What exactly is an SEO Optimized Site?
Most website services and platforms claim that their sites are SEO friendly. But how do you know if that's really true?
Search engine optimization is important because it's one of the keys to your site being found by potential clients.
If your website or WordPress theme is optimized for SEO it means it has things like image optimization, semantic coding, site speed, and search engine friendly page titles.
There are four key parts to an SEO (Search Engine Optimized) friendly site.
1. Website Structure and SEO Optimized Code
Website structure & ‘clean-code’ affects how the search engines will 'see' your content and site.
A website or WordPress theme is 'search engine optimized' if it uses Semantic Markup and Coding. Semantic code or HTML means your site code is properly structured, and proper tags are being used for the different types of content. For example using the "h1" tag for page titles and "p" tags for the body. By using semantic code search engines can crawl the site easily.
Without the proper semantic markup, a computer has no way of understanding what your content is about. This is why semantic code does better in search engine ranking and results, and why search engine spiders cannot see flash sites. Flash sites aren't crawlable.
WordPress uses Cascading Style Sheets (style.css) which keeps the design of your site separate from the code. This means that updating your site is easier because styles can be applied to the entire site instead of page by page, and the styles can be changed without touching the code. Search engines view these techniques favorably, which may help improve ranking and find-ability.
Schema Markup helps search engines understand your content, which improves how your pages are displayed in the search results.
2. Site Speed
Site speed is dependent on good coding practices as mentioned above, and good hosting. Good hosting is so important to your site. A slow site means lost visitors, and many users today will abandon a site that takes more than 3 seconds to load.
Some website builders package hosting with their monthly service.
If you choose an ‘all-in-one’ service like Squarespace or Shopify for example, then web hosting is already included. That’s both good and bad. Good because it’s easy, bad because you are stuck with whatever hosting they provide, which gives you no control over the speed.
Shopify is one of the only ones that I know of that is capable of handling large volumes of traffic and demand. With others I’m not sure, so you’ll want to look at them closely. I’d suspect in many cases it’s a ‘no.’ After all if a $20 per month service is capable of keeping up with demanding use, then why would businesses spend hundreds or thousands a month on their sites?
WordPress, on the other hand, is a self-hosted platform, which means you have to find your own hosting. This is both good and bad as well. You get control over how much speed and power you want. But bad because it’s up to you to figure that out.
I'll elaborate more on this in a bit.
3. Mobile Responsive and Optimized Design
The majority of website use today takes place on some type of mobile device, which is why Google is penalizing sites that aren’t mobile friendly.
Responsive design means that rather than designing for a specific device, like a desktop browser, one design is created that automatically adapts or responds to the device that is accessing the site.
The web is now mobile and your site must look great on any device that it might be viewed on. You can use Google’s mobile friendly tester to see if the web service or website you are using is mobile friendly.
4. Content Structure
These types of features are things that you should be able to control in your website's admin panel. With WordPress, the Yoast SEO Plugin lets you do this.
Your site should allow you do the following:
- Create SEO Friendly Page Titles
- Create Meta Descriptions - a description of page content
- Breadcrumbs - breadcrumbs display to a visitor where they are on your site.
- Set the URL Structure (links should be www.yoursite.com/seo-friendly-title instead of www.yoursite.com/?p=4536)
- Meta Robots - Tells search engines how to index your site pages and content
- Site Maps & Image Site Maps
- Canonical Tags - helps reduce duplicate content issues
- Optimized Images
The most important thing to remember is that the technical things only matter if you have good content.
One of the BIGGEST misconceptions about SEO is that people think that by having certain technical features, that their site is automatically going to start bringing in a flood of traffic.
Focus on creating good content. The technical things will help if you have that.
No matter which website platform you go with, look for the following:
1. A website builder or WordPress theme with good semantic code and standards
2. The ability to optimize things like content, page titles, meta description, etc.
3. Mobile responsive
4. Fast site speed - choose a good web host
5. Most important - create great content