• User Experience
• Authoritative and Relevant Content
• Keeping Up With The Zeitgeist
• Ensuring Mobile-Friendliness
• Website Security
• Website Optimisation
• Catering To The Algorithm
Before looking at any of the technical side of increasing site traffic or ranking in Google’s search results, it’s essential to keep the user at the forefront of the planning process when developing any website. Not only throughout planning but a website needs regular maintenance to ensure that it remains an intuitive and seamless experience for the user. By simply testing the site yourself and going through all the functionality on desktop and mobile you can record any issues and amend them easily (or tell the webmaster to implement the changes).
If you delve deeply into search engine optimisation (SEO) it’s easy to forget that attracting people, not the Google bots, is the ultimate aim. Like anything online or off, to get visitors a business has to provide great quality in whatever service it may be offering. Of course you want to stand out among so much competition but to do this you must focus on the user/customer and ensure that their time spent navigating your content is the best it can be. Everything else comes after the fact. As Google themselves say
To improve your serving and ranking:
• Make your page fast to load, and mobile-friendly.
• Put useful content on your page and keep it up to date.
• Follow the Google Webmaster Guidelines, which help ensure a good user experience.
By optimising a website for user experience (UX), in many ways this also encourages technical optimisation such as clear interlinking between pages and having fast page-load speeds. Making your site fantastic is a knock-on effect in terms of it being indexed by Google and enjoyed by users. Indexed means ‘readable’ by Google; the bots can crawl the site easily which then translates to being better able to analyse the site and so offer it up in response to relevant search queries.
Having backlinks pointing to your site from other reputable websites is a clear sign to Google’s search algorithm (PageRank)
that your site is authoritative and trustworthy. PageRank is the original algorithm created by Sergey Brin and Larry Page in 1996 that effectively ranked pages based on “link popularity.” Today, the mathematics and artificial intelligence involved is obviously much more sophisticated than in ‘96 but the fact remains that links are one of the best indicators that show reliability as accurately as possible.
In previous years lots of webmasters wanting to rank higher, and therefore achieve more site traffic, exploited various loopholes found in the early Google algorithms.Though with each instance of exploitation, Google patched the problem and in doing so created a more robust way of providing valuable results for each user’s query that is resistant to tampering. What this means now is that SEO has to be an authentic process where any deceit is penalised. A website is noticed for being a good website.
One essential element of SEO
is that as with word-of-mouth in the offline world, it goes even further in the online world. By linking to another source you’re essentially vouching for another site when you link to it and vice versa. Building genuine backlinks is a slow and continuous process as they’re usually earned after extensive outreach to relevant blogs or websites who then, hopefully, agree to add hypertext in their work that links to yours.
One of the more common examples to gain authentic backlinks include link exchanges so that each party embeds the other’s link within an image or text. A good place to put these links is within the blog pages of a website. This is why it’s almost essential to include a blog as not only does it provide unique and valuable insights for your customers but you can also link to other sites you trust and in return other sites will link back to you.
Maintaining a blog can also lead to the best kind of link-building; when people actively choose your articles as exemplary reference material which means no more doing manual outreach for link exchange! This implies that your website has been firmly established as an expert within its field. Achieving such status will, inevitably, take some time along with consistently well-produced and insightful posts and updates. However, the rewards are great as it’s one of the best ways of natural link-building that drives a great deal of traffic simply because so many other websites are doing wonderful promotion by linking your site.
As mentioned in the previous section, if you want to build trust and authority you need to know what you’re talking about. If you’re a plumbing business, you want to write about how to unblock a drain, not how to bake a cake. This really goes without saying but it's worth keeping in mind that developing a reputation as an authority within a specific field helps Google determine a site’s relevance and therefore ranking. As (PageRank)Google
Expertise and authoritativeness of a site increases its quality.
Proving ‘expertise’ online can be very tricky with the ease of widespread misinformation that travels around the world in minutes. As discussed, one of the best ways to prove reliability is from other authoritative sites linking to your site. Of course getting a link from a large and well-respected website isn’t easy which is why Google’s SEO starter guide
also recommends publishing big-ticket items,
Avoid attempting to promote each new, small piece of content you create; go for big, interesting items.
What this means is that concerted effort should be made into creating ‘cornerstone’ content: a long-form piece of content that really highlights your extensive knowledge on a subject (much like this article!). Cornerstone content then becomes more viable for “link-bait” meaning that people will naturally want to cite (and so link) your resource in their work. It’s also easier to approach bigger websites for link exchanges if you have an ace up your sleeve; obviously they’ll be more inclined to share your work because it provides actual value to their audience. Again, Google’s SEO guide lays out the following,
Creating compelling and useful content will likely influence your website more than any of the other factors discussed here.
In the Google guidelines
for evaluating page quality, they lay out the idea of certain websites being categorized as YMYL (your money or your life). These types of site need to prove authoritativeness and reliability as they directly relate to a user’s finances or health. They could relate to government, news, banking, healthcare etc. and as such they all need to display expertise, authority and trustworthiness (EAT).
While these definitely won’t apply to a majority of websites, it is worth considering them as a ranking guideline. Ensuring in as many ways as possible that your site exhibits EAT is a reliable way to generate traffic.
Keeping Up With The Zeitgeist
Google likes to provide current information wherever possible as generally speaking a user is looking for things that are up to date. Keeping a site relevant means ensuring that its design (along with content) looks fresh and modern. When compared to the thousands of other sites, of course you want to stand out but it’s not necessarily good to be seen as ‘unique’ when it’s because the site looks dated: an old-looking site will simply appear neglected.
People trust in old and established institutions but this doesn’t translate to the online world where everything is constantly evolving and being renewed. The nature of technology is innovation which means that in order to compete you must keep up with competitors in your field. As with all my sweeping statements, this clearly doesn’t apply for every business model but as more and more business and commerce is done online, the importance of a stand-out website is vital.
Essentially current information is usually served up top of the results page as it will often bear more relevance to the person who made the search query. Google displays the date published beside the URL to further aid the user when choosing what link to open. A vague search for ‘weekend in London’ illustrates this idea and also raises a few other interesting points to note:
Scrolling down the results page we get further insight into what Google is looking for in terms of providing accurate findings for a user:
This shows us that priority is given to more current events for a vague search query as they’re served up at the top of the results page. But it also illustrates an interesting point that Google wants to provide a range of useful resources: articles written some time ago that are still high quality and are frequently visited will also be provided in the results area. Content doesn’t always require being up to date as long as it’s providing value to its readers. The majority of the tour guide advice will still be applicable unless it's regarding certain institutions that may have since closed (restaurants, cafes, etc).
This is imperative as nowadays so many more search queries originate from mobile users over computer
. This was true over four years ago and no doubt the numbers have increased since then. Websites need to be easily navigable on mobile as it’s where a huge portion of customers will be coming from.
You can perform a quick test on Mobile-Friendly Test
to see how well your site performs. Once you know the score, there’s a wealth of information
on how to implement changes to optimise your website for mobile and even a Google checklist
of how best to design a mobile site based on user engagement data.
It’s often the case that a mobile search query wants something specific, immediate and nearby. A mobile search might include ‘thai restaurant near me’ or ‘bookshop open until 7.’ These searches want quick and easy answers so by making your website clear on mobile, it ensures that potential custom isn't lost. If you have a brick and mortar shop, also make sure your physical site is visible on Google maps
, along with relevant contact details so that it appears easily to mobile customers in the vicinity.
The above point touches upon another important idea which is to try and consider what are the keywords your target audience is using when searching for services that your business offers. Keyword research can be done by paid platforms but it’s possible for anyone to do the basics just by trying out various searches on Google. You can see related searches which offer deeper insight to other user queries:
You might learn something just from these suggestions alone; as an example ‘itinerary’ may be a keyword that in this hypothetical situation you’d not thought of in relation to your business. Researching user behaviour can be extensive but a lot can be gained from simple actions such as the one above. Further manual research can be undertaken by looking on online forums like Reddit or Quora for how people are talking about your business or field of expertise.
As there are such monumental volumes of communication being passed each day online, a multitude of immediately-accessible resources can be used for research. Websites like twitter or facebook provide unique insight into user behaviours and language. By doing even simple research, you can begin to see areas that previously hadn’t been thought of where you can now target.
This includes having both a SSL certificate and a website on https (the ‘s’ stands for secure so you know it’s legitimate!). Having an SSL certificate means that the data transmitted between your device and the server is encrypted and therefore cannot be accessed by any snoopers. Getting a certificate is simple enough but do make sure it’s from a certificate authority
as it must be from a reputable SSL provider that is up to date.
Whatever web browser you use, certain symbols used in the design become instant positive or negative associations. What I mean here is that when you open up a website in your browser, you’ll see
depending on the site. This is just a very basic indicator of a site’s security that anyone can immediately understand but it goes a long way to indicate a site’s quality as well. You wouldn’t want to spend a lot of time on an insecure website nor would you share any sensitive data.
On a technical level, it’s highly recommended to secure a website for the simple reason that your customers aren’t at risk of having their private information stolen. This then ties inextricably to the UX perspective: it means that from the get-go there are no roadblocks to your site being enjoyed by customers as it has the all important safe-surfing symbol
Nowadays people expect lightning-fast page load times. In order to check your site speeds, check on Google search console
which will show you all the performance data of your site. Generally speaking, this means that you’ll want your website running like a well-oiled machine so that page load times are quick.
Site speeds have been a ranking factor for some time and this is also true for mobile as of July 2018
. Of course, larger sites that have lots of functionality unavoidably have longer page load times so it’s not something to obsess over, it’s just encouraged for a site to perform the best it can. As with most of these suggestions, they are best practise.
In terms of increasing site traffic, having rich snippets and meta titles for each page ensures that your site’s content is presented in its best possible light in the search results page:
Here we have an example of another of our blog posts with a clear branded title along with a brief excerpt. These snippets are created automatically by Google which means that writing meta titles and descriptions for each page is key for it to be displayed as you want it to be seen by users.
If you’re thinking that site-wide optimisation is going to be an unreasonable workload, the most important page to optimise is the homepage according to Google
Your home page is the most important page on your site, as far as Google is concerned. To encourage a complete site crawl, be sure that your home page (and all pages) contain a good site navigation system that links to all the important sections and pages on your site; this helps users (and Google) find their way around your site.
It’s obviously advisable to optimise the entire website but emphasis should be placed on the homepage above others. This is the landing page for visitors and as such needs to be appealing, packed with functionality and lay out the essential information clearly. Another metric measured by Google is dwell time so by creating a stunning homepage you’re encouraging visitors to stay on the page and investigate further.
Schema is another technical aspect that allows search engines to crawl and understand the contents of the website. This is written within the HTML code of a website and It promotes using structured data which is essentially a way of laying text out in a way that is labelled for Google to read and understand. For example if you have a recipe on your blog, users can find it via searches relating to calorie count, ingredients, preparation time etc. because it’s been coded with schema vocabulary.
Catering To The Algorithm
This is not as scary nor futuristic as the title might suggest. Simply bear in mind that the algorithm evaluates the type of enquiry you’re making: searching ‘buy a bike’ will return ecommerce websites that offer bicycles for sale. Whereas typing in ‘how to replace a bike tyre’ will bring up informational sites or pages that provide how-to guides. Remember that Google wants to deliver the best answers
from the worldwide web for any user’s search query so by thinking about what and how a user might search, you can aim to be the most useful and relevant resource that gets offered up on page 1.
Algorithms analyse hundreds of different factors to try to surface the best information the web can offer, from the freshness of the content, to the number of times your search terms appear and whether the page has a good user experience.
The above bike shop example also highlights another point that if you’re a bike shop that sells online and you don’t have a blog that offers insight, repair info, trail guides, etc. you’re missing a trick. People who search for how to repair a tyre may also be wanting a new tyre and on your site there’s also a review of this year’s best tyres with a special offer on a certain model. Not only have you provided information to resolve that specific enquiry but you’ve also made a sale. Obviously this doesn’t apply to every website but the fundamental of considering the user and their search intentions is key to website growth.
So there you have it, 8 ways to increase website traffic. By no means is this an exhaustive list as there are plenty more things you can do to garner attention but these are a solid place to start. What it ultimately boils down to is creating quality and value for users; develop this and you’ll start to see results in the Google search page ranking and in the number of visitors to your site.
Contact us at Grizzly
to learn how we can help you with your website.
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