From the moment you launch your first website online, you’re likely to start hearing the term SEO.

SEO stands for search engine optimization, and it’s how countless brands and businesses have manipulated search giants like Google to help their sites grow. 

According to endless SEO experts, if you can learn how to optimize your site through keywords, meta descriptions, backlinks, and other techniques, then Google will reward you with a higher position on the search engine result pages. The higher your position, the more likely your customers are to notice you. 

That all sounds nice and everything, but is it legit?

How much does site optimization count towards enhancing your online presence?

Let’s find out. 

Site Optimization Factor 1: Keywords

Speak to any SEO professional, and they’ll tell you that keywords are critical to your success online. After all, if you want to improve your chances of ranking, you need to give Google the right signals by showing it what your website is all about. 

Keywords and phrases have always been a crucial way of giving Google the context it needs to rank your website. However, the value of a keyword has changed over the years. Back in the day, you could stuff your content full of as many keywords as it could handle, and instantly score a ticket to the top of the SERPs. 

However, when Google put it’s Panda update in place in 2011, the way we use keywords needed to change. Today, Google’s algorithm is more intelligent than ever before. It’s not just looking for keywords anymore; it examines a host of different factors to determine the value of a page. Instead of focusing on frequency, today’s businesses need to make sure that they’re putting their keywords in the right places, at the correct times. 

Authority Hacker’s research into search engine ranking factors found the following about keywords:

  • Use long-form keywords and semantic terms to give context to your posts
  • Avoid spamming your content with keywords or you could face a penalty
  • Write longer content to create more space for keywords
  • Use keywords in h1, meta, and title tags. 

Site Optimization Factor 2: Quality Content

So, why not just learn how to use keywords then pay for your site to appear in the promoted section of the SERPS? 

Well, online ads do work for driving business – to a point. 91% of total ad spend is currently viewed for less than a second. This means that around $38 billion in promotional budget was wasted in 2017. Ultimately, if you want to be seen and heard online, then you still need to optimize your site with quality content. 

Quality content is timely, actionable, and helpful. It’s not just a jumble of keywords stuffed into a page. Your content needs to be aimed at the users that you want to serve and follow a logical structure. What’s more, it shouldn’t be overly salesy. The Economist Group found that 71% of readers were turned off by sales-pitch style content. 

If you’re having a tough time figuring out how to create quality content, start by simply finding out what kind of questions your customers are asking. Speak to your sales team about your consumer’s queries or check out what people are saying about your brand on social media. Then work on answering those questions. 

If you answer questions well enough, you can even appear in the “featured snippets” section on the SERPs. 

Featured snippets have grown increasingly crucial in the age of voice search, where customers are using SIRI and smart speakers to answer questions. 54.68% of clicks from Google come from featured snippets. The only way to appear in this part of the SERPS is with high-quality content that answers your customer’s questions. 

Site Optimization Factor 3: Backlinks 

Okay, so we know that you need keywords and quality content, but what about other more technical stuff, like backlinks? 

Well, backlinks are still the most critical ranking factor for Google at this point, according to studies. 

Backlinks show Google that you’re affiliated with other high-quality websites. Additionally, internal links to other parts of your website also make it easier for Google to see the connections between different points in your site. 

However, there’s more to building a website that’s primed for incredible online marketing than placing backlinks throughout your content. 

Instead, you should also be focusing on designing content that other people want to link to. 

One way to do that is to spend more time creating long-form content. We already mentioned above that long-form content gives you extra space to place keywords without looking spammy. However, it also gives you a chance to dive deeper into the details of a topic and cover useful ideas that other people will want to link back to. 

The length of your content might not affect your position online, but how you use that content definitely will. 

Site Optimization Factor 4: Backend Site Performance

Finally, we come to the structure of your website and how it performs online.

You can have the best content in the world, but neither your customers, nor Google will appreciate it if your pages don’t load at the right times, and in the correct environments. 

As Google continues to strive to provide audiences with the best possible browsing experiences, today’s websites need to be:

  • Mobile friendly: Studies show that 4 in 5 customers are now conducting searches online using their mobile devices. Google wants to appeal to customers on the devices that they use most, so make sure that you’re mobile optimized. 
  • Speedy: The Speed Update for Google rolled in on July 9th, 2018. At that time, Google announced that page speed would become a significant ranking factor for mobile searches, as well as desktop searches. If you’re not delivering a fast response from your site, then you could lose your customers and your rank. Check your performance with Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool. 
  • Secure: HTTPS is a must-have to rank. Google has made this precise time and time again. As customers have become increasingly concerned about the safety of their data online, security is the key to success. It’s particularly important to invest in protection for your website if you’re going to be asking for details like email addresses or credit card info. 

One way to upgrade your site performance and structure is to make the switch to AMPs. Accelerated Mobile Pages cut downloading time between 15 and 18%, and they’re specifically designed for mobile users. What’s more, make sure that your website has an SSL certificate to give today’s online browsers the peace of mind that they need. 

Does Site Optimization Still Matter?

Ultimately, site optimization is just as relevant today as it’s ever been. 

If you want to rank online, then you need to learn how to speak to both the search engines and your customers. That means optimizing your site to suit specific guidelines. However, the rules around site optimization have evolved over the years, and they continue to change. 

The guidelines given for success five years ago don’t apply today. That means that if you want to speak to Google, then you need to stay on the cutting edge of SEO. 

About the Author: Gael is the chief editor over at Authority Hacker. You’ll often find him tinkering with the latest funnel or testing out the newest piece of shiny marketing software he can get his hands on. He’s a sucker for optimization and loves to chase the 1%!