"If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?" For sure, you've heard this saying before. Well, in Software Development & Design, this phrase fits like a glove. Imagine you've created the perfect website. It has advanced-guard languages and frameworks with a fantastic UI/UX design. But what if nobody sees it? What if, despite all efforts, you notice that views and clicks numbers come down to zero? SEO takes the lead here, so you should consider it from scratch in software processes. As a result, you'll have better long-term results and save some future headaches. Also, you'll see improvements right on the launching stage.
What is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. In sum, it's the practice of growing a website's traffic from organic search results. It's a long-term marketing goal employed to improve websites' visibility. If a site is well optimized, it will rank higher in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). In consequence, more people will see it and visit the site. Unlike paid results, you cannot slide yourself into the first results by paying any amount. Besides requiring extensive analysis, it's more long-term-oriented than other marketing methods.
Nowadays, many Search Engines, like Bing or Yahoo! Yet, Google has the crown as the most known and used. In its SEO Starter Guide, the giant establishes protocols. One highlight is to build websites to benefit users. Another piece of advice is to improve and optimize the user experience. As Google says, "SEO is helping search engines understand and present content."
How Does Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Work?
Within Google, there's a three-step process to show sites and pages on its Search Engine. These are Crawling, Indexing, and Serving. Let's take a look at each one of them below:
What is SEO Crawiling? To start the process, Google needs to find out what pages exist. This stage receives the name URL Discovery. When Google discovers a URL, it crawls it to understand what's on it. It uses a program called Googlebot, known as a robot or spider. This type of software use algorithms to conclude which pages to crawl and how often to do so.
What is SEO Indexing? After crawling a page, Google's algorithms will try to understand its content. The indexing includes processing and analyzing textual content and critical content attributes. Some features include <title> elements, ALT attributes, images, and videos. Also, it collects signals about the pages and their contents. Some of these encompass the site's language, country of origin, and usability. Finally, data gets stored in the Google Index.
What is SEO Serving? The Serving stage applies to what different users see when searching through Google. When users enter queries, engines ensure matching pages to achieve relevant results. As we've said, there are lots of factors to dictate relevancy. For example, Google considers the user's location, language, and device. That's why the exact search keywords can provide different results. If you search "car repairment," the results in Hong Kong won't be the same as those for users in Paris.
A highlight of Google's system is that it doesn't allow payments for higher page ranking. While it has its separate lane for that, being Google Ads, you cannot pay for organic results and rankings. Yet, there are some issues to pay attention to if you aim to succeed in SEO. For instance, the Crawling stage may present issues with servers or networks. Further, Indexing errors can relate to the content quality or website usability. Finally, Serving can explain problems with content relevance and its relation with keywords. Yet, Google states that it doesn't guarantee visibility for any site at any step of the process.
What to consider in SEO?
There are many terms worth knowing to guarantee SEO results. Let's unfold some of them:
SEO tags are the titles, keywords, and metadata you include in your website code. These tags help search engines understand what your website is about. Further, it allows engines to rank it. When adding SEO tags to your website, use relevant keywords and phrases. Keep in mind those that people are likely to search for. Also, ensure the tags are in the correct places on your site.
A sitemap is, as its name says, a map of your website. This map helps the Search Engines understand your site's structure and layouts. To create a good sitemap, you must include all your pages. Among each of them, there must be info like its title, description, and keywords. You can create a sitemap by hand or using tools like Google's Sitemaps Generator.
This term refers to ensuring that your links point to the correct pages. Canonicalization is relevant as it can improve rankings and visibility in SERPs. In this process, you "tell" the engines which are your most important pages. Also, you can tell which ones you want or need to be at the highest ranking.
Why is SEO Important?
You might wonder what SEO does with UX or Software Development. While it wouldn't be wrong to ask, the answer is quite simple. The more elements you take into account from the start of a project, the more likely you will succeed. In the case of SEO, technical aspects contribute to efficient projects. Some of them got a relation to a project's structure, like tags, attributes, classes, and IDs. Others become relevant when considering content, such as copywriting and element distribution. In summary, an SEO-focused implementation is beneficial for both Experience and Development. Yet, we'd like to unfold the different connections between these. Let's go!
User Experience (UX) and SEO
There's a non-written rule on the internet. If your page does not appear on the first page of search engine results, it may not exist. From your project's briefing stage, you must ensure your product or service ranks high. To do so, you need to link your content with proper keywords. As a result, you'll be more likely to become a top-of-mind choice for potential users or customers. In this sense, SEO plays a critical role in Design. If your project is search-engine friendly, its access will be unrestricted. In consequence, integrating SEO includes linking, navigation, and content.
Designers must know what the platform offers from the beginning. This knowledge allows keyword research and strategic placement from scratch. As a result, you'll get better rankings in search results. Besides, you'll be able to cut down time and work on content for SEO. And your content is vital for SEO success. Yet, another relevant edge to take into account is link building. You'll achieve better search rankings with links directed from other credible sites. That's because engines consider their rankings to correlate with your final results. And it would help if you also thought this from a project's briefing and scratching stages. In summary, an SEO approach when designing a site will attract more users through engines.
Connections between experience and SEO are not limited to content. Also, the visual appeal of the final product gain relevance in this process. For instance, copywriting is vital for rankings. Yet, experience aspects, like usability and simplicity, are crucial for the following steps. If you don't provide a clean and organized look and feel, your SEO approach won't have the same effect. Yes, you'll rank higher in search engines. But, without an accessible proposal, users will be less likely to become customers.
Search engines need relevant content along with suitable visual elements. These include, but are not limited to, videos and images. Yet, a good SEO approach combines copywriting with metadata. As for the latter, some HTML meta tags can help. You should consider both the <meta name="keywords"> and <meta name="description"> tags. These go inside your page's <head> section and ensure better crawling from search engines. For example, the meta name tags for this post could be something among the line of:
Also, it would be best if you took notice of ALT texts. These are short-written descriptions of multimedia elements. Not only are these beneficial for accessibility. Also, they help engines to connect multimedia with text content. As a result, it provides more content unity and collaborates on higher rankings. Most Content Management Systems (CMS) have mechanisms for adding ALT texts onto images, videos, and documents. In summary, you need to make sure there's a balance between content and structure.
Software Development and SEO
As a general rule, successful platforms lie in concise and logical structures. That's why content needs to be both easy to find and comfortable to view. This way, users will likely explore and connect with your proposal more profoundly. Yet, these are not the relevant aspects of SEO best practices. Also, there are technical approaches you should consider from a structural perspective. These need joint work in the Content and Development areas.
Recognizing how people tend to interact with platforms and businesses is essential. Right now, most users search the web through mobile devices. This trend means mobile users must find your page appealing. Also, Google itself applies mobile-first indexing. So, the dev proposal for your page needs to consider the variety of available devices.
Page Loading Speed
Over half of users leaves a site if it takes more than three seconds to load. Plus, studies show that, with an average of 10s of Page Time Load, bounce can increase up to 123%. This bounce rate means not only fewer viewers but also fewer customers. Because of it, dev teams should redirect efforts to guarantee a fast loading speed.
Engines see content as duplicates if different URLs lead to it. Since it messes with ranking growth, you should always avoid content duplication. That's why it's essential to have one original page and mark the others as alternative ones. For example, this tends to happen among multilingual or multi-regional websites. Yet, there are different ways to avoid duplication. One of them is using onsite translation instead of creating various sites.
Meta Robots Tags
With meta robot tags, you can control the behavior of search engines on each page. Let's go over some of the most important categories of these tags:
● Index/NoIndex: This tag tells engines whether a page should get crawled and indexed. While pages are often indexed by default, with noindex, you can exclude specific pages.
● Follow/Nofollow: With this tag, you'll tell engines whether they should crawl the links on a page. All pages have this tag by default.
● Nosnippet: Snippet options tell engines if meta descriptions should be pulled. An example of snippet-pulling is noodp/noydir, which also works for the Open Directory Project (DMOZ) and the Yahoo! Directory.
URLs are how users find domains and pages. So, it's relevant they describe their content while also having proper structure. The final idea is that URLs can provide info on what they contain. For instance, an example of a poor URL structure could be /post/f4r23k. In this sense, a good setup would be more like /seo-ux-development.
SEO is an integral part of product and software development. Rather than a separate lane from UX and Dev, it's part of the whole process and crucial for outcomes. So, consider it from the beginning stages of your project! You can improve your site's visibility in engines with relevant keywords and tags. Besides, SEO helps you achieve marketing goals like brand awareness, leads, and sales. Further, various tools and resources are available to help you with your SEO efforts. Use these to your advantage, and you will see improved results from your website!