Search Engine Optimization
If you have a website in 2019 then you must have heard of Search Engine Optimization. This is – without a doubt – the most important factor in achieving a highly-ranked website online. Websites are becoming easier to build so this means more competition, especially for Page 1 results. A recent study by Google found that less than 5% of people continue to page 2. Which means if you’re not on Page 1, you don’t matter.
How to get noticed on Google.
SEO is constantly changing, adapting to updates in the Google Algorithm. This is the constant battle SEO strategists must fight to remain on top of recent developments and keep their site relevant. But what matters? What gets you the most traction? Answers vary depending on who you ask, and when you asked. But there are certain factors that most experts agree are integral for success, they are as follows:
This word was all the buzz a few years ago but is evolving into “Key Phrases”. As voice search begins to overtake text search, the way in which we search is changing. In industry lingo, it means keywords are getting a “tail” or getting longer. Phrases or words, it doesn’t matter the principle is the same. You must identify what people are searching for online when they are looking for your products or services. These search terms must then be intertwined on the webpage. The title, the URL path, in the content itself, the keyword/phrase and if you have media the alt-tags. The better job you do with the above, the higher you appear in search results.
Having a clear, defined plan for your website page structure will pay off immensely in the long-term. Dividing each category, product or service into its own page may seem unnecessary but it allows search engines to focus more precisely on specific content. Putting multiple services or products on a single page forces you to select one, single topic and focus all your SEO efforts, keywords, meta-descriptions on that one topic alone. This leaves any secondary service or product in the dust (from an SEO point of view) and gets no Search Engine Optimization attention.
Google wants your site to have lots of content, but structured in a very specific way. The minimum word count for a webpage is between 350 – 500 words. Recently Google has made it clear that the more QUALITY content you have the better, announcing that most #1 ranked sites in their respective industries have – on average 1,800 words on the landing page. So if you’re thinking of keeping it short and sweet and landing on that #1 spot, unfortunately, that is not the case in 2019. Each sentence should have no more than 20 words. Each paragraph should have 2-3 sentences (150 words Max) and ideally separate each paragraph with a new H2 or H3 header. This gives Google’s algorithm an indicator that the content is laid out in such a manner that someone with a grade 9 intelligence level can comprehend the content. Look at this post as an example of SEO-strong structure.
Because Google’s algorithm is text-based doesn’t mean it dislikes photos and video. In fact, Google loves media on webpages. Whenever we go to websites we often spend more time on pages that have interesting images and video. So how does Google judge the quality of media if it cannot recognize it? This is why Alt-Tags are so important. If the media doesn’t have an Alt-Tag, Google sees that area as a blank space, void of content. It then lowers the quality rating of that page on the website, when in fact the page should have been elevated. Imagine spending time, effort and capital, generating great images and video, then you add it to your site thinking it will help boost traffic, but the opposite happens, all because you didn’t add Alt-Tags.
Whenever you add media to your website you should be very sensitive about the file size. The easiest way to drop on SERP pages is to have long load times. You must make sure your pages load in less than 3 seconds. You can test your website page speed on sites such as GTMetrix or Pingdom and get a sense of what images are using up the most space. Look at the natural size of the image, is it over 1500px Wide? It doesn’t need to be. Re-size and use plug-ins like WP Smushit for WordPress Sites. These plug-ins automatically compress images further to reduce load times and can prove useful when used across an entire site.
Voice Search Engine Optimization
Since more people surf the web on mobile than desktop it was logical to assume search patterns would change with it. On mobile, we tend to opt for voice search and functions because our hands are occupied. When we use voice search we search for things the way we talk, not the way we type it in a search bar. In 2020 we will surpass the 50% mark on Voice Search Vs Text Search and therefore it will be given priority. This has a trickle-down effect on almost all aspects of Search Engine Optimization. Google is already beginning to favour “Key Phrases” rather than “Key Words” as a signal of things to come. In order to maintain your sites real estate on SERPS you may have to alter or edit your content to closely match the new, search terms.
Links are an important piece of the SEO puzzle. There are outbound links: A link on your site that goes “out” to another 3rd party site. Inbound Links are more valuable, they are when a 3rd party website links to content on your site. Inbound links carry more weight because they deem your page to be of high-quality content, something worthy of our time. Finally, there are cross-links: this is when you link to another page on your own website. A good example is having a hyperlink to a Contact Us page within a blog post or in a product description.
When a site is completed and launched it is an exciting feeling. The first thing many do is search for it online – your cookies and proximity might show you instant results. But these are not “real” results. It takes Google weeks even months to properly “crawl” your entire site. You can speed this process up by submitting your sitemap directly to Google via “Search Console“. A sitemap is a simple text-based XML file that lists every single page on your website. This serves as a directory for all search engines.
With Content Management Systems (CMS) like WordPress becoming so popular they automatically generate sitemaps, so the need to do it yourself is becoming less vital. Some experts say sitemaps are not needed at all in 2019 but that remains to be confirmed. Until that occurs we here at WDK continue to include them in all development projects so that all opportunities are taken to get in good standing with Google.
An emerging trend is “local SEO”. This is taking advantage of location-based content such as Google My Business. GMB now offers the ability to create posts that exist for 7 days at a time. This relatively short lifespan forces web admins to create content on a more frequent basis, encouraging dialogue with local patrons. Social Media can also be considered local SEO if you use it correctly. #ygk is a hashtag that represents our local market, Kingston, Ontario and we use it as often as we can to reinforce that bond. Adding location pages on your site also helps tremendously, WDK took that idea and created pages such as WDK: Gananoque, WDK: Brockville, and WDK: Belleville.
To reach and maintain top spots on the Google results page is no easy endeavor. It takes a keen understanding of modern techniques and a willingness to constantly improve and add new content. Think of Search Engine Optimization like a large planet with many moons orbiting it. Each moon has a specific effect on the planet (the website) and over time can contribute to its overall health, just like the moon positively affects our ocean tides. Should you have any questions, or be in need of SEO assistance feel free to Contact Us to learn more.