Are Keywords the Only Way to Optimize?

keyword optimization

Whether someone is typing on a desktop or speaking into their mobile device, their searches require words—keywords. So, are keywords the only thing used to optimize a website?

Keywords Cannot Be Understated, But…

There is no denying the importance of keywords in search engine optimization. For best results, keywords—the words you think potential customers are using to find what you offer—should appear in a number of places, like:

  • URLs
  • Headings (H1 tags in SEO-speak)
  • Subheadings (H2, H3, H4, etc. tags in SEO-speak)
  • Body copy (the stuff viewers actually scan/read)
  • Meta descriptions (for pages, images, posts, etc.)
  • Alt text (before bots could “read” images, they read text “attached” to an image or video)

Keywords should also appear in other online properties, like:

  • Your Google My Business profile
  • Yelp profile
  • Product descriptions in your ecommerce shopping cart

But keywords are not the only thing about your website that can be optimized. There are a number of factors, both on-page elements and off-page technicalities, that need to be optimized for the human user and search bot experience.

Lesser-Known (But Not Less Important) Optimizations

Search engines are never forthcoming about all their ranking factors and/or the weight assigned to any given ranking factor. But, based on publications, announcements and observations of performance metrics, we know that non-keyword elements that need to be optimized include:

  • Mobile usability

Every web page and on-page element must be optimized for viewing on a mobile device. And priority is given to the mobile experience.

  • Page loading speed

Pages must load fast, and although Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) is not a published ranking factor, Google has stated a preference for implementation of the protocol.

  • Content origin/originality, quality and freshness

Optimized content features more than keyword density. Optimized content must be original, well-written (as in, grammatically correct) and fresh—updated and/or newly published regularly.

  • Search bot directives

Search engine optimization can be facilitated by providing directions for search bots on what to index, what not to index, what links to follow or leave alone, etc. through robots.txt commands and other Google-supported channels.

  • Data structure

Search engines prefer structured data that allows them to display visually appealing search results and search results that conform to their layouts.

  • Coding

Optimal website performance requires the use of up-to-date coding, which also gives signals to the search engines about the current-ness/relevance of a site.

  • Links

Quality inbound links are a ranking signal, as are outbound links to quality resources.

SonicSEO.com clients can rest assured that all SEO ranking factors are covered. From design to on-page content to off-page technical elements, we know what and how to optimize your website for best search engine performance.

Still, if you know of a change in your industry and the words used to describe and search for your products and services, please contact us. We will update all keyword-related elements to reflect the latest industry trends to keep you ranking above your competitors.

Google’s Not Supporting noindex in robots.txt – What Does that Even Mean?

no index

Two days before Independence Day, Google announced its own sort of independence—freedom from supporting unsupported and/or unpublished robots.txt rules. One such unsupported robots.txt rule is “noindex.” Some SEOs may be scrambling to execute the same command through different (Google-supported) channels. Some SEOs are unaffected because they never implemented “noindex.” Most everyone else is just left wondering, “What does that mean?”

Here’s the quick and easy guide to Google’s declaration of no support for “noindex” and what it means for your website.

What Is robots.txt?

To understand the significance of Google’s July 2 announcement, you first need to understand what robots.txt is in the first place—it’s essentially a command file that provides directions to Google’s search bot about how to move through your site.

Sounds kind of counterintuitive, right? No one knows what exactly Google search bots use as ranking factors, how much weight they assign to ranking factors, how long they take to detect and index new content or changes to existing content. Yet, SEO professionals can, in part, use robots.txt to control what pages the search bot “reads,” indexes and what links it will follow.

What Is noindex in robots.txt?

One command SEO professionals have been able to give Google’s search bots in robots.txt is “noindex.” It means what it says—it tells the search bot not to index the page. The search engine crawler does not “read” the content or images, so nothing on the page will ever rank and show up on a search engine results page (SERP).

Why Would You “noindex” A Page?

Again, it might seem counterintuitive that SEO professionals would ever tell search bots not to index a page. After all, the point of SEO is to get better ranking and visibility for web pages and website.

“noindex” can actually help website ranking potential by removing pages that do not add value to a user’s search experience from consideration.

Perhaps you’re thinking, “Why not just remove the whole page?” That’s because the page is often necessary for an individual user experience and/or for internal purposes. So, pages that SEOs often “noindex” include:

  • “Thank you” pages—these pages simply thank a user for some kind of submission. It’s good manners on the part of the company website, but it doesn’t do anything for ranking potential.
  • Administrative and login pages intended for internal users—these pages are the gateway to internal content; only internal users need to know where they are and how to locate them, so they shouldn’t end up on “public” SERPs.

SEO pros may also “noindex” archives and auto-generated pages or posts that a client doesn’t really use (this often happens with ecommerce product page templates).

What Does This Mean for Your Website?

Google’s announcement that as of September 1 it will no longer support “noindex” in robots.txt does not mean SEO professionals have less control over search engine bots. They can direct search bots to move through a site, exclude a page, not follow a link, etc. same as always, just through different means.

SonicSEO.com can—and will—continue to direct search bots to high-quality pages and steer them away from internal pages and pages that don’t add value to public searchers’ experiences.

So, while Google announcements usually come with some sort of “brace yourself” warning, you’re just not likely to feel an impact from Google’s declaration of independence from unsupported robots.txt rules.

Reasons Why Your Search Rankings Fluctuate

Search engine optimization is a marathon, not a sprint. The goal is to achieve stable high rankings. But, search rankings are highly volatile by nature.

Reasons your rankings may fluctuate include:

  • Algorithm tests and updates
    Search engines refine their algorithms every day and occasionally launch major updates. When search engines test algorithm changes and/or unroll major updates on the entire web, there’s not much to do but wait and see how your site (and your competitors’ sites) fare.
  • Technical issues
    Back-end configurations and settings can have a significant impact on your rankings, especially if those configurations and settings negatively impact user experience. The key to rescuing rankings from technical issues is to quickly identify and fix the issue. Some of the most common rank-busting tech issues include:
    • Slow page loading speed
    • Server overload
    • Missing or improperly executed page redirects
  • Search trends and seasonal interest
    If trending topics on major search engines are relevant to your industry, then you may experience a boost in ranking while those topics remain popular…followed by a dip in ranking when users lose interest in those topics. There is nothing you can do to maintain a ranking boost powered by fickle user interest. Just ride the tide.
  • New competition on the scene
    The arrival of a new competitor (with a shiny new website) can impact your ranking as search engines adjust their index in light of the new content, new user behavior, etc.
  • Content changes (new content added, old content removed)
    Major content changes, like adding new pages, blogs, etc. or removing dated pages, invite search bots to re-index your site. Depending on what was added or taken away, content changes could boost or drag down your ranking.
  • Keyword-search intent mismatch
    Search engine algorithms often change as a result of AI (machine learning). As the algorithm gets smarter, it may re-index your site for a different user intent. If the keywords you use do not match the new user intent, your rankings could fall.

Of course, your ranking will also fluctuate if your site experiences major upheavals, like:

  • URL changes
  • Hacks
  • Negative SEO attacks

As you can see, there are a lot of factors that impact your ranking—some you can control, some you can’t. To determine whether your change in ranking is a cause for concern, often you simply need to wait a day or two to see if the change self-corrects. If your ranking doesn’t rebound, then it’s time to start digging into your metrics.

SonicSEO.com monitors our clients’ search performance, so we know when performance drops require patience or prompt attention. We notify you of any issues and give you recommendations for adaptations that will help boost your rankings again.

What is Search Intent and Why Your SEO Depends on It

When you hear “SEO,” most people think “keywords.” It’s a natural association. After all, people have been using typed words to conduct internet searches since the birth of the internet, and more recently, people are speaking words to conduct their searches. Still, as search technology evolves, keywords (and the other known SEO ranking factors like links and social mentions) are not enough to secure top ranking.

For a HUGE share of internet searches, to get top organic ranking, your site needs to match search intent.

Search Intent Defined

Search intent is what it sounds like—it’s the intent motivating the human user to perform a search.

Search intent has been classified in a number of ways. The categories we think are most useful are:

  • Navigational (sometimes called branded searches)—users conducting these searches are trying to get to a specific web location like “Chase credit card login” or “Reebok”.
  • Informational—users conducting these searches are looking for information. These types of searches can be further broken down:
    • Broad research—searchers are gathering general information on a topic. Many “how to…” and “what is…” searches fit in this category.
    • Specific research—searchers are moving closer to making some type of decision, so they are carefully examining their options. Searches for reviews, ratings and comparisons fall into this category.
  • Transactional—users conducting these searches are ready to purchase a product or service, so they are looking for platforms that allow them to do that. “Buy…” and “near me” searches are popular transactional search formulas.

How to Implement Search Intent

Search engines want to deliver the results that meet their users’ needs. To determine search intent so that results can match it, search engine algorithms now incorporate behavioral analysis and context signals. These highly evolved algorithms are ranking your website, so if you want to appear at the top of organic searches, your content needs to match more than keywords; it needs to match user intent.

How do you do that?

By developing content that anticipates users’ needs and questions and provides the answers. This isn’t done on a single page. It entails developing dozens, maybe even hundreds, of pages or online assets (like downloadable white papers, brochures, infographics, etc.), each created to answer specific user questions.

Here’s just one example to illustrate how you can develop intent-based content:

Say you’re a hot air balloon company. You want to increase awareness and sales of private hot air balloon tours. To use search intent to improve rankings, you:

First, imagine your target audience and what kinds of questions might they have.

If they are completely new to hot ballooning, they might ask or search for:

  • Are hot air balloon rides safe?
  • What is the history of hot air balloons?
  • What are hot air balloons made of?
  • What training do hot air balloon pilots need?
  • Places to get hot air balloon rides

If they know they want a hot air balloon tour, they might ask:

  • How much do hot air balloon tours cost?
  • What to wear on a hot air balloon tour
  • What to pack for a hot air balloon tour
  • How long are hot air balloon tours?
  • What will I see on a hot air balloon tour?
  • Best hot air balloon rides in Albuquerque

Once you have exhausted all the questions you can think someone might ask, then check to see if your website has pages or assets that answer those questions. If you do, these pages may still need some tweaking to more clearly match a user’s informational or transactional intent.

If your site doesn’t have assets to answer users’ questions, then you will need to create the blogs, pages, infographics, etc. When you craft your content, also make sure that the snippet (meta description) for your page also clearly summarizes the answer the user is seeking. Google and other search engines prefer links with snippets that match user intent without requiring the user to actually follow the link. (Even if the user doesn’t click your link, you still got the visibility, which may be all that’s necessary to make your site the site they search for when they are ready to buy.)

SonicSEO.com clients, of course, already have websites engineered for top search intent performance. Identifying your target market, their primary motivations and ways they may search to fulfill their intent are all part of our process. If your target market expands or shifts, contact us, and we will adapt your content to maintain top search performance.

SEO for Small Businesses: Why You (Still) Need It, How to Make it Work for You

Growth

You’ve seen the proverbial memo that you need search engine optimization—so you got it. And you chose the company that delivers results, so you’ve made it to the top of the search engine results pages for a lot of keywords. Now what?

If you think you don’t need SEO anymore, think again. Your small business needs SEO as much today as it did when you opened your doors. It’s just how SEO is performed may be different for your small business now.

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What Is Social Listening and What Can It Help You Do?

At SonicSEO.com, we often encourage clients (if they haven’t already) to join conversations relevant to their brand/product/service by engaging with their target market on social media. There’s a reason we say it this way—because what’s happening on social media is really a conversation, and like a live conversation, social media engagement requires both “talking” (i.e. posting) and “listening” (i.e. monitoring what’s being posted about your brand/product/service/industry).

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Are You Marketing Your Luxury Brand Effectively?

There are products and services you need and then there are products and services you “need.” If your marketing doesn’t recognize the difference, then you are not going to reach your sales potential.

When you are offering a luxury item or service, stating the benefits (over features) isn’t enough—there are other products at lower price points that will practically fulfill consumers’ needs. To compel the sale of your luxury brand, you need to focus on your consumer’s experience of both the purchase process and the product/service itself.

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What You Need to Know about Paid Ads and Brand Safety

Recently, Google—YouTube and Google Ads, in particular—have come under fire because of poor ad placement. Don’t be confused—the term “ad placement” is not about the location of the ad on the screen. It’s about the what content the ad is placed next to, and that could be content that threatens the credibility or safety of your brand.

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Know Your Reporting Tools: Date Range Comparison

You’ve heard us say (and not for the last time): there is nothing set-it-and-forget-it about your website. Once your website is live, then a different type of work begins—maintenance and management. Management involves the work of keeping your website performing in search and sales conversions. The only way to know what management tasks need to be prioritized is through analytics data.

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