The new age of SEO
In the early days of the internet, SEO was as simple as putting a list of relevant keywords into a tag on your website. But today this technique, known as keyword stuffing, can actually hurt your search ranking. Google, Yahoo and Bing have pivoted from the keyword tag, and now penalize sites that use generic or irrelevant keywords in their content. Welcome to the modern age of SEO.
The first organic search result will get nearly 33% of all clicks, as 70-80% of users ignore paid ads and focus instead on organic results.1 That means that SEO is no longer just the responsibility of the marketing team. By structuring a site properly from the ground up, web developers now play a key role in how modern search engines process and rank sites.
With this in mind, here are six recommendations for how to maximize your site’s exposure on search engines.
Secure your site with an SSL cert (convert from HTTP to HTTPS)
Google – who now controls 81% of the search market2 – has been using SSL as a ranking factor since 2014.3 In 2017, Google will strengthen that ranking so that a non-secure site (HTTP), even one that gets significant traffic, will rank behind a less popular site using HTTPS. With the introduction of LetsEncrypt in 2016, SSL certs became free and easy to setup. That means there’s no reason NOT to have a secure site.
Choose a primary domain
When it comes to domains and search engines, domain.com and www.domain.com are treated as two separate websites. Selecting one (either works) as your primary domain will consolidate your traffic, boosting your search ranking. System admins are responsible for setting up the forwarding of the secondary domain to the primary.
Design a responsive site
Creative teams play a major role in designing a site that looks great on all devices, which is important to the way modern search crawlers determine if a site is mobile-friendly. Before responsive design, most sites maintained a desktop and a mobile version. While this approach is still good enough to pass the mobile-friendly test, responsive design will improve your ranking by sending all traffic to one URL. Search engines track www.domain.com and m.domain.com separate from one another, which will hurt your search ranking.
Make your URLs ‘pretty’
In the early days of dynamic web design, if you wanted to display dynamic content in a website, your URLs might have looked something like this:
Modern coding frameworks have given developers the tools to take the ugly
out of their URLs. And search engines reward that effort, giving preference
to URLs that are descriptive and that don’t contain a query-string of data.
‘Pretty’ URLs may look more like this:
Not only is this URL more pleasing and a more accurate description of the page you are visiting, it also passes the readability test.4 Plus, users are more likely to click on a URL if it does not look suspicious.
Give your site a meaningful description and title tag
Ever wonder how Google determines what text gets displayed in its search results? You can take control by providing the copy for search engines to use in meta tags.
A description that is less than 160 characters, and that accurately describes the content of your site, is optimal. In the absence of Facebook open graph tags, Facebook will also fall back to this description tag if your link is shared on its platform.
The title of your site should be kept under 70 characters. For more advanced search display within Google, programmers can place the page title in front of the site title to more accurately describe the page.
Register your site with Google Webmaster Tools
Registering your site with Google’s webmaster tools has many benefits. It is a one stop shop to see how your site is performing in search results, and for ways to submit sitemaps or request Google to crawl your site.
Since 70% of the links search users click on are organic, and 75% of users never scroll past the first page of search results,5 one of the most valuable tools is to check what search queries led to your site appearing in rankings. This can give deep insight and help programmers add relevant keywords to page titles or URLs to improve a site’s ranking.
Modern SEO requires planning on all fronts. Creating an engagement that hooks consumers is one thing, but getting them to find is another. As search engines become smarter and pickier, knowing what they look for, and how they are looking for it, can give you greater visibility and lead to better conversion.