In its simplest terms, search engine optimization is the process of doing something for your website that will help it to rank higher in search engines. Google maintains its dominance over the entire search engine industry because it keeps its users happy.
Users... Those are the everyday people of this world, like you and me, who keep returning to Google because it offers the best search results no matter which device you use. Google pays attention to what we all look for, how we use our computer and smartphones, and where we are when we search. It then makes changes to better serve us, the users.
Of course there are other people like me, and I assume like yourself too, who own and manage websites. Although we like to use Google, we would like it even more if our own websites were highly ranked in the results that would make our individual business richer.
This is where the search engine optimization (SEO) comes in. Somehow, those of us who own websites need to figure out the changes that Google makes, and we need to adjust our online strategies accordingly.
Some of these changing strategies over the years have required analytical thinking and some required some creative marketing. Then there's another side of SEO that requires a type of "friendship" that you used to be able to buy cheaply, but now requires real friends.
These 3 sides of SEO are the Technical SEO, On-Site SEO, and Off-Site SEO. I've split up a few SEO methods into those three categories below along with cross references to other Nuggets so you could read more about them.Technical SEO
This is the part of SEO that requires a bit of technical knowledge of how the internet works. How do computers communicate? Is your software working? Is the computer hosting your website good enough?
Try as hard as you may with everything else, if your technical SEO is messed up, you're probably not going to get very far.
Here are some of my favorite technical SEO topics in the order I thought of them:301 Redirects
I've written a lot about 301 redirecting
lately so maybe that's why I'm thinking of it first. My recent Nuggets are all about upgrading your website, but you should also use 301 redirects when you've deleted pages on your website. Those deleted pages should always be redirected to some other page on your site.Duplicate Content
Do whatever it takes to prevent your website from producing duplicate content. Do you like to repeat yourself? Google certainly doesn't like it when information on your website is repeated. This could be an accident in your CMS
, or an old website that is still on your server
. It could also be because someone else has copied all the information from your website and used it on their own site. Domain Names
This topic also falls under the category of duplicate content, but the technical know-how to solve this issue is different than understanding how to reprogram a CMS that's producing duplicates. The technical issue here is that Google views these 4 versions of your website as 4 different websites:
Refer back to this Nugget
for a more in depth conversation about it. The point is that you need to force your website to appear as only one of those versions.
A recent announcement
from Google says that they are using website security as a ranking signal now. That means you should be considering using the "https" version of your website, but then you need to settle on the www or non-www version.Set Up Your Robots.txt File
The robots.txt file is a special text that you should set up
no later than the day your website goes live.
It tells the different spider programs
how to treat your site, what to read, what to ignore, and how different spiders should treat your content. Without this file, the search engine will simply be guessing what to do with you site, and they usually hate wasting time to figure it out.Set Up Your Sitemap.xml File
This is another file that you should set up when you launch your site and then update it every time you add a new page to your website. This special sitemap.xml file helps Google and Bing
find all the pages of your site. Without this file, they have to manually discover all the pages on their own, and that can take longer.Poor URL Structure
Our websites should be organized in a logical way that easy for people to navigate through visually. Google recommends that you should also apply an easily understood directory tree structure that follows with the navigation. These directories will make for a clean URL that's easy for people to read.
Although Google is quite capable of reading complicated URLs with many variables
compared to the URLs that have file names, they still recommend keeping it simple.Page Speed
This seems to be gaining in importance among other SEO professionals although I have yet to see specific evidence that leads to better ranking. The idea here is that a slow website will rank lower in the search results. Google measures page speed as the time it takes to load the actual HTML of your page.
Even though Google still thinks your page is loading really fast, your users think it is horribly slow to render.
That's my important list of technical SEO factors. This is the stuff that an SEO analyst will find when reading your Google Analytics reports and running various tests on your website. Sometimes it takes a few months to figure this technical stuff out, sometimes it quick. You would need your web programmer and website host to fix the issues found.
The technical side of SEO is, well, technical and can usually only be managed by someone with programming and server maintenance skills.
I've left a lot of other topics off my technical list that are very important, but I didn't want to overwhelm you too much today. Notable mentions of other technical SEO topics include Usability Design
, Responsive Content
, and Rich Snippets
In tomorrow's Nugget, I'll continue this discussion with the explanations of On-Site SEO and Off-Site SEO.