Imagine that a certain Sam has got an awesome website. It has got a snazzy style and looks just as he has dreamt of it. The product Sam offers his customers is of a top-notch quality and must sell like hot cakes. But it doesn’t. And it won’t because Sam has forgotten about one detail which is called SEO.
So what is SEO and why is it so important when developing a website? The answers to these questions you can find below.
SEO (aka Search engine optimization) is a practice of growing a website’s visibility in organic search (i.e. improve search engine rankings) and, consequently, bring your website more traffic. The basic principles of SEO are connected with the algorithms search engines use to evaluate website’s quality.
It means, after you have created a cool product, great website and nice service, there will come a necessity to show the whole online world, i.e. search engines, all your virtues mentioned above. To do this and to get a positive result you need to know the main principles of SEO, following which you can rank high on SERPs.
SEO rules to follow
SEO is a complicated process which involves various practices of improving website positions, increasing traffic and, as a result, revenue. When optimizing your website, you should take into account both users’ and search engines’ peculiarities and their preferences. If you focus just on one aspect, you’ll lose your chances to get a top place in SERPs. So try to take into account these two issues in order to make maximum use of SEO.
Look for keywords
The first step is to carry a keyword research. Though this procedure may be considered trivial, you really cannot afford to ignore it. Keywords create certain connection between you and customers. If you learn what words or phrases your potential clients use when looking for the stuff you offer, you will make the first step to your success. But before this process find out as much as you can about the product/service you offer, problems which may worry users concerning them and your target market. These data will ease the keyword search and make it more accurate.
Search engines learn about users’ wishes and needs in the form of their online inquiries, so do the same. Make use of Google Keyword Planner which will provide you with the list of keywords that can be regarded as relevant to your website. But having got these data, do not relax as it is not enough. Go further and look for long-tail keywords as they will give you more chances to increase the number of your site visitors, namely the target audience that is ready to make a purchase. Besides, long-tail keywords are less competitive. The tools which can help you to do the following are Keywordtool.io and Google Keyword Planner.
Another issue worth of special mentioning is URLs structure. The more readable URL is, the better it is for both search engines and users. URLs must be comprehensible – users should get at once what piece of information they carry. That is why you should include keywords in URLs. In such a way URLs will be easy to indicate for customers using social media and they will get the general topic of URLs looking through the search results. To do this you can match URLs to the titles (when it is suitable, of course).
As to the URLs format, try to keep them short. It doesn’t mean that search engines have trouble in processing long URLs, but still those, which are brief, are easier to parse, copy and paste and share on media channels. Besides, avoid using many folders (aka slashes), as the less of them your URLs have, the better they are for human perception.
Generate an exclusive content
SEO presupposes a scrumptious content. As search engines look for a quality, show them you have it. Make sure your content is up-to-date and it exposes the hottest topics. At the same time it must stand out from the competitors’ stuff and be original. Your content may be of several formats – text, video and even audio. Note that content update must be regular – 2 blog posts a quarter won’t bring you expected results even if their quality is super high.
It’s also necessary to pinpoint your attention at the optimization of the content. Being original and valuable for users may be not enough to make it visible for a search engine. You must write your content in the “right language”, i.e. one your customers use while searching for the information you can offer them. Thus, apply the lexical units you will find during the keyword research in the content writing.
Check website crawlability and accessibility
When developing a website and optimizing it, you should also make sure that it is crawlable and accessible. First of all, check whether all of SEO files, namely XML Sitemap and robots.txt files are set-up correctly. Then, after ensuring everything is fine, keep in mind to submit the XML Sitemap to search engines through Webmaster Tools. Sometimes, people forget to remove noindex and nofollow values after testing the site, so make sure when your test is finished that your site is indexable.
To crawl your website you can choose one of the SEO crawling tools, like XENU or Screaming Frog. During this procedure you will be able to compare the quantity of created pages to the crawled ones. The results will show whether there is a need to improve something or not.
Metadata is another important point to pay your attention at when optimizing a website. First of all, you should know that this kind of data can be both visible and invisible for users. Speaking of the invisible metadata, it’s important to admit that this one functions behind the scenes in the HTML of your webpages. It carries communication with the search engines and does this from each page which is crawled. In a nutshell, metadata is a bridge between Google and your website.
When users find your website on one of Google pages, they do not see the whole content page you have. All their sight can capture for the first time is visible Meta data, namely – Title tags and Meta Descriptions. As to the title tags, they should include keywords, product/service or article name. The most suitable length is 60-65 characters with the most important keywords in the beginning of the title.
Keep in mind that the Meta Description shortly describes the page content and must include between 120 and 160 characters. Thus, make sure these tags include keywords and are accurate about information your pages contain.
Besides, if you decide to add some images to your site, don’t forget about Alt tags which will describe what this image is about and for. Make maximum use of images even if you think they are purely for your site aesthetics.
Do you like waiting? No? Users do not like it too. Make sure your pages load quickly and don’t make customers go nuts. The main factors which can influence the loading speed are a web server type, image optimization and code quality.
Do customers use only regular PCs to surf the net? Definitely no! The devices they use are various and the platforms they have are of wide diversity, too. Therefore make sure your website is optimized for each of them. Nowadays there are two ways you can follow to reach this goal – responsive website and separate mobile version. Both of them are supported by Google, though it prefers responsive web design. This option provides easy viewing and site navigation with the minimum use of resizing, scrolling or panning, and is suitable for a wide range of devices.
SEO is an efficient tool, but only if you are cautious enough in your actions. There are some techniques which seem to be so tempting to try, but once you do this, be ready to get a strong Google punishment (like Panda or Penguin penalty). In other words you lose your positions in SERPs, get drop of organic traffic and, consequently, decrease in profit. For instance, in spring 2014 Google penalized eBay for bad SEO practices, and though it was only a bunch of its pages, eBay positions and its organic traffic lost 50% at once. So, do you want to take such risk?
Main SEO mistakes you should avoid at all costs include keywords overuse, duplicate content and paid links. This won’t help you at all. On the contrary, it will spoil all your effort and bring an opposite result. Furthermore, avoid repreated content. Say “no” to these words. Content is something which must excel you as an outstanding website with original view-point. Using duplicate content instead, you will get the reputation of a paltry thief. If you don’t want to get hit by Penguin penalty, avoid buying links and building low-quality ones.
In a word, SEO is a delicate process which can be considered an infinite one. You should always work on it in order to reach a real acme of perfection. However, don’t forget that the methods you use must be honest. Steer clear of Black Hat SEO techniques – everything that easy comes, easy goes.
If you have any questions about anything I’ve mentioned in this blog post or anything else related to Magento, please feel free to drop me a message via this form. I am on the team performing Magento SEO audits for large Magento projects.