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What Does Improving SEO Really Mean?

We talk a lot about SEO here at Lunar Logic. It’s one of the many things we consider ourselves distinctly good at: helping clients better understand where they are with SEO and then, helping them to improve so that they can get more customers, build their brand, or hit their specific goal.

SEO, as we’ve written before, is a moving target. It can feel difficult to get a hold on. Most people have a basic understanding of what SEO is; most people can tell you that SEO is all about where you show up in Google searches. There is a lot more to SEO than that. Ultimately, SEO is a measure of user experience by search engines—and how the search engine interprets that user experience in order to best rank pages for users.

The knowledge gap between understanding what SEO is and understanding what needs to be done to improve the SEO of your website is pretty large. Most people can get a basic idea of how their website is doing—but the steps to improving it feel murky. It’s like stepping into a lake when you can’t see the bottom: absolutely terrifying.

In this blog post, we want to cover the basic pieces that can improve SEO and what they mean. We hope this can both help our current clients to better understand recommendations, and help anyone look at improving their SEO understand the pieces that go into it.

1. What is SEO Content?

The number one recommendation we often make to clients (and really, anyone else) is to improve their website content. But what does that really mean? What is it that we’re doing?

There are a few things to know when it comes to website content. The written content of your website is considered an on-page ranking factor. That refers to the fact that these elements of your website are taken into account by web crawlers when it comes to determining search rankings. These factors are all something you have direct control over; in terms of quick fixes, on-page factors are often the easiest to handle.

Content itself is considered the single most important factor in search. Why is that? Because it is your content that is going to attract new customers and answer questions for existing customers. We’ve written before that it’s not a great strategy to write content simply for the fact of having content; content should be about helping your customers and potential customers. Content should help present you, your business, and your website as a knowledge leader, regardless of your niche.

The way we think about content is this: does this content answer a question?

Take, for example, this blog post. Yep, the one you’re reading right now. What question am I answering? To start, I wanted to answer the question we have from clients after doing an SEO audit: so what does this work look like? They read the data, they read the numbers. But it’s hard to visualize what the work will actually change. That’s the question I’m answering throughout this blog post—and I’m doing so by answering smaller questions throughout.

Now, to get back to my point, here’s what we always suggest when it comes to content:

  • All unique, high-quality content will be rewarded by search engines regardless of length. However, the top ranking content is usually between 1,000-1,500 words. We recommend that most landing pages and blog posts fit this range.

  • The content should answer a question prompted by keywords. Keyword relevance is big in SEO, but keyword stuffing for the sake of having a lot of keywords ultimately isn’t going to benefit anyone—you or your customers. Here’s an example: let’s say you sell dried fruit. Through Moz data, you discover that one of the best performing keywords for your niche is “dried apple slices”. However, your website isn’t ranking for “dried apple slices,” even though you sell them. What can you do? Our suggestion would be to create content related to that keyword; a blog post with recipes for dried apple slices, the process of making dried apple slices, and/or the health benefits of dried apple slices. That’s just one simple example, but it can be applied over a multitude of businesses and niches.

  • Have all other pieces of content cleaned up. There are some pieces of content that are quite small on your website—when you’re just trying to get content up on your website, it is easy to skip over things, such as focusing on HTML titles, alt tag descriptions for photos, and meta descriptions. But these things are important. HTML titles for pages should be under 70 characters. Alt tag descriptions on photos can be used for search ranking, but also are used by those who are visually impaired to better understand websites; therefore, alt tags should be written with that in mind. While meta descriptions aren’t a factor in search rank, they are a factor in click-through rank and that is a ranking factor; we recommend that meta descriptions be between 280-300 characters.

2. Do Load Times Really Matter?

The load times, architecture, and mobile-friendliness of your website are the second half of the “on-page ranking factor” coin. These are things you have control over, but they are more easily ignored than content. Content is upfront and easily understandable. Altering your website to help with load time and mobile-friendliness can feel overwhelming, especially if you don’t know a lot about these pieces. So, let’s jump in.

First things first, yes, the load time of your website really does matter. According to Google, load time does naturally vary between mobile sites and desktop websites; as we know, most Google searches are performed on mobile phones. A study found that 53% of mobile site visits are abandoned if pages take longer than 3 seconds to load. You read that right: 3 seconds. That doesn’t feel like a very long time, but if you open a website on your mobile phone browser and it takes longer than a few seconds, doesn’t it feel a little frustrating?

Load times on your website can be impacted by a lot of things. We usually recommend the following: optimizing images to avoid large files, using browser caching, render-blocking Javascript, and loading visible content before CSS & Javascript. All of these are relatively simple fixes that can dramatically improve load times.

Now, what does the architecture of your website mean? This refers to a few things:

  • Content depth: here at Lunar, we recommend that all pages on your website be accessible within 3 clicks of the homepage. A page depth greater than 3 can negatively affect your SEO.

  • Errors: This refers to 404 Not Found errors. In an ideal world, your website shouldn’t have an 404 errors, but we know that sometimes things happen. What is important is to ensure that your website has a 404 Not Found template page, so that users stay on your website, instead of being redirected to a generic page.

  • HTTPS: HTTPS refers to a secure link to your website; keeping your HTTPS certificate valid and ensuring that all pages redirect to HTTPS is extremely important for SEO. As of 2014, Google gives ranking boots to HTTPS websites. Beyond that, it is just best for your users.

  • Sitemap: Does your website have a sitemap? Do you know what that is? A sitemap is what tells search engines what page on your website should be indexed and how often; it also lets you tell search engines how important a page is relative to the whole website. For example, you might adjust priority on blog posts, like those related to certain products or services, seasonally.

Now, it’s time to address mobile-friendliness. We know that between 50-60% of searches are performed on mobile devices. That is a significant number and it means that having a mobile-friendly website is incredibly important. There are many things that make some websites more mobile-friendly than others; we always recommend having a responsive website that reacts to mobile-sized browser windows. The most common reasons we see websites not pass the Google Mobile-Friendly test are having clickable elements too close together (like buttons, header links, and drop down menus) and content that is wider than the screen (aka it is not responsive to browser window size). Design tweaks by both development and strategists can help improve the mobile-friendliness of your website; it’s really very easy!

So, in short: the load time, architecture, and mobile-friendliness of your website do matter. They matter a lot.

3. Wait, Is Design Related?

So, alongside all that architecture, load time, and mobile-friendliness talk, we often get asked this: “does my website’s design matter too?”

The short answer is yes, especially in relation to everything we discussed above in terms of buttons, responsive design, image size, load times… you know, everything.

But design also matters because it impacts the rate at which users will click through your website, dig into content, and actually use your website. And ultimately, you want people to use your website. You can have the best SEO in the world; you can write great content; but if your website looks ugly… it doesn’t matter.

Is that a little harsh? Maybe. But we take design pretty seriously here.

The design is also important for all the forms on your website—if you expect users to fill out a form, it needs to appeal to them. It needs to have a catchy design, great copy, and not be buggy. Design doesn’t directly impact your SEO, but it does impact user experience and user experience is vital in terms of SEO.

4. Is SEO A Single Process?

This is a question we get a lot: once we fix everything about your website’s SEO, that’s it, right? It’s done.

Well, sort of.

As we know, SEO changes all the time; things that used to work 5 years ago are penalized now. The Google algorithm might change in such a way that invalidates work we did 6 months ago, or creates a new set of parameters for good SEO. SEO is an ongoing process of tweaking content to be more effective, staying updated on the newest SEO changes, and improving your website to be most effective for customers and potential new customers.

Want More?

Looking for more information on SEO? Here are a few of our previous blogs on the subject:

And if you have questions about SEO, don’t hesitate to contact us.
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