Is SEO dead? No. Is SEO what it used to be? Definitely not.
These days, traditional search engine optimization (SEO) is being treated as more of a best practice by some development agencies and clients I’ve spoken to and worked with. With automated SEO audits, SEO plugins, and extensions, traditional SEO is pretty much ingrained in proper site development as a check list item, especially if you are using a leading CMS (Sitecore, WordPress, etc).
It is easy to assume you are covered on your SEO items by using one of these easy fix solutions.
This could not be further from the truth.
Long gone are the days of ranking well simply due to having all your technical items checked off – sitemaps, robots, schema, metadata etc. SEO has shifted and now lives at the crossroads of content strategy, UX, creative and marketing. SEO depends on content strategy and UX collaboration now more than ever. With the ever-updating Google algorithm (now with 100% more Rankbrain!) constantly trying to combat low quality content and poor user experience, you must ensure that all areas of your site are optimized not just for search engines, but for users. If users have a positive experience on your site, Google will know. Google knows everything.
Optimize for the Users, Search Engines Will Follow
Google and other search engines can still read your content (hopefully), tagging, metadata and evaluate incoming links and social shares, but search engines cannot view your site as a human does. This has lead Google to start using engagement metrics to determine how useful your site is to users. Regardless of how you got to a web site, what keeps you there is the experience of the site. Your site could have the greatest, most well optimized content, but if it is laid out poorly, not mobile optimized and takes forever to load – no one will stick around long enough to read your content and take an action.
Mobile Optimization Matters
In addition to engagement metrics and in a quest to provide that best possible user experience, Google measures how long it takes your web site to load across mobile and desktop devices. With mobile searches now accounting for more than half of all searches and outpacing desktop search every year, a positive mobile experience is of the utmost importance.
SEO + Creative = Faster Page Load Speed
One of the biggest issues affecting page load times that I have seen is poor image optimization. Clients think that if they have a responsive site, then they are covered and their users will have a positive mobile experience. While the site may look good on mobile, using the same images to cover all resolutions from smart tv to mobile devices results in enormous images, often times multiple megs in size. This causes page load time to lag significantly. Working with the creative and development teams to optimize images across your site will help keep load times as low as possible. So, be sure to ask yourself – do you really need a full retina resolution background image on your homepage if you are selling umbrellas?
A Team Effort
Having your SEO team – not your SEO plugin – work closely with your UX and design teams is the easiest way to avoid these common pitfalls when it comes to developing a new site or rolling out a redesign. Keeping both users and search engines happy is key to a successful optimization campaign.
Stay tuned for next month’s post discussing developing SEO and content strategy.