What is SEO value?
Search engines are one of the most used tools on the web. If you need to find the best recipe for blueberry muffins, you Google it. If you need to rid yourself of a computer virus or malware, you probably Google it. If you’re a computer savvy individual, and a family member asks you how to do something on the computer, your way out is, “I don’t know, have you tried Googling it?”
SEO – or search engine optimization – is a series of tactics used to make your website rank higher on any given search engine based on keywords users enter when searching for something. The way search engines decide how high to place something is via a somewhat obfuscated algorithm. And there are tactics that you can take advantage of this algorithm so that when searching for certain keywords, your website ranks higher in the search results, making it easier for your content to be discovered.
These tactics are often guised with the term “SEO Value”. In the nineties, companies would increase “SEO value” by stuffing their webpages with keywords. Developers were clever; they would make the text so small you couldn’t even read it, or would place white text on white backgrounds, making the thousands of repetitive keywords used to impact search results hidden from the end user.
Google caught onto this tactic, and tactics like it and modified their algorithm to not only ignore keyword stuffing, but to de-rank or ban websites that did so.
What is SEO today?
Today, Google’s algorithm has gotten incredibly complex, and has been tested to factor in not only keywords, but content quality, code quality, page load time, mobile friendliness, bounce rate, navigation/internal linking, time spent on your site, among many other things.
SEO value, contrary to popular belief, is not just volume of content, it is not just using the right keywords, it is not just creating a responsive website. SEO value is about making your website useful and interesting. Boosting your position in search is not something that happens over night, and is not something you can brute force your way to.
How can I improve my SEO value?
- First and foremost, make useful content. Google determines the usefulness of your website by how easy the content is to read, how closely search terms match your content, and how users interact with your site. If they find that the content on your site doesn’t closely match what a user searched for, AND the user abandoned your site to find their content elsewhere, you will get docked some points. Make sure your content is useful.
- Make sure your content is consumable. By this, I mean, make sure your content is easy to read. I understand people using ads in order to provide free content, but it shouldn’t impact user experience. Not only will it impact how users view your brand, but it will kill your rankings.
- Make sure your content is easy to read. Not just for users, but for bots. The quality of your code is actually VERY important for search. If your content is constantly nested within unnecessary html tags, it makes it harder for search engines to know what your content is really about.
- Don’t be sneaky. Don’t redirect bots one place, and users another in an attempt to “trick” bots into thinking your content is useful. Don’t keyword-stuff your content, or overdue back-linking when it’s unnecessary. Google’s bots are not as dumb as they used to be, and they’re slowly but surely getting smarter.
- Use structured data. Yes, search bots are smart, but they’re bots. They are imperfect, and won’t always know what your content is all about. You can use structured data to define what your content is all about; you can not only up your rankings, but have a little more control over how your content is displayed in search.
- Go Mobile. Mobile web-browsing is not a new thing. At my current job, our mobile traffic has more than doubled in the last two years, from 50k visits per month to over 250k visits per month. Granted, that’s only 5% of our visits, that’s a LOT of people, and that number is clearly growing. If Google, sees you’re getting more and more mobile traffic, but not offering mobile friendly content, your organic traffic will most certainly take a hit. Use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test to determine if your site is mobile friendly, and make the necessary changes if it is not.
- Use an SEO tool. While tools like Moz are great, you can start with something like Google Webmaster Tools. It will give you insight into what keywords and search terms your site gets indexed under, and how it ranks there. This data isn’t meant to tell you to keyword-stuff your content, but instead meant to inform you what types of words and phrases your visitors use. You can then tweak your copy to cater to those search terms, giving you the opportunity to create very consumable content.
- Use Google Trends. Google Trends is a tool that lets you compare search terms, software genres, news topics, etc. and see how often they are searched for. If you’re not getting sufficient organic traffic, compare your top keywords with your least used keywords found via Webmaster Tools, and see which keywords are actually being searched for. From there you can figure out which keyword spaces you need to improve upon.
- Above all, make user your website offers a good user experience. Combine good design, easy navigation, readable content, clean code, and engaging content for your users.
Google’s algorithm is changing constantly; it is slowly evolving to provide its users with the best web experience possible, and therefor does its best to reward websites that follow that principle.
At the end of the day, your users are people, not bots, statistics, or equations. Treating them otherwise will not only negatively impact your “SEO value”, but the perception of your brand. As a business, your website is first and foremast a source of information. It a product that allows users to access your content, products, and a better understanding of who you are. SEO Value as a tactic is secondary to creating a good, usable, useful website for your users.