Building relevant high-quality links, proper keyword implementation, and on page content optimization have always played a central role in SEO. And while Google is slowly trying to use more human factors to rank websites, optimizing technical elements can translate to better engagement, rankings, and conversions.
Most technical factors that affect SEO can be directly correlated to a better user experience, which is what most search engines are trying to privilege. Technical SEO is not about bot manipulation, but about delivering your product in the best possible ways to your audience. This is why it would be wise to have a clear audit of what you’re doing right, and what could be improved if you want to get better results. Here are some of the technical factors that could have a direct influence on your search engine rankings.
Site speed is a fairly new ranking factor when it comes to search engines. But it should’ve been much sooner. Google officially made site speed one of the factors they will be using to gauge the quality of the sites in their index, and in which order they should be featured. This is especially important when it comes to mobile search results.
Google recently moved to a mobile first index. This means that the mobile version of your site is now the one that will be predominantly used for ranking and indexing. Google is also trying to put more emphasis on user experience and engagement, and faster page loading times are right along this vein. Sites with poor performance have been feeling the crunch lately, especially those which lack relevant content that sticks with their audience.
You can never go wrong with a fast loading site and it’s a factor that will always be favored by search engines. Thankfully, there are tons of ways that you can improve page loading times. The first one would be to go with a dedicated server. If you’re using any form of shared hosting to save money or simply because you don’t understand the difference, we strongly suggest that you move to a dedicated or virtual private server now.
Shared hosting is exactly what is sounds like. You are sharing your server with tons of other websites. If any of these get a sudden surge in traffic, your site’s performance may suffer. You never want your performance to be dependent on factors out of your power, and you don’t want it to be inconsistent either, so make the switch. It’ll be well worth it.
Other things you could do include removing any heavy widgets, flash, and heavy images as well. You can do this by compressing them, or going with a lighter format like JPG for instance. Google also released its own image format called WebP, which is very interesting and made for both quality and speed, so we suggest you give it a look as well.
Pages Per Session
You’re going to be hearing a lot about user engagement, and it should be, in our opinion, the sole and ultimate measure of good SEO. You can have the best strategy in the world, the best tags, and the most optimized content, but if you can’t keep your visitors engaged, then you’re doing something wrong. This could be anything from poor navigation, to inconsistent or poor content, bad color schemes, or a frustrating sign-up/buying process.
There are different metrics that you can look at to gauge user engagement. One that is very important is pages per session. This tells you how many of your pages the average visitor checks out before leaving. Google analytics and most tools will allow you to easily see this.
This metric will give you a quick snapshot of how engaging and interactive your site is from a navigational standpoint. Checking this along with the behavioral flow on your website will allow you to identify issues that might be affecting conversions or your sales flow.
Bounce and Exit Rates
Two other very important metrics you should check out for engagement include exit and bounce rates. While these two might seem similar, they do have some significant differences.
Bounce rates are the percentage of people who visit your site and “bounce” out after seeing only one page. This could be a clear indicator that your site is either not relevant to what your audience is looking for, it’s poorly designed, or it could be an issue relating to your product.
Exit rate, on the other hand, is the percentage of your visitors who exit through a specific page. This might seem like a minor aspect, but could tell a lot about your site. For instance, if an unusually large portion of people leave your site after reading the about us, quote page, or your blog, then that could be a sign that there is something wrong there. Fixing these could significantly improve your engagement and benefit your rankings, as well as boost conversions.
Meta Descriptions and Title Tags
This is one of these aspects that a lot of people overlook, but could literally make or break an otherwise perfect SEO strategy. For one, poor meta descriptions will have an effect on the click through rates, which is suspected to be a ranking factor by Google.
Optimizing meta tags and descriptions is one of the most simple and fundamental SEO techniques, and could make a huge difference not only to your rankings, but to how well your site will perform against the competition. Some people only bother with the number of pixels they use when creating title tags, but there are tons of things that you can do with them, especially when you’re doing intricate and regular keyword research.
Title tags affect much more than your rankings too, and can also have an effect on engagement. For instance, the first words in your title tags will be the ones people see when they look at their tabs, so making sure they are impactful will ensure that they don’t lose track of your page. In addition, many external sites, such as social networks for instance, will routinely use your pages’ titles when you share them, which is another reason why choosing the right ones is so important for your strategy.
Whether you are trying to build an SEO strategy, or your current one doesn’t seem to be working, you should pay special attention to all of these factors. Just making one minor change could make a world of difference to your results, and save you a lot of time and money in the process.