Where should your priorities lie when you’re trying to optimize the search performance of your website? You won’t have the time or resources need to cover every aspect in great detail, so you need to narrow things down and determine the most cost-effective way to proceed — today, though, there’s enough of an overlap that it’s also damaging to be myopic.
Imagine that you focus on technical SEO, looking to polish the mechanical functions of your website at a fundamental level — it might work for search crawlers, but will it satisfy visitors? And what of the opposite approach? A commitment to smoothing out your UX will delight website users, but won’t overcome structural problems.
To thrive in such a competitive online environment, you need your store to pair a firm technical foundation with an appealing design. Let’s take a closer look at precisely why you need both of these two elements, and review some tips to keep in mind.
Google’s website standards keep escalating
It wasn’t all that long ago that Google took the meta keywords field into consideration when ranking a website, making it possible to get a page to a leading position by stuffing that field with hundreds of vaguely-related keywords. Since then, though, we’ve seen remarkable progress, and with every passing year the Google algorithm factors in yet more factors.
Page speed is now a ranking factor on mobile sites, and since Google is steadily moving to a mobile-first indexing model, this will be a factor for every site soon enough. Then there’s the matter of SSL certification: fail to secure your website on HTTPS and it will be marked as “not secure” in SERPs.
How long will it be before Google’s search results for everyone roll in elements pertaining to mobile-responsiveness or data privacy track records? Keeping up with technical SEO isn’t just about getting a slight ranking bump — it’s about protecting your site from being severely penalized or even hidden from view entirely.
New search methods warrant consideration
Voice search has risen to prominence since Amazon’s Alexa hit the mainstream, bolstered by Google’s Home system, Apple’s Siri (preceding them both), and other comparable devices. But do you know how your website comes across to a voice search assistant? How are the sections likely to be interpreted and parsed?
And then there’s the matter of featured snippets. With Google now taking information directly from webpages and making that information accessible in SERPs, website creators must worry about more than how their content comes across to visitors. Is it deeply frustrating to have a click stolen through seeing your content shown in SERPs? Yes, of course — but there’s no realistic alternative to this (Google will do it regardless, and has unassailable power for the moment) so it’s best to roll with the punches.
If you want your website to work well with voice assistants, and your content to be selected for feature snippets, you need your technical SEO to be in good shape. Read up on best practices and format everything (including microdata where necessary) to achieve maximum clarity.
Devices are more powerful than ever before
Back when internet connections were slow and computers were incapable of the creative web designs we see today, there was less pressure on sites to reach for high aesthetic standards. Indeed, there was less they could do to stand out: they couldn’t polish their UX designs because the available features were limited, and they couldn’t engage in rich personalization because the systems weren’t there to track or process that kind of data.
Now, though, the average smartphone (in the Western world, at least) is more powerful than many desktop computers were just a decade ago, and massive improvements in software and hardware have left designers with so many options for getting creative. They can create rich targeted user sequences, integrate with external systems, and use rich media (audio, animations, video) at their leisure.
The baseline, however, hasn’t changed much. The prominence of rapid-fire store-building tools may have boosted standards to some extent, but the difference between a templated site and a custom-built one will be vast — so much bigger than ever before. With this disparity comes pressure to keep up.
Personal recommendations are vitally important
If someone is looking for something and searches for it online, they’re likely to get a lot of results — hundreds, perhaps even thousands — with each result having a fairly similar value proposition. This applies whether they’re hunting for a product, a service, or some other type of resource. And because they have the power to flit between sites rapidly, they have no particular reason to stay on one in particular.
In this time of consumers essentially being mercenaries, unattached to specific brands or sites, it’s more valuable than ever to win some kind of loyalty. After all, personal recommendations hold an incredible amount of weight. Because there are so many opinions available online, the average consumer will place less significance on any given opinion, but they’ll still trust their friends to steer them in the right directions.
And you aren’t going to win the kind of loyalty that produces those all-important recommendations unless your web design goes above and beyond what is required. You must not only meet expectations but hugely exceed them to impress someone enough that they will commit some time out of their day to extolling your virtues. Even if great technical SEO could win you a good ranking by itself, it wouldn’t matter if visitors didn’t like your site. If you’ve worked hard to attract new people, do you really want to waste that traffic?
Want to turn your website into a search powerhouse that brings in relevant visits on a consistent basis? You can only achieve this by finding a way to serve your two masters: search algorithms, and your target audience. Start by getting your technical SEO into good shape, then work on your UX to ensure that you’re ready to impress. Keep looking towards the future and you’ll have a good chance of adapting to any changes.
If you’re a business owner looking for DIY SEO tips and tutorials, be our guest. We regularly publish detailed tutorials on all things SEO. However, if you feel you simply don’t have the time to take care of your SEO, leave it to us. We’re Canada’s largest SEO company offering full stack digital marketing services. Book a free consultation today and learn how we can help with your business.