SEO Basics

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Search Engine Optimization (SEO) allows you to positively affect your organic search ranking. By making your site relevant and trustworthy, you provide search engines the information they need. Read on for an overview of SEO basics; as well, learn how to manage your SEO settings and check out our SEO Widget Pack.

Page Titles

The title tag displays at the top of any browser and is also the headline that search engines will display. When drafting your title tags keep in mind that you want to grab your visitor’s attention with a concise, relevant, short headline to draw visitors in.

Keep in mind:

  • Length – If you want to display the full headline, keep your title tag under 60 characters. If you do choose to go longer in order to increase the number of keywords in the headline, the engine may cut it short.
  • Keywords – Using relevant keywords in the title tag can increase visitors to your page, as these keywords will be bolded by the search engine when searched. As the title may get cut off depending on length, ensure you place the most searched keywords at the beginning.
  • Relevancy – Ensure that this headline encourages searchers to visit the page with relevant terms. As this will also be displayed at the top of the browser once they get to the page, it should also help orient them within your site.

Meta Description

The meta description tag is the summary of a page’s content; this text snippet is displayed by search engines below your title tag. This tag is critical for gaining visitors to your page, as it will provide a preview of what they can expect. Writing a compelling description containing relevant keywords in your brand voice will encourage searchers to select your page to learn more.

Both title tags and meta descriptions should be unique for each page as search engines may punish duplications. As well, avoid keyword stuffing either titles or descriptions and instead write authentic and readable sentences.

Alt Text / Image Titles

As search engines can’t see what an image contains, providing a small description – or Alt text – that they can read for each image gives context. This makes your site more relevant for particular topics and can boost your search rankings.

Keyword Stuffing

Although keywords are critical to SEO, there is such a thing as too many. Keyword stuffing, cramming as many keywords in as possible, can apply to all areas of on-page optimization: your title tags, URL’s, meta descriptions, etc. There is a misconception that this will allow your site to rank in all areas, but this generally does more harm than good.

When writing your titles and descriptions treat search engines as if they are another person; write as if you were explaining your site to them. So instead of listing keywords in your meta description – “websites without code, without code, no code” – create a comprehensive sentence about your site – “Without Code allows you to build powerful websites fast without using code.”

Search engines move through your website in the same manner as a human would; they follow both internal and external links from page to page. By including links within your site to other pages, you make your site easy to navigate, encouraging users to explore deeper into your site. This can have a major impact on your ranking and bounce rates.

Any link created that points to another web page contains something called Anchor text – this is the portion of the link that’s visible on the page. Using keywords in anchor text can be extremely beneficial, as they tell search engines what the page is about, and if other sites also link using similar anchor text your chances of ranking well are greatly increased. For example, adding a button that says, “Browse Running Shoes” will be more effective than a button that says, “Click Here” because it includes relevant keywords.

Google Analytics

Traffic and user experience (which influence bounce rates and time on individual pages) are the biggest factors contributing to a site’s ranking. Adding Google Analytics tracking allows you to measure your site’s SEO, monitor changes made, and identify usability problems.

Often considered the most important strategy to increase rankings, having links from external websites to your site is crucial for improving your results for a particular keyword.

An external link is any link that points from an outside domain (or website), into your site. These are highly prioritized by search engines because they are seen as one of the most difficult factors to manipulate, so a properly structured link from a very trustworthy site can have a significant impact. This external link is essentially a third-party endorsement – a way for big sites to tell search engines that this site is worth looking at– and the better the “reputation” of the site pointing to yours, the more power the link will give you. Reputation is measured in what Google calls your “PageRank”; sites with a page rank of 5 or higher are generally high ranking and very reputable. Focus on quality inbound links from these sites rather than trying to build 1000’s of inbound links from low ranking or even spam sites.

To gain external links, a site must agree (or even better, act on their own behalf) to place a link from their site to yours. These are even more powerful if the anchor text is optimized and the content on both the source and target pages is relevant.

Quality Content

There are many tips and tricks in SEO, but it is important to remember that there is no workaround for achieving quality content. Ranking studies prove that the more visitors you have on your site and the more time they spend there, the higher your ranking will be. The best way to make visitors stay on your site is to make your content interesting and informative for your visitors.

Ensure you:

  • Write for humans – Produce copy for the visitors of your site. Include clear, straightforward information that will engage and encourage them to stay on your site.
  • Post frequently – This will encourage visitors to return regularly for updates and as search engines indexes sites often, it can also see if content is fresh and adjust your rank accordingly.
  • Include synonyms – Instead of focusing on specific keywords, write naturally and use synonyms throughout your content.
  • Avoid duplicate content – If the same content is appearing in more than one place (one specific URL) it can negatively affect your ranking, as search engines don’t know which version is more relevant.

Site Speed

Providing a good user experience includes site speed, which encourages users to remain on your site. Search engines will penalize slow sites and users will leave/bounce if they run into speed issues; both will have a negative effect on your ranking.

Architect sites typically rank at the upper limit for Google’s PageSpeed ranking. The adaptive approach that Architect uses (only appropriate assets are downloaded on each device) ensures that sites are optimized and load quickly.

Common page speed issues:

  • Large or poorly optimized images
  • Uncompressed or heavy code
  • Slow hosting server or server location
  • Heavy traffic (you need a bigger/better hosting server)
  • Too many file requests (images and CSS files are all counted as a file request)

Check your Google PageSpeed rankings.

HTTPS

Search engines rank secure sites (HTTPS sites) higher than unsecure (HTTP). In addition to this minor SEO boost, converting your site to HTTPS results in improved security. Ecommerce sites can especially benefit from this switch, as this additional layer of security helps protect private information and billing details.

The SSL certificate is free with every hosting subscription purchased through Architect. Once your site is published, visit your Settings, click on Site SSL and click “Generate certificate” to create this.

Mobile Friendly

As an increasing number of people use their phones to search, mobile accessibility is becoming more critical for SEO. Google has stated that sites without “mobile friendly” versions may be penalized on mobile searches and although this won’t affect your desktop ranking, you want to ensure that users can find you on mobile devices just as easily.

In order to ensure your mobile site is setup for great rankings:

  • Set up a mobile version of your site – Architect makes this easy, as you can make device-specific edits.
  • Run the Google Mobile-Friendly Testing Tool – This will identify any potential issues with your site.
  • Avoid using Flash or other heavy media – Flash is blocked on Apple devices and large streaming videos can use large amounts of data bandwidth and slow down your site overall.
  • Design with usability in mind – Consider the physical size of your design in mobile – use a large enough font, include big buttons, and avoid pop-ups.

Mobile Pop-ups

Although a proven advertising tool, if used improperly pop-ups can be detrimental to SEO. Mobile pop-ups are the biggest concern, as Google will penalize sites with intrusive pop-ups on their mobile version. However, this penalty only applies to pop-ups that occur on a specific page directly after clicking a Google search result, so any other pop-ups that occur within your site won’t affect SEO.

To avoid issues, use mobile pop-ups very sparingly, and in particular don’t use pop-ups that cover content and have to be dismissed in order to access the page. It is important to note that pop-ups relating to legality (e.g. cookies) should not be negatively affected. Read more about popups.

Accessible Navigation

A logical navigation system links your site and encourages users to explore – making it clear where they should go for answers, as well as how they can get back to previous pages. This will increase the amount of time spent on individual pages and reduce the bounce rate, positively affect your ranking. Search engines move through websites just like any visitor, so design your site for user experience, and your ranking will reflect this. Read more about navigation.

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