Make the bots happy - organically!
Organic Search Engine Optimization, or Organic SEO, is using common-sense strategies to increase traffic to your website and improve your site's non-paid search engine results. And if you can get it for free, do it!
But where do you begin?
First, let's understand how this happens. Most search engine results, roughly 68%, begin with a query typed into a search engine, such as Google, Bing, Duck-Duck-Go, etc. Someone types in whatever they are looking for, be it "how to fix my dishwasher" or "where is the closest coffee shop with a drive through?" and a search engine results page is generated (aka, SERP, for those who like acronyms). There are a few ways to show up on that SERP without having to spend hard-earned money.
In the resulting page, there will be paid results (at the top of the page) and below that are the organic search results. I don't know about you, but I tend to go for the organic results and usually scroll past the "paid". I'm just a rebel that way!
And I'm not alone, studies show those organic search results gain many more clicks!
These SERPs aren't just the result of some random lottery win, but each search engine employs its own proprietary algorithm to serve up these web pages. Search engines use crawlers (sometimes called bots or spiders) and these crawlers, as the name implies, crawl from page to page on the world wide web and collect all kinds of content such as text articles, blog posts, even videos and images.
All this data is then stored in the search engine's database, just waiting for someone to type in their query! Since the late 90s, Google has offered few clues into their 200+ algorithms, but studies have found that some things stand out.
Relevance of page content is, of course, important. Also, pages should HAVE content and not limited to images. I often refer to this as “food for the Google Bot”. The quantity and diversity of linking websites (both links from your site to others and links back to your website) is also helpful. But be wary of “link farms” (not as popular as they were in the early days of the Internet), but simply trading links for the sake of trading links can backfire! If you link to a website which later goes down and you have not removed that link, that can have a negative impact. Or if you link to a website which a search engine perceives to contain inaccurate content or lacking accepted facts, that too can negatively affect you. And if your own website contains information which the search engine deems to be inaccurate content or lacking accepted facts, that too can keep your site from showing up on that SERP.
Mobile friendliness plays a huge role. In fact, Google will give websites which are built to adapt to different sized-screens a boost in the search engines. Make sure your website is mobile friendly and it will make the Google Bot happy.
How long ago you updated content on the page is important, too. If the Google Bot returns time after time and there is no fresh “food” to gobble, he gets bored and ranks your page lower. So, be sure to update the content on your webpage from time to time to keep things fresh.
Keywords in the URL are beneficial, too. If you are selling Super Duper Widgets, make sure your page name reflects this! Use a page name like super_duper_widgets.html. And of course, your domain itself should reflect the brand. Look for a domain when you begin that reflects who you are. SuperDuperWidgetFactory.com, for example. Your URL could then be SuperDuperWidgetFactory.com/super_duper_widgets.html
Be leery of unscrupulous practices. In the late 90’s and early 2000s, a lot of web designers caught onto the value of keywords and began “cloaking”. They would insert keywords into a webpage in the same color as the page background, for example, so humans could not see these words, but the search engines could. Search engines grew smart and weary of these practices and will down-rank a website for such practices today!
Another no-no is “keyword stuffing”. If you repeat keywords over and over on a web page to gain relevance, the search engines will punish you for it and not help you rank! Think of it this way and you will avoid these bad practices: if a human would not say it that way naturally or a human cannot see something in the visible content of your page, don’t do it!
There are keyword meta and description tags which can be used to assist in ranking, though some argue they are not as relevant as they once were. That said, I find they still help. You should include a meta keyword tag, adding no more than 20 (key)words or short phrases that a human might type into a search engine to find your webpage. This is where you can have kind of an “out of body experience” and think if I were looking for me, what would I type into the search bar? What words? What short phrases would you type?
Your description meta tag is still useful for a couple of reasons. Packed with relative keywords, it reiterates what your webpage is about. It is often used, too, as the short descriptive paragraph appearing with results on those SERPs! This is a great place to really anchor the message you are trying to convey on that individual page. Make each page’s description and keyword meta tags unique, too, because you guessed it, repeating the same thing on every page of your website will only negatively impact your site’s rank.
These are all simple, but very practical tips for organic SEO. If you employ them into your website, you will undoubtedly reap the benefits of more clicks without spending money on paid advertising or paid SEO!
Melanie Edman-Osmer has been the owner of We Have a Site Web Design for 17 years.