If you’re looking to improve your website’s SEO, it’s a good idea to know how search engine optimization works. With every search engine using more than 200 individual ranking factors, this can get quite confusing.

In this article, we’ll breakdown SEO without using any technical jargon or confusing metaphors. You’ll learn how to better plan an SEO strategy by finding out what you can do to optimize your website and why certain pages are ranking too low.

Web Crawlers

For a search engine to index your website, it must send out web crawlers. A web crawler is a robot that scours the Internet looking for new websites, pages, and content. When the robot finds a new page or discovers a modified (updated) webpage, it scans the page to learn as much information as it can.

To ensure web crawlers can correctly index your pages:

  • You must optimize your content using SEO best practices
  • Your website code must readable for web crawlers
  • You must have set up a sitemap that alerts crawlers any time you create or modify a page

Optimizing your website using SEO bests practices allows web crawlers to learn more about your site and when pages should appear in searches. Pages without optimization typically rank much lower.

Search Engine Algorithms

Once web crawlers have gained data about your page, they send the information for indexing. Webpages are indexed using a search engine algorithm. Every search engine has its own unique algorithm — Google, Bing, and Yahoo all have a slightly different set of criteria to rank content. When optimizing your content, focus first on Google, as it has 85.82 percent search share in the U.S.

Google constantly updates its algorithm, but there have been three updates that stand out as the most important.  These are:

Panda – a quality control update, Google implemented Panda to prevent low-quality websites from ranking high in search results. Google Panda restricts what it calls thin content — content that contains very little information. Sites with thin content try to send users to another website to receive affiliate-based commissions or attempt to monetize traffic using pop-ups or on-site ads. Panda’s goal is to ensure that the best content ranks at the top and that the worst does not rank at all.

Penguin – this update focused on ensuring that website owners do not violate Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. During Google’s infancy in online search, it was possible for website owners to manipulate web crawlers to ensure that content ranked on the first page. A black-hat and highly-unethically tactic, this now results in websites being blacklisted from Google. Penguin ensures website owners only use white-hat techniques, to promote a fair playing field.

Mobile-friendly – this update meant that websites that are mobile-friendly are given a greater weight.

Google has made many other algorithm updates, but these are the main three. You can learn about all the updates here.

How to Improve Your SEO

1. Make Life Easy for Web Crawlers

To give yourself the best possible chance of ranking high, you need to make it easy for web crawlers to read your website. Make sure that you have correctly optimized your site for on-page SEO and provided web crawlers with all the information they need for indexing. For example, if you’re trying to rank for the keyword “lawyers in Seattle,” make sure to you use this keyword in a title, in headings, and throughout your content.

Furthermore, the structure of your website code should contain no errors. Unfriendly code will impact your website’s ranking.

Finally, ensure that your website has a sitemap in the footer. Each time you upload a new page to your website, use Fetch as Google in Search Console to alert Google aware that you have updated your website. Otherwise, it can take weeks or months for Google to notice.

2. User-Friendly Design

A user-friendly website is one that works on desktop and mobile devices without issues. A good site structure is also essential. A user should not need to click more than three times to access any page.

Minimize the use of pop-ups and ads above the fold and place your contact details in the footer. Also, ensure that pages load fast (in less than three seconds).

Over time, search engines will gather data about your website metrics, such as:

  • Bounce rate
  • Pages per session
  • Time per session
  • Percentage of returning visitors

Once they gather a meaningful sample, they will decide whether your website is user-friendly and useful to visitors. They will then rank your site accordingly.

3. Content

Remember what we said earlier about Panda? Its goal is to rank websites according to the quality of their content. Awesome content keeps users on your website longer. Numerous studies online have found that the more quality content a business creates, the more shares and backlinks it receives, thereby improving a website’s SEO.

Other reports show that longer content and content with more multimedia ranks better. This makes perfect sense, as the more content on a page the more value it can provide a reader.

4. Receiving More Shares

Writing evergreen, high-quality content is only half the battle. You also need shares to generate backlinks and build credibility. The good news is that if your content is high-value, shares won’t be too difficult, provided the right people see your content.

Setting up social media profiles to distribute content organically and using paid ads will put eyeballs on your content. Plus, others will share your content, posting it on websites and forums. This will build your website a natural backlink profile and increase its search rankings.

Now It’s Your Turn

By improving these four aspects of your website, you can provide visitors with a smoother experience, increase your online visibility, and find new customers.

Are you looking to enhance your online exposure using SEO but aren’t sure where to start? Get in touch with us today to speak with one of our qualified marketing experts. Another option — check out our SEO basic training. It has all the information you need about current SEO best practices.

This post was originally published September 2016 and has been updated to be current in the new year.