An In-Depth Look at the Importance of Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

User Experience is King

Now more than ever, providing a high-quality, fast-loading, simple-to-use user experience on your site is crucial to having a strong organic search ranking. Content quality is important, and relevance and context are how search engines will find your content. Ensuring that your site content is geared towards satisfying your desired target audience’s relevant queries is paramount.

What Matters

SEO is about knowing how to attract the right kind of traffic and building a positive profile for your site.

Real Visitors: 

  • Come to your site based on relevant searches or from relevant sources
  • Stay on your site and visit more than one page
  • Complete an action on your site
  • Tell others about your site
  • Come back to your site

Be Relevant:

Do you have clear answers to the following three questions?
  • Who is your visitor?
  • What are they searching for?
  • What do they want to get?
If you do not, work on them first. Without focus, you can not conquer SERPs (search engine results pages). Understanding who is coming to your website, why they stay and how you can bring them back is the first step on your SEO journey. Then ask yourself: "Is my site boring?" Make your site – and by proxy, your brand - the least boring version of itself it can be. And excitement does not mean outrageous. It means that your site is easy to navigate, engaging, dynamic, responsive and aesthetic. How is this measured? Social shares, bounce rates, time spend on site, cart abandonment and email list growth. All these KPIs signal back to search engines that your site is engaging.

Keywords Still Matter

While relevance and accessibility are important, keywords still matter. But where old SEO centered on keyword stuffing, new SEO is about the placement, context and meaning of keywords. When writing content, use complementary keywords, synonyms and present content like a reader would want to consume it.

Here are a few quick tips for responsible keyword usage:

Do not focus on one-word generic keywords – you will not win unless your domain name is an exact match to the keyword.

Do keyword research - Here is a very quick, five-step approach to keyword research.

  1. Define list of topics
  2. List keywords relevant to topics
  3. Check related searches
  4. Mix of one-word generic and long-tail keyphrases – use together
  5. Check competition

Use keywords correctly: After you define your keywords, here is how you can use them responsibly:

  • Include target keyword in page title and relevant sub-headers
  • Use synonyms and keywords that complement your target keyword
  • Avoid the urge to keyword stuff or write like a robot
  • Use in link anchor text and images names/alt tags

On-Page Optimization

Now that you know how to find the most relevant keywords to use and how to use them, here is where you need to spend time refining your content. Spending time crafting the following content will help associate your content to relevant searches.

  • Write brief, unique and relevant page titles for every page on your website
  • Write unique and relevant Meta descriptions for every page on your website
  • Have descriptive and simple URLs for every page on your website
  • Have easy to navigate, text-based menus (or properly tagged images)
  • Write unique product names and product descriptions for products in your Product Catalog file, as this helps reduce potential duplicate content on your product pages.

Content

Next, focus on the actual content on your pages:
  • Have original content and pictures designed to impress humans
  • Long, easy-to-read blog posts = longer page visits
  • Unique, easy-to-understand product features = higher engagement
  • Bigger images = longer page visits – More than half of Google image search clicks turn into site traffic. So create value by using keywords in the image’s “alt” attribute, using relevant filenames of the content depicted and making them file size as light as quality allows.
The key takeaway should be that your content – text and images - is not a duplicate of some other page on your site, or worse, a near-duplicate of another site. Search engines penalize sites that have duplicate content. If you do not have the time to work on your content, find someone who can dedicate the time. It will be time and money well spent.

Links Matter

Real, not bought, inbound links are still the most important indicator that your site is relevant. The assumption is that if an increasing number of people link to you, you must be a big deal. Links are how search engine spiders crawl the Internet. This is why most – if not all – credible SEOs will tell you to focus on link building. Link building can be very time and resource intensive. If you create engaging content or if your site has fans, you will be earning links organically. And while search engines have figured out how SEOs “game” their link profiles, a lot of this work might be for naught. Focus on the following three things to make sure your links are kosher:
  1. Add “rel=nofollow” to your affiliate links – Adding this attribute to your <a> tag will tell search engines that you are a responsible affiliate marketer.
  2. Add “title=” variable to all your links – Adding this variable to your <a> tag will not directly impact SEO. But if you include keywords that are relevant to the landing page you’re pointing to, it will improve the semantic value of the link for the spiders. An additional bonus is that it will help people using screen readers understand where you are pointing to. Here’s an example: if you are pointing to "cutekittens.com", your link would look like <a href="http://cutekittens.com" title="Pictures and Videos of Cute Kittens">Cute Kitten Website</a>
  3. Craft short and relevant anchor text – This is also known as “link text”. In the example above it is the “Cute Kitten Website” part. The anchor text should be about the page you are linking to. Wherever possible avoid using “read more” as anchor text.

Fast, Secure, and Mobile Friendly

Last, but most definitely not least, mobile-friendliness is a major ranking factor. Not only how the page looks on a mobile device, but how quickly it loads, how it functions and how users interact with it. If you do not have a responsive site by now, you need to get on it. Immediately! And when redesigning your site, approach it with a mobile-first mindset. Avoid adding in any features that will detract from the mobile experience and reduce site load time wherever possible.

Want to know if your site needs improvements? Check Google’s free PageSpeed page. They will tell you what you can do now to improve your site’s overall load speed on both desktop and mobile.

Google's Webmaster Guidelines include this statement: "If possible, secure your site's connections with HTTPS. Encrypting interactions between the user and your website is a good practice for communication on the web."

In Closing

Focus on the things you can control: creating the most fulfilling experience for your shoppers. The rest will work itself out.

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