11 Easy Ways to Improve SEO
What do you think of when you hear SEO? The first and only thing a lot of people will come to is “keywords”. While keywords are undoubtedly important, it’s no longer enough; there are many more factors involved now in determining your search engine ranking. Some examples are how long someone looks at your website, page views, outbound and inbound links as well as broken links and bounce rates.
Using keywords to get people to find your website is only half of the battle. It’s also important to keep people on your site. This is best achieved by ensuring that your website has high usability and provides a great user experience.
But what exactly is meant by ‘website usability’?
Website usability is an umbrella term that involves many parts of web design, and involves how a user interacts and experiences your website from reading articles, finding information and general navigation across the site.
Here are a few elements of website usability that are closely tied to SEO and can affect how your website performs on the search engines.
Memorability: How easy is it for a user to find your website from a search engine if they want to re-visit again at a later date? Multiple visits from the same users will contribute towards your rankings. People can leave your website for a wide range of reasons, but if they want to come back later, is the keyword they used to find you memorable enough for them to easily search for your website again?
Learnability: How quickly can your website be navigated for a user to find what they want? Are there call-to-actions throughout the site to make interaction easy? If too much time is being spent attempting to figure out how to navigate your website, less time is being spent on consuming your content. Even worse, if someone can’t find what they want quickly, they are much more likely to be frustrated and leave your website permanently.
Error Prevention: Various errors throughout your website will have a negative impact on SEO. Some of these errors include broken or invalid links to external website, misleading links that lead to different content than what’s expected as well as 404 errors.
Effectiveness: Can visitors accomplish their objectives when browsing your website? Is the information they want easily accessible, can they locate the products they are after and are the contact details prominently displayed?
Efficiency: Following on from above, other than a user being able to find what they want, how quickly can they get there? If the content on your website cannot be found quickly and easily, users are more likely to navigate away. This will reduce the average time people are on your website for, thus negatively impacting SEO.
All of these elements focus on one overall theme: “Dwell Time”. This is the amount of time a user spends browsing your website, and this can have a significant impact on SEO. What we are focusing on is providing useful, interesting and easily findable content. This increases the amount of time spent on each page, the amount of repeat visits and the total amount of page views.
Here are the 11 points that will improve your SEO ranking as well as drastically improving the usability of your website:
Relevant, high quality and useful content
When your website contains interesting content, users are more likely to stay longer and read it, increasing the time they spend on your website. Content containing roughly 2100 – 2500 words tend to rank highest on the search engines.
Of course, word count isn’t everything. No one will read your content if it’s not useful or interesting, but it does let you include more links, keywords and of course getting people to spend longer on each page.
The importance of valuable content can’t be understated – even getting a page bookmarked on Google Chrome will boost your page ranking.
Not only is page speed also a factor in determining SEO, if a page takes a longer than expected time to load, even if it’s only an additional couple of seconds per page, users can be driven away from your site. This will lower the dwell time and page views as well as increasing the bounce rate, further harming SEO.
There are many ways to improve load speeds, from using a plugin for caching and optimising image file sizes to reducing the amount of plugins and checking the efficiency of the code.
There’s more to images than just the file size! The images on your site can also be improved to help with the general SEO effort of your website.
All of your images can help you to be found in search engines by naming them with your keywords as well as checking that they all have relevant captions, descriptions and alt tags.
The visitor’s experience can be vastly improved with a little bit of good formatting. Users will be more likely to engage with your content and come back for more if they can read and digest the information with ease. Longer time on pages, repeat visits and more site views will all boost SEO rankings.
Keywords are weighted more heavily in header tags, so good use of header tags containing relevant terms will help with SEO as well as break up your content into manageable, readable chunks. No walls of text!
To further improve the usefulness of your content, you can link to other well established websites for further reading of your content subject. This will increase the time people spend on your site as well as the relevancy, while also improving your SEO ranking from associating with already well-established sites.
Be careful how many links you include though, as too many can be a distraction and if the links are not relevant, users will be put off and more likely to leave.
A plethora of slideshows, images, audio and videos will improve and enhance the user experience if done correctly. You can use the various media options available to tailor the information on your website into what your readers want and like to see, allowing them to more readily digest your content.
All the different types of media used will also be picked up by Google – showing them that your website is of a higher quality due to the diversity of content types. Video is also increasingly becoming a more popular way to absorb information over reading text.
Clicking on a broken link that leads to a 404 page is not good at all. It’s frustrating for the user as they struggle to find what they’re after, and shows that the website is negligent and could well also contain out-dated or incorrect information elsewhere.
Too many broken links will be perceived by the search engines as website that is old, out of date and irrelevant, causing a negative impact on your rankings.
There are several free tools out there to check broken links throughout your website.
The Contact Page
Another website element that Google checks for is the amount of contact information that can be easily found on your website. Having prominent contact details displayed, with everything from a contact form and address to phone numbers and social media links, is seen as more trustworthy compared to those without, boosting your SEO ranking.
Your website should have a contact page that is very easy to find – usually by having a top navigation link directly to the page. Visitors are much more likely to trust you and your website as it shows that you are easily reachable to your audience.
Navigation and Site Architecture
If a user can’t find what they’re after on a website quickly they will likely leave, contributing to the bounce rate & low page views. The structure of the website needs to be well laid out and easily accessible from any page on your website, with a quick and easy flow between pages. The website needs to be kept as ‘flat’ as possible – any page should be navigable within three clicks or less. The improved usability will encourage people to keep coming back to your site over others.
Mobile & Tablet Friendly
A recent addition to Google’s algorithm is to check how well your website performs on handheld devices, with negative consequences for those that don’t!
Combined with the fact that more and more people are browsing the World Wide Web with mobiles and tablets, it’s very important that the user experience is just as good – if not better- than on desktop, otherwise you risk losing a lot of potential readers.
Social Media Sharing
Search engine rankings can also be influenced by the amount of shares from your website across social media including Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. You can encourage people to do this by including sharing buttons on your website, additionally enhancing the user experience.
The conflict between pure SEO techniques and usability
You may have noticed that all of the above points have one common theme; they all both have a direct positive effect on SEO while also improving the user experience of your website in one way or another.
There are other ways of attempting to boost SEO but at the expense of the user experience. Some of these are:
Keyword stuffing – harming the flow of content and how easy it is to read by cramming in as many keywords as possible, even where they don’t make sense.
Outbound links – too many irrelevant outbound links will cause a page to be confusing and create a lot of unwanted clutter.
Overloaded footer – adding links to every page on your website in the footer. This will make the footer look bloated and messy, and cause problems for a user trying to navigate to one of the main pages on your site.
While all of these methods can give you results in the short term and improve traffic to your website, the people visiting are much more likely to leave again, increasing bounce rate and lowering time spent.
It’s much safer to focus your SEO around a fantastic user experience rather than abusing every SEO trick in the book. The traffic will come in time, and in the long run your website will likely have a much better ranking and conversion rate.
Although Nick only has only been in the web design industry for a couple of years, he quickly became a valuable member of the Nexus Websites team.