If you're at a library to find some information, a librarian is often your go-to source. Sure, you could aimlessly browse the bookshelves or blindly peruse the magazine rack, but we all know that isn't really effective. If you want to find what you need to know when you need to know it, the best course of action is to head straight to the librarian's desk as soon as possible.
A librarian's recommendations can make or break a book, just like a search engine's results can make or break a website. To get more eyes on your page (in both the physical and digital sense), you want to be guided by whoever - or whatever - is doing the suggesting. That's where search engine optimization (or SEO for short) comes into play.
What Is SEO?
Search Engine Optimization is the process of improving your website to increase search engine visibility. Since users primarily navigate the web with the help of search engines, a company's site must be higher up on the search engine's results page (SERP) in order for a business to be viable.
A higher ranking leads to increased website traffic which leads to more customers. Search engines employ algorithms to access site quality using core metrics, such as site content, page structure, and outside links. Much like librarians, algorithms take into account usability and relevance before making recommendations. So, along with other copywriters, marketers, or developers, you must make sure you’re using best practices to get eyes on your site.
Since Google towers over other search engines with over a whopping 90% of the market share, you have to cater to Google’s algorithm first and foremost. If there were only one library branch in town, as a writer or publisher, you’d have to cater to their display rules, too.
Search Engine Optimization can be broken down into three parts:
On-page SEO focuses on site content — mirrors the information, images, layout, keywords, references of a library book
Off-page SEO focus on backlinks from other sources — mirrors the marketing tactics and outside references of a library book
Technical SEO focuses on website infrastructure — mirrors the title, format, table of contents, duplications, readability of a library book
When making a recommendation or display, a librarian considers all of these aspects of a book. Writers and publishers have to take these into account when releasing their book into the market, just like developers, copywriters, and marketers.
Any content that helps search engines understand and rank your website is considered to be On-Page SEO. Copywriters and marketers utilize meta-descriptions, keywords, alt-text, H1 tags, and URL linking to display relevant information and build accessible experiences.
Any action that helps search engines see your site’s authority and relevance using outside references is considered to be Off-Page SEO. Marketers incorporate link building, content marketing, guest blogging, and social media promotion to drive awareness and build referrals from external platforms.
Any site infrastructure that helps search engines find, crawl, understand, and index your webpage is considered to be Technical SEO. Developers optimize HTTP status codes, XML sitemaps, canonical tags, breadcrumbs menu, and page speed as well as remove duplicate content, orphan pages, and broken links to make the site easier to navigate and improve its overall performance.
Create a sitemap
Add a roadmap using structured data
Update robot.txt files
Check for low-quality or duplicate content
Remove broken links
Improve site loading speed
Create mobile-friendly web pages
Submit sitemap to Google Search Console
Submit pages for indexing to GSC
Update content regularly
The Google Crawler
Much like how “Googling it” is used as a general expression for searching for something on the web, “Google Crawler” is used as a generic phrase for any program that search engines use to find, review, and track websites. Sometimes referred to as a robot or spider, the software follows linked paths to store, catalog, and record websites. As a developer, you must optimize your site’s crawlability and indexation to make sure your target audience can find you using a search engine.
Changes to the way a search engine ranks or displays website results affects the way writers and developers get eyes on their sites. Usually, these algorithm updates don’t cause major issues, but since the algorithm is subject to a lot of change, catering your site to the rules of rank can involve some guesswork.
In a core update, the search engine implements a broad, significant change to improve how systems assess content. These updates are not frequent, since search engines usually only release a few per year. In a focused update, on the other hand, the search engine applies specific changes based on ranking factors such as content, reviews, links, or page experience. These types of updates are much more common, sometimes with thousands made per year.
Google makes around two to three major updates per year but makes hundreds to thousands minor updates during that time. Google makes sure to let website builders know about any major updates to allow them to get ahead of the change and ensure their content continues to reach their target audience. By breaking down the effects, developers can understand just a little bit better how to cater their site to their desired search engine.
Why is SEO Important?
Search engine optimization doesn’t just make it easier for bugs to access your content; it makes it more accessible for people, too! Since the algorithms are created with people in mind, building for the algorithm means building for individuals.
What can SEO do for you?
Enhance user experience
Increase site security
Improve customer engagement
Build brand credibility
Whether you’re specifically working on on-page, off-page or technical SEO, you can ensure that your site consistently ranks high on the search results and reaches your target audience by utilizing best practices.
If you’re interested in learning more about the technical side of search engine optimization, check out our web development bootcamp!