Optimizing the website for search engines
You already know how important the position of company websites in search results is in e-marketing. In the previous section, we indicated that there are two most important types of marketing in search engines: SEO, i.e. website optimization for search engines, and PPC, also known in Polish as a sponsored links campaign. We briefly introduced you to how search engines work and what tools they use.
In this part, you will need some knowledge from the previous episode of the cycle. We will discuss SEO, i.e. positioning, a bit closer. This is the first of several parts that will focus on website optimization for search engines - we will look at the role of website quality in relation to search results. Website evaluation mechanisms have not always been the same - they have significantly evolved, primarily trying to eliminate the risk of unethical practices on the part of website administrators. So we will discuss the beginnings of SEO and then move on to modern times.
In the following, we will look at how the quality of websites is assessed and what you should pay special attention to. Finally, we will go through all the phases of search engine optimization and identify what is important in each of them.
Search engine optimization - how did it start?
How did search engine optimization start? Search engines gained importance with the development of the Internet network and the increase in the amount of content on the pages. Search engines have been very useful in finding interesting content in a maze of websites. The mechanism of their actions, however, was very simple and was based only on keywords - it was enough to place them among the meta tags on a given page and several times in its content. The more they coincided with what the user entered in the search engine, the higher the page marked with them was in the search results.
It was quickly noticed that this could be useful in promotional activities. Marketing specialists got interested in the matter, but this form of promotion was initially not very effective. There were at least two reasons. The first was that spiders and indexing devices in search engines were not as efficient as they are today, and often a new page appeared in search results, for example, a few weeks after its creation. The second was related to the unethical behavior of many site administrators, especially porn sites.
Their business is called Black Hat SEO, and it was about embedding popular keywords in the meta-tags of the website. Often they were added invisibly (e.g. through the font color identical to the background color) on the page itself, which had an even better effect on the high position on SERPs. In this dishonest way, SERPs were inundated with pages unrelated to the topic the user was looking for. The internet user usually found out about what is really on the pages only after entering them. This search engine optimization was unethical and it was decided to fight it.
This problem hit everyone who followed White Hat SEO principles. Although in the mid-1990s it is difficult to clearly talk about search engine marketing, the owners of company websites noticed that their position in the search results has some importance. An important task then faced search engine managers - they had to effectively prevent Black Hat SEO practices. Many methods were tried, but on both sides it was like an arms race.
Google algorithm - Page Rank
In 1996, Lawrence Page and Sergey Brin began working on a project at Stanford University that changed SEO forever. They developed an algorithm that became the greatest asset of the search engine called Backrub. Shortly after, Backrub changed its name to Google and the algorithm used was called PageRank. Apart from keywords, it also used another positioning criterion - the number of links in the network leading to a specific page. The more links a given site had on other sites, the better its position in the SERPs.
Each linking received its specific point value (depending on the rank of the linked page). This is how the positioning factors were given points, the sum of which influenced the position in the results. The idea of Brin and Page turned out to be a bull's eye and Google quickly began to grow in strength, which was additionally accelerated by the rapid increase in the importance of the Internet and its rapid development. Page Rank has become an opportunity for smaller websites to effectively promote and find them on the web. Search engine optimization was becoming more and more effective.
Page Rank has developed a lot of links leading to pages, as a result of which, another type of Black Hat SEO was not protected this time either. The unethical website optimization for search engines was booming again. This time it was a flood of pages that were created specifically to link to others.Page Rank was still an important tool in determining positioning, but - necessarily - the results flowing from it had to be verified. Elements such as keywords in meta tags were slowly losing their importance. PageRank itself became one of the few algorithms that addicted the position of a given page on SERPs. The purpose of improving positioning was, inter alia, Trust Rank, whose task was to verify the pages from which the links come.
Today, Google talks about Page Rank as one of the many elements that influences positioning. Although it seemed to be an important criterion for positioning not so long ago, it has not been updated for over three years now, and pessimists are proclaiming its inevitable end.
A new quality in the Google algorithm was brought in 2011 by its update called Panda. Above all, the focus has shifted from keywords and links to the overall quality of the content on your pages. The algorithm has been updated many times since then, and the positioning began to play an increasingly important role, among others local phrases. Search engine optimizationtook on a completely different meaning.
Website quality assessment
In November 2015, Google published a compilation of the guidelines it uses to evaluate pages and search results. Thanks to this document, we can see what Google employees pay attention to and what we should make sure that our website has a chance to get the best position on SERPs. Based on the comments of people dealing with the quality assessment of websites, algorithms are created with the use of which websites are positioned under one criterion or another. Search engine optimization becomes therefore easier. Therefore, the guidelines contained in the document should in practice be taken into account as actual criteria useful in positioning search results.
We will briefly discuss the most important criteria that Google takes into account when evaluating pages. Of course, these are some general guidelines that should be followed, because more than 200 different factors are considered in the final evaluation, which will translate into the position of the page. How should the website be optimized for search engines?
- Content - this is the most important factor taken into account when evaluating a website. The content must first and foremost pursue a goal - e.g. substantive or entertainment - and must be exhaustive. It is worth using keywords in the content, but most of all focusing on its practical dimension, i.e. the benefits for the user from getting to know it. Present your products or services in a specific and comprehensive way.
- Information about the author - take care of a page informing, even briefly, about your company, put there contact and contact details.
- Update the content on the website - it is worth updating the content on the website, as outdated information may not be taken into account when evaluating the website. However, try to make them valuable in terms of content.
- Make sure that the content on the website has high substantive and expert value and shows your good knowledge of the industry in which you operate. Provide sources, post certificates, allow you to verify your high level of knowledge of the industry.
- Pay attention to your reputation. Google also takes into account the reputation of both the company and its website in the eyes of customers. Place on the website their positive comments, opinions of specialists, received awards, awards, publications about your company. Their lack is not a disadvantage, but including such information certainly pays off.
- Take care of readability and good navigation on the website.
- Optimize your website loading speed. Slowly opening websites lose a lot of ratings.
- Make sure that your website is well adapted to mobile devices.
- Associate your website with social media profiles.
- In almost every aspect, focus on functionality and ease of use.
These are some general guidelines for you. The exact operation of Google's algorithms remains the secret of the network giant, but - as we have already mentioned - robots will take these issues into account to a large extent.
SEO activities phases
In order to effectively prepare for the operation of website optimization for search engines, it is worth starting your work with a good, in-depth analysis. Only then can you start planning your action strategy - then it's time for the remaining steps. John I Jerkovic in the book SEO Warrior. The art of achieving top positions in search engines lists six phases of the optimization process. We will carefully analyze each of them and we will look at the activities that constitute them.
This is the first phase of the search engine optimization process where you have to ask yourself a lot of questions about both the current state and what you expect from your SEO efforts. In the research phase, business analyzes are carried out to answer the questions about the existence of your company on the web (what are its advantages, what distinguishes it from the competition). In addition, you need to pay attention to the optimization activities themselves - what is the budget allocated to them, what goals you want to achieve thanks to them - when you say about success and when about failure, whether you want to target a specific group or area. Once you have the answers to these kinds of questions, move on to competitor analysis.
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The competition analysis should be carried out in terms of SEO - what content is on the websites of competing companies, what links are there and where they lead, and who links their website. It will also be important to estimate what their network traffic is and what keywords they are using. Once you know your goals and know a lot about your competition, make an online SEO assessment for your website. Pay attention to the same elements that you analyzed with the competition.
Then, new keywords should be designated. Also analyze those you have used so far and think about how you can still use them. Evaluate your research and draw appropriate conclusions by prioritizing your activities.
Planning (strategy) phase
Now is the time for you to use whatever information you gathered during the research phase. Based on them, you need to create a strategy that will allow you to achieve the best possible position in search engines. In it, note five aspects:
- Website content - think about how you will create, modify, publish and archive content on your website. Think about how you will present them to your audience and what form they will take.
- Links - make sure that there are a lot of links on the Internet leading to your website. Ideally, they should be on reputable sites.
- Social media - activate a community focused around social media profiles. Try to connect your website with pages on social networks.
- Technical aspect - talk to the company's IT specialist and ask what can be changed on the website from a technical and IT point of view. Consider changing your CMS or hosting.
- Marketing aspect - think if your optimization activities cannot be combined with promotional activities, e.g. a sponsored links campaign. Consider how these activities can be synchronized.
Once you have carefully considered all aspects, your SEO strategy is almost complete. You only need to plan its practical implementation.
This is the phase of implementing the planned strategy. One of its elements is internal optimization, which includes activities performed on the website and those related to its location. These are primarily activities that optimize page tags (tags), text on the page, domain selection, server configuration, etc. External search engine optimization consists in building a network of links to your page and presenting it on forums, social media, etc.
The implementation phase can be broken down into several stages depending on how complex your strategy is. Successive elements may be modified in successive periods.
Once you've implemented the strategy, keep an eye on the indicators, in particular:
- check the activity of indexing robots - its lack means that additional actions should be taken,
- check the pages that link to your optimized page and test the usefulness of the links,
- observe the change of position in the search engine,
- control network traffic on the optimized website, note its changes,
- Keep in mind the conversions made on your website - what is their number and type.
Periodically evaluate your optimization activities. Their frequency is up to you, but it is best to do them quarterly. Then you will notice which of the intended goals are implemented in action and which need to be slightly modified or improved.
If the assessment is positive, you go to the management phase of your website. At this stage, you can correct any minor shortcomings indicated by the evaluation, but if they are large, consider restarting the entire SEO process.
You already know why optimizing your website for search engines is important. You have learned the guidelines that must be followed when planning positioning and you know the phases of the optimization process. In the next episodes of the cycle, you will learn more about the methods used in positioning - the selection of keywords, optimization of the page code and URL address, and you will also get acquainted with the link strategy.