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Google likes an optimized website. Your customers also like it. How do we make Google robots and users receive the information we want to convey? The keyword is optimization. We will show you what to pay attention to so that the website is in the SERP.
Website optimization, i.e., SEO (Search Engine Optimization), leads to a website obtaining a high position in the search engine for selected keywords. The main goal of SEO is to make it easier for users to find the information they are looking for – on our website, of course. Yes, the intention is to optimize positions. Still, it is primarily about attracting users to the site, selling, building a position in the industry – it all depends on the website profile. In other words, we need to adapt the website to the search engine so that it is placed not so much on the first result card but as high as possible, not forgetting that the website meets specific tasks for Internet users.
The fight for “priority” between pages on Google is inevitable. No wonder visibility on Google is about whether or not to be a business on the Internet. Of course, search engine optimization and SEO activities do not only concern Google. However, due to the largest share of this search engine in the global market (91.75%) and its popularity in the International SEO Agency, we will point to Google when speaking of SEO.
Why is it worth optimizing the website?
Let’s start with what influences your site’s ranking on the SERP (search results page). We are talking about elements on the page (on-page) and factors outside the site that affect its condition (off-page). Internal elements that require optimization include content and keywords (in headers, URL address), information architecture, HTML code, adapting the website to mobile devices, updating content. Factors from outside the website but affecting it include links pointing to the website, the quality of the websites on which the links are located, the degree of trust in the website based on the TrustRank algorithm, social media signals.
The improvement of the above parameters results mainly in:
- higher position in organic results – users’ trust in the website and an advantage over the competition,
- high rankings of a site with a regional profile in local results – reaching people in the closest location and acquiring customers in a selected area,
- better usability and speed of the website – users spend more time on the website,
- more traffic on the site – increasing conversion / sales,
- matching content to expectations – building long-term relationships with content recipients,
- appearing on Google for selected phrases – reaching potential customers,
- visibility in Google News – the website will be on a page presenting news from various news services,
- the presence of the page on Google Discover – this is the place where the user receives the necessary information from a mobile device without having to search for it.
How to optimize the website?
Optimizing a website for search engines is a process – complex and spread over time. There are many ranking factors, but we have selected the main ones that will guide you through optimization and determine the reasons for the current search engine optimization failure.
Why is SEO ineffective? Why is Googlebot not “responding” to the page? Do you want to know everything about the website that is necessary to evaluate its effectiveness? Before you start the optimization work, please start with the website analysis, taking into account the factors influencing its condition, i.e., off-site. An SEO audit, and in fact, conclusions and subsequent analysis, will allow you to develop a search engine optimization plan. Website analysis should not be a one-time action but regular work.
What do we take into account in an SEO audit? The areas covered include phrases, website visibility for selected keywords, robots.txt file (a text file that indicates which subpages to visit), correct rendering, URLs, title tags, website architecture (menu, navigation, redirections, etc.), content (headers, content, graphics), adaptation to mobile devices, link profile.
The result of the SEO audit, i.e., the report, answers key questions, sets the direction of each of the analyzed areas and includes methods of achieving the goal concerning both the website and the company.
The website’s structure is how the website is organized – the friendly structure takes into account users and search engine robots. The most important elements of the website structure are the home page, descriptive subpages, including about the company, regulations (e.g., in an online store), and subpages such as contact, shop, blog. One subpage should cover one subject area. The more subpages, the website can rank for more phrases. What is important is the quality of the content – users expect valuable content.
Internal linking plays a huge role in navigation, making it easier for users to move around the site. The structure of the website must be clear, which is to be reflected in the URLs.
The website should allow you to reach the desired content faster. It cannot be that the user has to go through dozens of subpages to achieve his goal. It’s good if it was a maximum of 2-3 clicks. It is worth implementing a navigation menu, i.e., a row of internal links, thanks to which the user will quickly return to the home page or the previous section. To display the navigation menu, use the so-called breadcrumbs, which are the markup of the structured data of the navigation menu. Thanks to them, we get a navigation path on the page that shows the position of the subpage in the website hierarchy.
If you make changes to the structure, don’t forget about the 301 redirects we write about later.
Indexation and availability for robots
Without the site’s availability for robots and indexation, we cannot speak of effective SEO activities. Googlebot is the main crawler. If Google finds the page, it starts to recognize its subject, i.e., indexing. The robot collects information, analyzes it, catalogs visual elements, and then stores it in the Google index. Indexing is influenced by page titles (preferably short), headings (should reflect the subject), and content (primarily content and alternative texts for graphics).
Even before the place is crawling crawlowanie or gathering information about the site, this means that before Google “makes” a decision to index it, it checks your site’s content. In Google Search Console, we can check the indexation status, i.e., how many pages have been indexed. The speed of Googlebot indexing your site can be controlled – in Search Console, we have tips, e.g., make sure that Googlebot, not another robot, reads your site.
One of the ways Google rates pages is the mobile-first index; more on that later.
Mobile version of the website
Since the mobile-first index, effective search engine optimization without considering the website for mobile devices has no place. Mobile indexing means that Google primarily uses its mobile version to index the page. In July 2019, Google enabled default mobile indexing for new pages. We can test the website using the Google Search Console mobile optimization test.
Page loading speed
We should systematically check the page loading time. This is one of the Google ranking factors. Tools such as PageSpeed Insights from Google are used to verify the page in terms of loading speed. Speed Score is based on data analyzed by Lighthouse – an automated website quality improvement tool.
At: https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/, you can check the loading time of any site and get suggestions. Other tools worth noting include webpagetest.org, .uptrends.com, the Chrome DevTools developer extension.
You can read more about the speed of the website in the compendium on our blog.
Correct internal linking
Internal linking is the placement of links on various subpages, enabling a smooth transition through the website. Linking makes it easier for the user to browse the website and thus lowers the bounce rate, helps index the website, and supports the process of search engine optimization of the website – this is one of the on-site aspects. Several internal linking schemes are mutual, hierarchically arranged (the so-called pyramid), like a silo.
Links should be placed in the content, menu, and footer. They should indicate the content of the subpage. For example, when referring the user to the article, instead of saying “click here,” we will include a title or words in the content that will clearly indicate what to expect. On a blog, links should lead to the offer; in an online store, it would be good to add them, e.g., in the categories of frequently viewed products.
Canonical tags (rel = canonical) are placed in the <head> section of the code, as adding a canonical page with <link>, in the sitemap, or in the form of a 301 redirect (only when getting rid of a duplicate page). Rel canonical implementation tells Google which subpage to include in the ranking. This is how we signal the dependency between URLs with a tag with rel = canonical. One subpage should correspond to one link, i.e., one URL.
We need to check if the canonical tags are correctly implemented. How to do it? We will verify the canonical address for the page using tools such as Google Search Console, Siteliner, or Sitebulb. Improperly implemented canonical tags, i.e., entering a tag for an incorrect address, results in a 404 error. Lack of rel = canonical makes search engine optimization difficult, but not always because if, for example, the online store is well designed, the lack of canonical tags will not be a problem.
Part of the report for a sample page generated from https://www.siteliner.com/
Online security is a priority for users. Safe site = trusted site. An SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate is an encrypted security protocol that enables the transmission of confidential data. These, in turn, are encrypted by the browser and the server. If there is a padlock next to the address on the website, the user is informed that the data transmitted and received are private.
Information about the SSL certificate of one of the banks
How much does an SSL certificate cost? The price of the certificate depends on the period of its use and type. For example, the EV (Extended Validation) certificate is the most expensive option and includes a field with the company’s full name, which requires document confirmation. Prices range from several dozen to several hundred zlotys for a monthly fee.
We will secure the website using HTTPS (HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure), which protects the confidentiality of data between the computer and the website. The implementation of the SSL certificate (change from HTTP to HTTPS) affects search engine optimization. Google evaluates sites with a security certificate better, which can be seen in the results. Let’s not forget a change of URLs follows that redirection.
Title tags on the page
As we know, the position of the page in Google is influenced by keywords. The most relevant for SERPs are those found in the title and header. The title tag is placed in the <head> section and the header in the source page as H1. It is good if each subpage has a different title, consistent with its content and containing appropriate keywords.
<title> Website title </title>
Users see the title in search results, in the browser tab, in tabs. The title length is defined by pixels (max. 600) and is usually around 60 zzz. Remember that Google changes these values from time to time. The title should not be repeated – duplicating the tag negatively affects search engine optimization.
Next to the tags, let’s mention the meta description. Google announced in 2009 that descriptions are not ranking factors. However, they affect the click-through rate, i.e., how users perceive the website from the search engine level.
Keep the website address as simple as possible. This means that it cannot be a string that has nothing to do with each other. The friendly URL consists of words that reflect the content, separated by dashes, without International user characters. Keywords in the address do not have a high ranking importance, but they constitute specific information for the user.
Examples of correct URL structure:
The URL must be properly structured so that it gives a clear message to the user. It is good for it to be:
- Legible – the internet address should be legible, transparent and concise. Users will then receive clear information on what the website contains, and it will also be easier to index. After the main part of the domain, there should be a word or keywords related to the content of our website. Remember that the website address should not be too long.
- Logical – it should have a simple and logical structure. It should be borne in mind that our website will develop over time with new subpages that must appear in our address, in such a way as to create a clear whole. Let us then use a dash as separators or slashes to make the message understandable. The logical structure of addresses is important, so it is good to choose an appropriate system for adding subpages at the very beginning. This will significantly affect our website ranking and will inspire trust, both of the user and Google.
- Based on words, not numbers – the numbers in the website address do not contribute anything, while the words not only interpret the content of the page, but also support the process of its positioning and have a better effect on users and Google, which looks at such pages more favorably.
- Adequate length – too long a website address is unreadable and often truncated in the search engine along with keywords. The user then does not see its content and thus will not read its content. You should pay attention to how the address is displayed in the search engine.
- Safe and TLS (https) certified – a secure URL is one that has the https protocol with a TLS (SSL) certificate. The connection to the website that uses the https protocol is fully encrypted, which ensures the confidentiality and security of user data. A website with the https protocol inspires trust, builds its value, and thus its position and brand. Not only is it well perceived by the user, but also by Google.
Redirects and 404 error
The redirect tells you that the URL has changed. The result of failure to implement the appropriate redirect is a 404 error, which means that the page with the given address does not exist. In general, 404 errors do not negatively affect the page’s position, and not all of them need to be removed. In Search Console, you will find tips on what to do if you get 404 errors à https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/2445990?hl=en
The most common reasons for using a redirect are: changing the URL address, changing the domain, deleting a subpage, linking pages. After changing the address of a permanent page, a 301 redirect is used, which affects SEO, and more precisely, the website’s evaluation by Google. In turn, the 302 and 307 redirects are a signal to Google that the change is temporary.
Content is one of the major Google ranking factors. We cannot allow phenomena referred to as thin content and duplicate content to appear on the website. The first concerns low-quality content and links, automatically generated content, errors, unhelpful for the user, and excess keywords. Duplicate content is content copied, both from other pages, and the repetition of the same text on subpages.
Optimized content contains keywords (also in headers), is ordered (H1-H6 headers, with the H1 header appearing only once in the content), original content, and words in bold, bullets CTA. Google’s ranking factor is also the frequency with which we update the website through content, e.g., blog entries. Tools such as Surfer, Senuto, Semestrom will help in optimizing content taking into account keywords.
The content is also the graphic elements on the website, and they also require optimization. Graphics affect the page loading time – a heavy file loads slower. So we should optimize its weight without compromising the user experience. Another issue attributes. The first is the alt attribute, which is alternative text. The user sees it when there are problems with displaying the graphics. The second is the title attribute, which you can see when you hover the cursor over the image. We should also remember to sign the photo that we include in the content.
If we already know what we are looking for and what is worth paying attention to in the first place, let’s move on to the topic of measures that will allow us to make an analysis, i.e., tools. We can carry out an initial website analysis using free tools. However, remember that only an advanced website audit will detect any irregularities on the website. A free audit will allow you to mark certain strategic areas but will not fully reflect the situation.
One of the free tools is SEOptimer. The tool will indicate SEO areas regarding, among others: meta title, meta description, amount of content, keyword density, alt attributes, links; in addition, considerations related to usability, page speed, security, social media activity (e.g., linking to a Facebook pixel) and recommendations.
Sample page SEO recommendations in SEOptimer
SEO Spider by Screaming Frog is one of the paid tools that are worth paying attention to. Its functions will help, among others: find broken links and server errors (e.g., 404), duplicate content, URLs blocked, e.g., by the robots.txt file, integrate with PageSpeed Insights, Search Console, and GA.
- SEO (Search Engine Optimization) leads to a website obtaining a high position in the search engine for the selected keywords.
- Internal elements that require optimization include content and keywords (in headers, URL address), information architecture, HTML code, adapting the website to mobile devices, updating content.
- Optimizing a website for search engines is a complex process spread over time.
- Ranking factors include SEO audit, website structure, indexation and availability for robots, mobile version of the website, page loading speed, correct internal linking, canonical tags, SSL certificate, title tags on the website, friendly URLs, redirects and 404 error, content optimization, graphics optimization .
- Initial website analysis can be carried out with the use of free tools. However, only an advanced website audit can detect any irregularities on the website.
We know that a website is not an independent, self-functioning entity. Website SEO optimization is the key to a noticeable presence on Google, and this is at least the first search result card. We have marked the areas worth paying attention to in the first place – the list is long. We want to point out that building positions in search engines require specific knowledge about the website, which will be almost impossible to obtain without tools. These are the tools that efficiently guide you through the process of optimization, analysis (monitoring), implementation of solutions, and reporting. But that is only one side of the coin.
Even the most accurate data remains useless without proper interpretation. SEO requires a broader context, i.e., taking into account Google algorithms, bots, factors affecting the search engine’s trust, competition, and websites linked by a network of links. To sum up, SEO is a process that takes time, regularity, and patience, but also knowledge, planning, and being up to date.