by Duncan Wilcox — April 13, 2017
SEO, or search engine optimization, is the collection of strategies, techniques and tactics you can use to increase the amount of visitors to a website as a consequence of a good ranking in the results of a search engine query.
Are Sparkle sites SEO-friendly? What strategies can you adopt to optimize search engine rankings for Sparkle sites? In the spirit of Sparkle’s jargon-free approach to web design, this is SEO in plain english.
Everybody wants as many visitors and as much interest for their own website as possible, so naturally there are many snake oil salesmen: websites and blog posts and agencies and consultants, promising results in hopes you’ll give them lots of money.
This is not to discredit all SEO professionals out there, it is a very complex and specialized subject and there are many competent professionals, but it’s all very confusing. I’ll try to distill the matter for the benefit of the typical Sparkle-based website in 2017. Perhaps that will suffice, if not you will have some more information to help you chose the right consultant.
Let’s get started.
You will probably want to start making some changes to your existing site or new pages. The first step is to enable an analytics package such as the built-in Google Analytics, in the analytics site settings (and the privacy notice in the privacy settings). This will help you measure the effect of any change.
The next step is listing your site in Google’s webmaster tools. If you’re setting up a new site, this is a quick way to tell Google about it. If it’s an existing site, you will find details on what Google’s bot thinks about it, like broken links and such.
You can be certain that your website will be eventually listed on Google and on other major search engines. If you have dreams of seeing your site on the first page of results for a specific search, all within a few days from launch, that won’t happen right away.
In fact, if you’re aiming for a specific keyword, newly published content can take a long time, sometimes years, to get on a first page of search results. It’s hard to go up.
Over time there have been numerous shady techniques aimed at ranking artificially high in search engines, such as placing popular but unrelated words on pages, more or less hidden from sight, or creating bait-and-switch content. In order to provide a more valuable service to their users, search engines have been fighting back and detecting these forms of spam, penalizing sites who tried.
Considering the emergence of statistical techniques such as machine learning, and Google’s focus on the subject, the only credible long term plan is to provide content that satisfies the expectation of visitors coming to your site: relevant, up to date and valuable. Everything follows from this guiding principle.
Take any page of your website, each word contained in it causes the page to show up in search results for that word. The same is true for all combinations of words and phrases.
Some words are more common, perhaps because they’re used more in written language or because they represent a popular brand. For example Google shows 2 billion results for apple.
The insight is that not all words have the same search interest, there’s no relation between how common a term is and how frequently it is searched for, and additionally search frequencies changes over time.
What you can do is use search terms that have the same search volume as “apple”, but aren’t as competitive. There are many tools help you figure out search volume, one such tool is Wordtracker, the following screenshot shows how you can use this information.
The last column shows a higher score if the search term is popular but also not too contended.
For example writing about “apple itunes” gets you a better chance of taking the page to a higher rank than writing for just “apple”. While you do need to write an article about each keyword you pick, and in the sprit of being true you need to actually go deep and write compelling and relevant content, it can be simpler to attack multiple niches and get an overall comparable, if not higher search traffic.
While you shouldn’t obsess about how search engines look at in your pages, there are a few timeless tips that are in fact really simple to follow, and help even if search engines change their techniques, because they are good for your site visitors regardless. Implementing these suggestions correlates strongly with being in the top ten results.
A whole other chapter is so called off-page SEO, or factors that aren’t part of your page that contribute to the ranking of your pages in search engines.
There are two main aspects that frequently affect search ranking, that you have much less control over, or a very indirect control anyway. Specifically search engines consider:
This is known as “link building”, which you craft by sharing on social networks and participating in your community. Whether users click on your pages in search results is more about brand recognition than any particular single action you can take, though you might affect it with clever copywriting.
Sparkle loves graphic designers and is striving to become the best visual tool to create websites.
We will soon be adding more articles with example websites and more thoughts on visual web development.
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