An effective search engine optimization campaign has layers to it. Often, when we think of SEO we tend to focus on one specific aspect of it.
Part of this has to do with our level of comfort with particular portions. Think content vs code.
Another reason many marketers develop tunnel vision is because of the emphasis put on particular parts of SEO in publications. By now, the phrase “content is king” has been permanently burned into our memories.
While it’s true that content plays a major role in the success of an SEO campaign, it’s important not to lose sight of the other components that together make up an effective SEO campaign.
For all of the focus we put on the customer facing aspect of SEO (content, social, information architecture) it’s equally important to make sure that an appropriate amount of time is given to optimizing for on-site technical best practices.
Ultimately, every aspect of SEO contributes to the same goal: signaling to Google that there is value in your site and it deserves a high ranking.
Many of the components that make up Google’s algorithm are designed to simulate how a user interacts with a website. The good news about launching an on-site technical SEO project is that while it can be time consuming and involved, it really only has to be done once with occasional tweaks made as new pages get added to a site.
Let’s break down the how and why of an on-site technical SEO project.
The core of an SEO strategy is to increase the metrics that signal to Google that people find so much value in your site that others will too when entering a query in their search engine. In recent years, it’s come to light that social signals play a big role in search rank algorithms. That’s why at Steady Demand we focus so heavily on social SEO.
While social signals make up a significant portion of Google’s ranking metrics, the status of your site itself still can make or break your campaign.
Think of it this way: You own a hotel and you want to drum up more business. You put money into creating entertaining commercials. You put out some deals on sites like Groupon. Your marketing is on point.
But then the new would-be guests arrive at your hotel and the room numbers are nonsensical. Floors are a mish mash of rooms with no maps to guide guests. Things could be a bit cleaner and better organized at every level.
Do you think the commercials and Groupon offers will be effective as they can be if new visitors never return and don’t recommend your hotel to friends?
In its own way, proper technical SEO signals to Google that your site is organized logically and therefore is more useful than an unoptimized site that offers a poor user experience.
This brings us to the first point about executing a technical SEO campaign and the misconception that user experience and SEO are at odds.
Information architecture: UX vs SEO
Rand Fishkin of Moz, who often advocates for the balance of creating a product that satisfies SEO best practices without sacrificing a great customer experience, had this to say about the outdated thought process that good information architecture and SEO tactics represent opposing sides of the spectrum:
“IA is designed to say, ‘Hey, we want to help web users accomplish their goals on the website quickly and easily.’ There are many more broad things around that, but basically that’s the concept.
This actually is not in conflict at all, should almost never be in conflict, even a little bit, with the goals that we have around SEO. In the past, this was not always true, and unfortunately in the past some mythology got created around the things that we have to worry about that could conflict between SEO and information architecture.” -Rand Fishkin, Moz
In the wild west days of keyword stuffing, unnatural language, and, frankly, spam, UX and SEO were two totally different things. Now that search engines are more advanced, they more accurately simulate how a human user interacts with a site and weighs site elements accordingly.
What does this mean in actionable terms?
The navigation bar is your friend. Construct a navigation system that is logical going from broader subject areas to more narrow ones.
While practically speaking it makes little sense to cram every page on the site into the nav bar and sub menus, there should be clearly identifiable links to your most valuable content.
For both user experience and SEO, there has to be some way to get to every page on your site from another. Internal linking will accomplish this.
No pages should be only accessible via typing in the URL.
Speaking of URLs, neat and natural URLs are the way to go. Some CMS generate URLs with a bunch of numbers and other nonsensical characters.
Change URLs to read like plain English.
If you can get your targeted keyword in there, that’s a bonus. But only do so if it’s a natural fit. It’s more important to get the main subject in the URL for readability.
Readability across your site’s meta data is important as well. Proper tagging and meta descriptions are still important to on-page SEO despite Google’s shift to semantic search over the past several years.
While it’s true many of these page elements were once more heavily weighted, they have been by no means diminished to the point where you can ignore them.
First, a word on meta descriptions.
It’s true that the content of meta descriptions aren’t counted by Google in its algorithm as a weighted element when ranking sites. However, properly constructed meta descriptions do have positive correlations on user behavior, specifically click through rates.
The bottom line is, take the time to write meta descriptions and make sure they aren’t so long that they cut off on the SERPs.Take the time to write meta descriptions and make sure they don't cut off on the SERPs.Click To Tweet
As for title tags, make sure each page has a unique one. Your brand name should be in each tag.
You only have 512 pixels to work with, which translates to just shy of 60 characters. The puzzle to solve will be fitting the focus keyword into the descriptor of the page alongside your brand name.
The use of H1 tags won’t hurt, so don’t be afraid to include them in your most prominent header on the page.
Look at this, not that
Broadly speaking, you want to guide search engine crawlers through your site. You should generate an XML sitemap to help with this. Some CMS will do this for you.
If you’re using WordPress, the Yoast SEO plugin is the best option for this since it has a bunch of additional functionality.
Canonical tags in your code will establish the one, correct URL that the search engine should count. If multiple URLs are crawled for the same page, that could translate to Google mistakenly penalizing you for multiple pages of duplicate content.
Yes, “domain.com” and “www.domain.com” despite being the same page would count as two separate pages in a search engine without a canonical tag telling it which one to pay attention to.
Relatedly, make sure your 301 redirects are in place. If content has moved from one URL to another, make sure the proper redirect is in place so that there are no penalties.
In the past, 301 redirects caused pages to lose a percentage of their PageRank, though Google claims that is now no longer the case.
Finally, don’t go crazy with your robots.txt file. Many of the tips you find online are outdated. It should really be quite clean and not blocking much of anything.
This is a case by case basis, but generally speaking, unless you have pages on your site that you want to be walled off from searchers for any reason, you don’t want to do too much with robots.txt.
Partnering on social SEO
Between technical on-site concerns, an ever-evolving content strategy, outreach efforts, and the need for a robust social media presence, it can be hard for businesses of all sizes to dedicate the time and resources necessary to tackle every aspect of SEO.
That’s why it may make sense for you to partner with experts in individual disciplines to help with the SEO components that can’t be properly executed in-house. The team at Steady Demand has experience helping businesses in a wide variety of industries improve their social media presence which translates into a measurable increase in KPIs.
Social SEO is time-consuming and requires all hands on deck. If you haven’t been getting the results you want or you’re not quite sure where to begin, contact us today and we’ll see how we can help your business grow.