Search Engine Optimization, more commonly known as SEO, is the act of gaining more users through organic and paid traffic.
What is the difference between paid and organic traffic?
- Organic traffic is experienced through natural occurrences such as non-ad based Google Searches and other Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs).
- Paid traffic is traffic gained through paid ads or endorsements (Google AdSense, Twitter Ads, Facebook Ads, etc)
Both have pros and cons to growing a website however paid traffic can get expensive fast, though it usually creates good conversion rates as it is much more targeted traffic, but you do lose out on initial click-through rates.
Why should you care about SEO?
While you can pay for ads to display your page on more SERPs, they have quite a few downsides such as being expensive and they have a very low click-through rate being at only 2.8%. On the other end of paid traffic, organic traffic, it is much harder to grow on the rankings, but it is possible with good SEO techniques. Luckily, nowadays modern solutions such as the Alexa Page Rankings exist to show how you can market your site better. Meanwhile, there are two sides to SEO marketing, white and black hating.
- White hat SEO uses techniques and best practices to gain search engine rankings to provide more traffic
- Black hat SEO attempts to fool SERPs to provide your page instead of others, even though other sources may be more credible.
How do search engines work?
While crawlers (spiders) provide valuable traffic, they also provide information on how easy the site is to navigate. Mainly, they use three main sources for their results:
- Crawling- this is the act of going to websites and automatically finding links to visit which get added to queues to be later crawled again (it is a recursive function). Finally, once a page gets added to the queue, the spider will view a pages robots.txt which provides information on which pages the site owner would like to be in SERPs (though the spider does not need to follow the directions, but most do)
- Index- crawling provides a source of index, and there are tons of factors to how your site gets indexed, such as back-links, average viewership, bounce rate, session duration, and more.
- Rank- this is based on the index and is the final determination of where your page lands in the SERPs
How to tell spiders where to crawl
- Meta tags in HTML (index/noindex, follow/nofollow, noarchive, etc)
- HTTP Headers
What do SERPs want to see in a page?
There is no magic way of getting a high index, but they do like promoting sites with content that is easy to find and easily "cardable" (aka when Google shows information from a site without the user actually needing to visit the site). Also, there are recommended page lengths per page. Finally, you can repeat words that you want to be promoted more. This is known as keyword stuffing and can sometimes add value to your index, but Google and other SERPs are taking action against this gray-area of SEO so tread with caution if you choose route.
How do I get feedback on my site?
Visit the Alexa rankings, the worlds most popular ranking and competition scouting site @ https://alexa.com/. For a more direct way, Google Analytics provide highly valuable information that gives very good information about your website and where traffic originates from. Also, the Alexa site is used to find search terms to market for and it'll also find what your competitors keywords are so you can launch targeted ads in their space to grow your business even faster. Google Trends is also a nice site to see what is trending around the world, giving a site publisher valuable access in whats hot and trendy, so if you are a viral company, knowing that information is very important to understand what will go viral next.
Optimizations you can make to your page
- Header tags- this allows a crawler to know what your site is about. It is very important to have hierarchical header tags, so keep h1s down and keep h2s for subcontent.
- Image optimization- load speeds are very important for who stays and who goes on your site, so if you have huge images on your site, people will leave as the page will not load in time.
- Alt text- the more alt text there is, the more SERPs see your page as being which helps you get a higher rank.
- Upload a custom sitemap just for your page directly to SERPs- this will make sure all the pages you want to be added are added!
- Font size & other accessibility settings
- Clear URL name schemes and organization
- Use HTTPS when possible (and always.)
Test your site with Lightsail and Google Search Console
Google Search Engine is a valuable resource to test the integrity, availability, and mobile usability of sites. Below is a test I did on my blog website and it gives you an automatic screenshot for different sized devices. The next image is a screenshot of the availability checklist
After you run Google Search Console, you can run a Lightsail audit to test performance, best practices, accessibility, SEO, and more. On my blog, I scored quite a good score being above 90% for everything (except accessibility which I plan to fix)
The last step: Link Authority
Link Authority is a major step in being well-suited for SEO success. Link authority means that you are a "trusted" source which means that many sites have linked back to you and/ or that you've gotten a lot of social media traffic.
What did I learn from this experience?
I learned that SEO is a difficult thing to master, however once you do, you will be much more suited to succeed, so it is worth it to take the time to properly learn the values of SEO.