1. Technical crawlability for Search Engine indexing
The infrastructure of websites is technical and needs to provide the information Search Engines are looking for when analyzing (or crawling) a website. The technicalities are passive or active depending on the actions taken by the website’s owner.
Passive technicalities are about how a website provides information to Search Engines when these index the pages of the site. Some passive tactics are: providing a content site map (usually an XML file) for Search Engines to efficiently understand what content they need to index, and making sure there are no missing pages (or broken links).
Active technicalities are about the initiatives the owner takes to notify Search Engines of changes to the website. Some active tactics are: alerting Search Engines when new content has been added or updated, and connecting the website to the Search Engine’s Webmaster tools to monitor its SEO health.
If a website is not optimized to be analyzed by Search Engines, all the efforts in producing and creating compelling content for the website will be hindered because Search Engines won’t be able to index the website properly. A badly indexed website will dramatically impact its ranking on Search Engine Results pages.
Recently a new technical requirement has come up related to sharing content from your website on Social Media. There are clear guidelines to make sure that you control what information is displayed from an article on social network sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn or Google Plus. You’d want for instance that the photo in the article to be displayed in the shared link preview, rather than the logo of the website.
2. Website content coding
Websites are published to communicate information through web pages. These web pages must follow certain rules and guidelines in their coding but also with the content that is placed on them to maximize reach and keyword ranking on Search Engines.
These guidelines are mostly related to how the page code is structured to explain the hierarchy of content to Search Engines. The page title, its excerpt, its section headings (H1, H2, H3) all need to be coded to be highlighted when Search Engines analyze the page’s content.
Other guidelines are more related to the content itself, and enable the author to make sure she uses the right set of keywords in the right density on the page and for its assets (such as images and videos) to be parsed and indexed.
3. Keyword relevance for content
Beyond the technicality of making sure Search Engines can read a web page and extract its semantic value, another fundamental aspect of SEO are the keywords that are selected to be highlighted or focused on when writing content.
Using tool such as Google AdWords or Google Trend, website owners and content publishers can identify which keywords related to their product and services are the most searched for in Search Engines. There is little traffic value in focusing on using keywords that very few people, if any, use to look for content.
Understanding what keywords drive the most traffic, and how to combine them to the right relevant content, will drive a website’s content SEO relevance, and traffic to it as a consequence.
Keywords however shouldn’t be overused or abused. Search Engines punish websites that overload their content with keywords, or use keywords that are not relevant to the overall topic of a content page. Search Engines have become extremely smart at dis-ciphering the meaning of the content of a page.
4. Link backs (referral links)
The number of websites that link back to your website is an important metric that tells Search Engines that the website is a resource to others. Google has an algorithm and a metric to calculate this number, which it calls PageRank.
All websites indexed by Google have a PageRank score, and this ranking is influenced by how many links point back to your website, but even more important, what the PageRank of these websites is. In other words, a website with a very high PageRank such as the New York Times website (PageRank 9/10) linking back to your website has much more weight than a hundred (or more) websites with PageRanks lower than your website.
So while linking back is important, quality link backs are critical. The most popular Social Media platforms for instance have some of the highest PageRanks (Facebook: 9, Twitter: 10), which makes it is essential for your website’s content to be shared and linked back there.
Also, the more a website has shareable content (with blog articles for instance), the more opportunities it creates to have this content distributed, shared, and linked back to on the Web.
Assessing the PageRank quality of the referral sites linking back to your website content, and trying to be linked back by high PageRank websites is an important part of modern SEO.
You can view the PageRank of your website by using a free service such as www.prchecker.net.
5. Social Media interactions
Social Networks are traditionally very effective content sharing platforms. Sharing content on Social Media creates link backs to your website. Social Networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn have a very high PageRank, so sharing your content there is excellent for Search Engine ranking.
Content can be actively shared by the website’s owner, or it can be shared by the readers through “social media sharing” icons on the article page, enabling them to share the articles on their favorite social networks.
Because anybody can share anything on Social Media, Search Engines had to become smart in terms of understanding what content had real value on Social Media. The way they do that is to measure how much interaction is occurring with the content on Social Media. These interactions are defined by the positive feedback (the “likes”) on a shared link, the number of times that link was then re-shared (or re-tweeted), and if there were any comments on the link (for Facebook and LinkedIn for instance). These “social signals” when available (Facebook still guards its access against Google for example, and so not all engagement metrics are accessible), tells Search Engines that the content has value and creates engagement, and so it should naturally rank higher as readers have expressed their appreciation of it through actions.
Because Google owns its own social network called Google Plus, it can very effectively measure engagement, and because it’s a Google product which, contrary to Facebook, is not hidden behind a guarded wall, it makes its ranking very accessible. Google rewards its user by introducing the concept of authorship and ranking higher contributors that have a strong following, and who of course regularly publish relevant content on Google Plus.
Social Media requires being active, and while there are mechanisms to automatically publish content from your website to social networks, building and engaging a community requires constant effort. These efforts are in return tangibly rewarded by Search Engines ranking of your content, and website.