SEO (search engine optimization) is a marketing strategy focused on growing visibility in organic (non-paid) search engine results.
SEO encompasses both the technical and creative elements required to improve rankings, drive traffic, and increase awareness in search engines. There are many aspects to SEO, from the words on your page to the way other sites link to you on the web. Sometimes SEO is simply a matter of making sure your site is structured in a way that search engines understand.
SEO isn't just about building search engine-friendly websites. It's about making your site better for people too. At Moz we believe these principles go hand-in-hand.
This guide is designed to describe all areas of SEO—from finding the terms and phrases (keywords) that generate traffic to your website, to making your site friendly to search engines, to building links and marketing the unique value of your site. If you are confused about this stuff, you are not alone, and we're here to help.
On-site SEO isn’t just about the cleanliness of your code (which should be addressed during the development process). There are also user experience factors, and because Google wants its users to have the best possible online experience, these factors play a major role in determining your rankings.
1. SITE SPEED
Site speed isn’t going to make or break your search visibility, but it is an important factor worth optimizing. The speed at which your page loads plays a signi cant role in whether or not a user feels satis ed with his/her chosen search result, so Google takes it seriously. Because the majority of searches are now performed on mobile devices, site speed is even more important; mobile devices tend to be slower than their desktop counterparts, so every second counts. Take the time to regularly clean up your site and run speed tests to make sure nothing is interfering with your load times.
2. SITE SECURITY
The security of your site is also important. When people think of site security, they usually think of e-commerce platforms, which regularly collect credit card and payment information from their users, but this isn’t the only type of site that needs some level of security. In fact, Google currently gives a small ranking boost to sites with SSL encryption, denoted by that “S” in “https” URLs. If you want to get the most visibility for your site, it’s an easy, one-time change that can help you ensure the greatest possible domain authority.
3. INTUITIVE NAVIGATION
The navigation of your site also matters. Every page in your site should be easily accessible through an intelligently structured system of menus and submenus. In your main nav, you should have four to six different main categories, including a contact page so people can get ahold of you, each broken down into submenus or subpages as appropriate. These should all be logically organized in a way that any unfamiliar user should immediately know where to go for his/ her needs. Google analyzes the organization of your site and tracks user activity to determine how easy your site is to use. The easier it is to navigate your site, the better, so run user experience tests to improve your structure and provide the best layout for your visitors.
4. INTERNAL LINKING
In Google’s eyes, the fewer number of clicks it takes for a user to get to any page on your site, the better. If there’s any page that requires more than three clicks to navigate to it, it could be a strike against your user experience, or simply a designation that the page isn’t important to you, and thus doesn’t deserve exposure in Google search results. This is because users need freedom and intuitive navigation to have a good experience, and Google is committed to providing those. The best way to ensure your site is tightly interlinked is to use internal links in your own articles and pages. Whenever you post a new article or create a new page, consider it an opportunity to fortify your existing interlinking strategy.
5. MOBILE OPTIMIZATION
Mobile optimization can be considered a part of your user experience, though at this point, it’s a bare-minimum quality your site needs to have if you want any chance of ranking signicantly in mobile searches. Because mobile searches are so popular, Google has now made it mandatory for sites to be mobile-friendly—any site that isn’t has already been hit by the nicknamed “mobilegeddon” update which occurred on April 21, 2015. Hopefully by now, every page on your site is optimized for mobile—if not, now is the time to take action. Whether you use a responsive design or a separate mobile domain is up to you, but your site must be compatible with mobile devices.
Google’s Mobile-Friendly test tool assesses whether a particular page is mobile-friendly or not. This is a great starting point for your mobile usability audit as it will help you identify key issues that could be impacting not only the usability of your site, but your search rankings as well.
6. BOUNCE RATES
Finally, remember that bounce rates are taken into consideration for your search visibility as well. If a user comes to your site through Google and leaves right away (such as by clicking the “back” button), Google knows about it, and takes it as a subjective sign that your site didn’t offer the user what they were looking for, or a good user experience. It’s a way for the search giant to measure the factors of your site that Googlebot can’t see—for example, is your site entertaining? Is your site well-designed? Do you let your users know who you are and what you do immediately in a pleasing or intriguing way? These qualities can’t be objectively measured, but they can be optimized to ensure the greatest possible user experience, and they can play a role in determining your rank.
User experience should be your top priority, and not just for SEO. Yes, implementing new designs, features, and structures that give your users a great experience will help your site rank higher—but more importantly, it will make sure the users that do come to your site have the highest likelihood of converting or otherwise engaging with your brand.