SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is the process of improving the quality and quantity of website traffic from search engines. Google’s algorithms are largely what determine SEO best practices, as they receive close to 90% of all searches in North America. Google searches alone account for over a third of our site traffic for all major sites managed by DARCOMM. Google’s algorithms aren’t exactly available to the public eye, but they have made many important factors known to encourage best practices necessary to getting noticed in those first few results in a search.
Out of over 200 ranking factors, only a key few stand out. SEO can sound daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. Focus on this list to get your site up to scratch. You can use some of Google’s free tools to help yourself out, too!
Keyword Optimization and Search Intent Matching
Most search engine pages display 10 results per page, and 92% of users will not go past that first page, opting instead to alter their search terms and try again. When deciding which keywords to use, it’s important investigate the why behind their choice of search terms.
It’s important to use keywords whenever relevant throughout your content, but also in your page title, page description, and even image alt text and section headings, which is also important for webpage accessibility for the 1-in-4 Americans who have some form of disability.
Tool: Yoast SEO. This one isn’t from Google, but we use it on all of our major sites in DAR. It allows you to include keywords in your title tags and meta descriptions as well as set custom images for your links on Facebook and Twitter.
Website Loading Speed
In 2010, Google announced that site performance would be a key factor in search rankings. Performance takes into account the speed, responsiveness (how it looks and functions on different devices), and how quickly assets like fonts and images take to load. Most users leave the site after an average of 3 seconds of waiting. Your goal for the average webpage should be under one megabite for size and about one second load time.
Tool: You can access Chrome DevTools by pressing Control+Shift+J or Command+Option+J (Mac) while your page is open in Google Chrome. The Network tab is a good place to get an idea of how fast your page loads, how large it is, and what elements are slowing you down. Just refresh the page with the Network tab open to watch all of your assets be served to your browser live.
If you want to drill deeper: Pagespeed Insights provide an in-depth look at what’s slowing you down.
60-70% of the traffic on DAR’s main sites is from mobile devices. Your sites should be designed with the majority of its users in mind, so mobile-first design is essential. Google went mobile-first in 2019 and mobile-friendliness has been the standard ever since.
Tool: Through DevTools in Chrome (see #2), click the second from the leftmost top icon. It’ll look like two differently sized rectangles. This will allow you to see a snapshot of how your site will look on all kinds of screen sizes and orientations. You can also resize your browser window and keep an eye on the breakpoints in the top right corner of your screen to find where you need to fine-tune your layout. Be careful to test on any and all devices you can get your hands on, though, as the views in this tool may not be 100% accurate every time.
Google uses an artificial intelligence program called RankBrain to measure overall user experience of your website. RankBrain incorporates ranking signals such as:
- Click-Through-Rate – the percentage of users that click on your website link in the search results
- Bounce rate – the percentage of users who click on your site and then exit immediately without interacting with your site
- Dwell Time – how long a visitor stays on your site after coming from the Google search results
Tool: DAR keeps track of factors such as these through Google Analytics. After adding the tracking code to the header of your site, you can see average site data and page-by-page data by visiting the Google Analytics portal for your site and clicking Behavior > Site Content > Content Drilldown.
You can do everything right, but if your content isn’t valuable to your audience, none of it will matter. It also needs to be original, fresh, and up-to-date. Make sure you’re regularly adding fresh, original content to stay relevant. Also, keep it brief to the best of your ability. On average, posts with around 1,890 words rank are more likely to rank on the first page of a Google search.
Tool: Google Trends is great for researching currently trending search keywords.