If you’ve spent anytime trying to advertise a business online in the last ten years, you’ve likely heard of the dreaded “SEO” that can either make or tank your online branding and marketing efforts. Much of the talk about search engine optimization over the last dozen years or so among SEO expert communities and practitioners has been about link building: ie., the more links you have, the better your site will rank.
However, with the integration of social into virtually all Internet user’s lives, and a post-Panda, Penguin, and other Google algo updates shift toward user experience over backlinks on Google and other search engines. Links are now just a small (yet still significant) portion of an otherwise massive pie.
Our friends at Logistics Marketing group, a Dallas SEO – Internet Marketing firm, explains that although links are still very important, there are a number of other factors that now add a lot of weight to where your site shows up in the SERPs (search engine result pages) when someone performs a keyword search in their favorite search engine, namely:
- Site age
- Social signals
- On-page optimization (keywords, navigation, mobile)
- Site loading speed
- Overall user experience
Google and other search engines aren’t going to give you the #1 spot for “Plumbers in Duluth” if you just fired up the site two weeks ago. They’re certainly not going to let you rank for “Latest Celebrity News” or other red-hot keywords either. This is because they want to base their list of suggestions in order of significance (ie., authority).
Age is a big factor in a site’s authority. Of course, this can be easily circumvented by buying a domain, putting it up with a few posts and not really doing much of anything with it for years before launching it, so age apparently isn’t as huge a factor as it once was in SEO.
In fact, web spam guru and Google developer, Matt Cutts tells us that age isn’t much of a factor at all after a site has aged 3 months or more (though keep in mind that he’s known for being cheeky when it comes to the proprietary Google knowledge bombs he often drops on us):
This one is big and it’s the easiest thing you can do to get more search engine love than you ever thought possible. Share your content on social media. Make your content irresistible so lots of other people share it on their social media accounts. The single greatest thing, if anything that getting lots of shares does is bring lots more people to your site.
Although popularity isn’t covered in-depth in this article, it’s the unsung hero of SEO. Get everything else right and offer up juicy content people love, and you get all these other SEO boosters acting in your favor with the search engines:
- More visitors.
- More time spent per page.
- Fewer bounces.
- Longer time spent on site.
There’s so much to talk about when it comes to on-page optimization. This topic has also been covered to death by all the experts over the years.
Information isn’t hard to find, and if you start early and stay vigilant, it’s not that hard to integrate great on-page optimization for SEO into your site. Wait until you’re already in the sandbox or worse, and things get much harder!
Check out this thorough and handy optimization primer.
Site loading speed
There are a number of SEO related problems that can arise from slow load times. Slow load times are caused by factors that all webmasters have control over too including:
- Slow (ie., cheap) web servers.
- Heavy code (ie., CSS, HTML, Java)
- Unnecessary redirects.
- Way too many ads per page.
- Unneeded plugins.
- Autoplay videos and plugin content.
- Poorly optimized images.
- Many other factors.
Each are covered in-depth in this article by MOZ. There’s plenty of expert information out there as to how a site should be optimized for speed. Mobile optimization is the buzz phrase going around these days. If your site isn’t mobile friendly, it won’t load quickly for mobile users.
The Dallas SEO – Internet Marketing firm Logistics Marketing group suggests a few tools to check out which can help diagnose poor load times:
Use this tool to analyze your page’s performance in Firefox.
Get browser extensions from Google for both Firefox and Chrome to help you identify issues that are slowing down your site.
This Firefox add-on features a grading system to help you quickly see how well your site is performing and offer insight on how to improve your site speed. It needs to be used in conjunction with Firebug.
Get a quick report of how a page is performing
One factor that’s often not considered is that Google and other search engine bots have an allocated “crawl budget”. That is, the time they’re allowed to crawl a site before they must move on. After all, there’s a billion sites online now and that number is growing by the day. If your site loads slowly and/or there are specific problems on certain pages that cause them to slow down, you’re going to get fewer pages crawled and fewer will get indexed in the search engine.
Overall user experience
The Dallas SEO – Internet Marketing firm Logistics Marketing group mentioned that satisfying all the factors mentioned here already will always lend themselves to providing the best on-page experience possible for your visitors. Keep in mind that content is king and along with social signals and load times, your content has to be worthy of people’s time.
Neil Patel of Quick Sprout lays out the importance of Google providing the best user experience to its users in this article. SEO, in his mind, boils down to Google’s need to provide Internet users with the most relevant results related to their query.
If searchers rarely got the content served up to them that they were looking for, they’d stop using Google and ad revenue would plummet. In a nutshell, Google’s search engine would never make money if there was no incentive for advertisers to use their platform. So if your content isn’t being well received, forget about ranking well in both theirs and other search platforms.
Though there is much more for all you “SEO nitwits” out there to learn before you can ever call yourself an SEO expert, you’ve now learned most of the basics you need to know in order to get started.
Search engine optimization isn’t something you need to be afraid of, but rather something that all webmasters need to be intimately aware of.
Drop the ball on your SEO game and you’ll forever be trying to play catch-up in a game that isn’t really all that difficult to start with!