WordPress SEO Basics – Part 6
Having a great website is critical to SEO. Sounds obvious, right? Well, you’d be surprised how many people try to “force” SEO without having a good website. Search engines are getting more and more sophisticated and are increasingly able to tell what a “good” website looks like.
Here are some basic tenants for good web design:
- Easy to use, navigate, and understand
- Direct, actionable information relevant to the query
- Professionally designed and accessible to modern browsers
- High quality, legitimate, and credible content
Despite major advances in technology, machines still can’t experience websites the same way humans can. For this reason, search engines take into account a ton of tertiary data surrounding the use of a website to determine if human subjects enjoy the website. Metrics like linking patterns and user engagement help search engines determine the quality of a website.
When a search engine delivers results to the user, it measures the success of the rankings by observing how the user engages with those results. If the first link is clicked, but then immediately the back button is hit (called a bounce) only to try the second link, this indicates that the user was not satisfied with the initial result. Search engines are looking for what is called the “long click” – where users click a result without immediately returning to the search page to try again. All the daily queries taken in aggregate over time yields very useful data for the search engine to judge the quality of results.
Search engines discovered early on that the link structure of the web could serve as a proxy for votes and popularity. The concept is simple – higher quality sites and information earn more links than their less useful, lame quality peers. Modern link analysis algorithms have advanced considerably, but the basic principle still holds true.
In 2011 Google introduced the infamous Panda update to its search ranking algorithm. This update significantly changed the way Google judged websites for quality. The way it worked was Google initially used human evaluators to manually rate thousands of sites, searching for low quality content. Google then incorporated machine learning to mimic the human evaluators. Once Google’s machines could accurately predict what the humans would rate as a low quality site, the algorithm was introduced across millions of sites across the internet. The end result was a shocker for many, as over 20% of all of Google’s search results were rearranged! Machine learning is only becoming more powerful in today’s world.
Content is King
This oft quoted an even cliche phrase is still the bread and butter of good SEO. Why? Because when a user searches for something on a search engine, they ultimately want quality useful content to help them solve some problem. That being said, it is important to note the basic types of search queries:
- Transactional Searches – these searches are simply, like trying to find a good place to eat.
- Navigational Searches – a user may not remember exactly what URL to type in for Columbia Sportsware, so they will search for it.
- Informational Searches – this is the most broad type of search. Anything from the chemical structure of caffeine, to how to get from point A to point B on a map.
If your site does a good job of providing users with relevant information in regard to their inquiry, you win! Website user interface, user experience, and content are more important than just making your site pretty – it can mean the difference between people finding your website on a search engine or not.