In order to understand what is important for Search Engines, you must first understand what they are and how they work.
A Search Engine is an “answer machine”. They exist to primarily organize the internet's vast library of content in a way that provides the most relevant results to the questions asked by the searchers.
There are 3 primary functions of search engines:
Search engine crawling is part of the discovery process and involves “crawlers” or “spiders” being sent out across the search engine with the purpose of discovering both new and updated content. They do this through the use of links and this helps them to navigate both web pages and websites. Two of the most important factors for good rankings are related to the process of how the search engines find and crawl your website:
- How easy to find is your website - that is a signal of your website popularity and authority. Search engines use the links from other websites to yours, called backlinks, to land your site. Backlinks contribute heavily towards a websites domain authority.
- How easy to crawl your website is and find the relevant information - which is a function of a good website structure and organization.
Once the content has been discovered, it is then added to an “index”. This “index” is a massive database full of all the content that the crawlers discovered. Content added to the index must be deemed good enough to be shown to the searchers.
Finally, once a search is performed, the search engine will dive into its index, and pull out the content that they deem most relevant to the search query. The content is then ranked in list format, known as “ranking position”. The first website link that is shown, is the number one ranking position, and so and so on. In simple terms, the higher a websites ranking position, the more relevant its content is to the search query.
In this blog post, we are going to discuss 4 important factors for search engines. They include:
- Websites that are easily crawlable
- Website content that implements effective SEO practices
- Mobile compatibility
- Backlinks & Website Authority
As we explained above, crawling is one of the 3 primary functions of search engines, automatically making it of high importance. If the purpose of a search engine is to show relevant content to its users, then it makes sense to have a website that is easily crawlable. We can spend hours talking about what “easily crawlable means’ but in this blog post, we are going to focus specifically on ‘bot crawling’. In principle, a crawler is like a librarian. It looks for information on the Web (they do this by going by hopping from link to link), which it then assigns to certain categories, and indexes and catalogues it, so that the crawled information is retrievable and can be evaluated.
In order to know how to optimize your website, thus improve your rankings, you must first know what content the bots are crawling through. We have compiled a few for you below:
- Web Pages (including HTML, JS, Page Content & Page Structure)
- Website URLs (e.g. URL Structure, Broken URLs, 404s)
- Image & Non Text Files (for a full list of file types indexed by google, click here)
The search engines also try to evaluate the user experience (UX) as well. Google, as an example, implemented something called the ‘HEART Framework’ in 2010, after realising that based on their user experience research, that it was not being effectively measured. The Google HEART Framework consists of 5 different user experience metrics:
- Happiness: A measure of users' attitudes or satisfaction. Happiness is most often measured by user surveys and NPS responses.
- Engagement: The level of use an average customer is getting from your product. Engagement is most often measured by looking at in-product analytics—including time spent in-app, number of sessions, or number of shares.
- Adoption: The percent of users that adopt your product after signing up and/or the percentage of users that adopt a specific feature. Adoption is also measured by in-product analytics, but this time, looking at upgrades, new subscriptions, and new purchases.
- Retention: The rate of total users that are returning to your product. Retention is most often measured by looking at churn.
- Task Success: The ability of users to complete a task. Task success can be measured by looking at error rates and in-app task completion.
Google offers a specific tool called “Google Search Console” where you can submit your website to be crawled. The reason they offer this is because it is in their best interest to help improve your website's crawlability. Why? Because if your website has content that is going to be relevant to their users search queries, then they want to know about it. Another effective way to help search engines easily crawl your website is to include a sitemap. A site map is a list of pages of a web site. There are three key types of site map:
- Site maps used during the planning of a Web site by its designers.
- Human-visible listings, typically hierarchical, of the pages on a site.
- Structured listings intended for web crawlers such as search engines.
In the interest of helping search engines to crawl your website, you will want to focus on the third type of sitemap.
Another important factor for search engines is content. Search Engines are constantly looking for content that provides the best and most relevant answers to search queries. In order for the search engines to know if a website's content is relevant to a specific search query, it must be highly relevant, unique and rich enough by including keywords and phrases related to that query.
Website content is one of the most important factors for search engines. Google constantly talks about how it only ranks high-quality content, that is most relevant and solves the users search query.
The most effective and high performing website content utilises a combination of both best practices and search engine optimisation. When creating content, write for the user first, then for the search engines. Why? Because the search engines can tell. Google’s algorithms are highly developed nowadays. They take into account so many different factors when determining the search rankings, and are always looking for key aspects within a web page's content. Google knows how to identify high-quality content, so it does not need us to write content specifically designed for it. Google serves its users and it wants content to serve them well.
We have put together some basic guidelines to help when it comes to creating content for your website:
- Define a purpose
- Research thoroughly
- Write well and make sure to edit (and edit again!)
- Have a byline (making sure google knows who the content is from)
- Make it informative, thorough, educational
- Cite sources
In addition to those guidelines, make sure to perform SEO practices for all your content. This involves adding relevant and highly targeted keywords/phrases, making sure the web page includes the correct title and meta description and optimizing the image file names and attributes.
If you would like to know more about SEO, we have written a blog post specifically explaining what SEO is and how it can lead to more customers for your business
Since 2016, search engines have placed increasing importance on mobile compatibility. In 2016, the number of internet users on mobile surpassed desktop and laptop users for the first time. Search engines nowadays include separate rankings for both desktop and mobile, so a website that may rank first page on desktop, may not necessarily rank first page on mobile. Now, because of this increasing importance for mobile compatibility, it means that search engines have adopted a “Mobile First” approach. This means exactly what is says- they consider mobile rankings first. This makes websites that are optimised for mobile high important for the search engines. Google has a great test for this called their “Mobile-Friendly Test”. If you input a webpage link into the search bar, it will tell you whether or not the webpage is mobile friendly. Much like “Google Search Console”, google wants you to use these tools so you can further optimise your website, giving them further and better choice when it comes to how they rank content. Your website may have content that is highly relevant to certain search queries, however it may never be ranked highly if your website is not optimized for mobile. *All VEVS websites include mobile friendly design and optimization.
We briefly mentioned backlinks and domain authority earlier in the blog post, however we are going to touch on them in more detail here. You now know what backlinks are and why they are important, but what you may not know is that not all backlinks are equal. Backlinks that are in the footer, sidebar and navigation do not carry much weight, along with this list of backlinks that are not effective anymore:
- Low-quality article directory submission web Pages
- Performing link exchanges at scale
- Thousands of automatically generated links from web 2.0 properties
- Paid links that generate brand awareness
Instead, you need to be acquiring backlinks through the following:
- Guest posting. This involves writing blog posts on other websites and linking back to your own website either in the publisher's name or the content itself.
- Adopting the skyscraper technique. This technique is really simple and it involves taking an already well-performing piece of content and creating a more insightful, valuable, updated and better designed, piece of content. You can then send this new content to the websites that linked to the original piece and ask them to link to yours.
- Internal linking. This is when you include links on one webpage that links to another webpage within your own website. Internal linking helps distribute “link juice” to your website internal pages.
Did you know that domain authority is a metric that was created by Moz- SEO software and data to help you increase traffic, rankings, and visibility in search results. Like we mentioned earlier, domain authority does not actively contribute towards rankings, but it does give you an idea of how likely your rankings are to improve. It is measured on a scale of 0-100, with the aim being to achieve a score of 100. We have listed a number of different things you can do to increase your websites domain authority:
- On-Page SEO Optimization
- Make Sure Your Website is Mobile Friendly
- Improve Your Page Speed
- Be Patient
The last one is of high importance. Optimizing for search engines takes time, no matter what metric you are trying to improve. You can expect it to take at least a few months before you start seeing consistent improvements to your rankings.
If you would like to speed things up a little, here at VEVS, we offer a range of different SEO services, and if you are looking for a team of experts to give your website's SEO the best chance of success, then you can find more information by visiting our Digital Marketing page.