, and videos that serve a genuine user need and add value to the conversation around a given topic.
Reduce page load times
Site speed is a component of usability, but it’s important enough to mention separately here. There are few things as off-putting to a user than a site that takes a long time to load. Keep in mind that in the context of the internet a “long time” is actually only a matter of seconds. Studies have repeatedly shown that site bounces increase with every additional second the page requires to load. Rigorously pursuing site optimizations that improve site load time will improve your site’s overall ability to achieve good search visibility for key topics.
Focus on mobile accessibility
Mobile accessibility and usability have been important ranking factors for years now. This is a reflection of the times we’re living in, where over half of Google’s search volume happens on mobile devices. Consider how unsatisfactory the experience is for a user who does a search on their mobile device, finds a result that seems promising, only to ultimately land on a website that isn’t fully functional on mobile. This is Google’s worst case scenario, so they reward sites that offer high quality mobile experiences.
Mobile usability is a necessity for all websites. If mobile has never been a key part of your digital strategy, or if it’s been a few years since you’ve audited and overhauled your site with mobile traffic in mind, your search visibility could be suffering as a result. Mobile usability should be considered as part of every onsite strategy.
Consider title tags and meta descriptions
Targeting specific keywords through repetitive onsite use is an SEO tactic that’s fallen by the wayside, however title tags and meta descriptions still serve an important purpose. The title tag should accurately describe the content of the page, ideally in 70 characters or fewer. Avoid spammy keyword repetition in favor of a tag that will properly prime the user for the content they can expect to find once they click through to the landing page. Doing so can help reduce page bounces, a factor that’s considered an indicator of poor usability.
Meta descriptions can also be tweaked in order to further encourage clickthrough. The role of this particular onsite element is to support the title tag and provide additional context. When properly written, the meta description can convince users that your website will provide the information or products they’re looking for.
In the early days of web search, it was relatively easy for companies to game search engines to rank very high for desirable keywords. But the nature of search has changed, and search engines have evolved considerably. Modern search engine optimization is all about finding ways to provide a quality experience and high value content to your target users. Doing this requires an investment in content strategy and creation, and a dedication to providing a user experience that meets and even exceeds user expectations.