The Sustainment of SEO: A Series for Nonprofits
Google’s 2013 Hummingbird update has changed the profession of SEO to an audience oriented practice. In the first post in our SEO for nonprofits series we discussed how Audience Optimization would be a more appropriate name for the new SEO, and how refining User Experience can improve your organic ranking. Last week we examined SEO practices that are no longer relevant due to the new audience oriented Google.
This week we will discuss SEO practices that continue to be important tools for improving organic ranking.
Whether you host a blog within your site or use a service like Blogspot, it’s important to keep your audience up to date on your business, your industry or maybe even yourself. It never hurts to link back to your website like so (keep it light), and don’t forget to let your personality shine through. Remember, it’s a blog not a newspaper and it should read as such. Don’t take yourself too seriously…laugh-out-loud. Also make sure to reference your information with external links (make sure it opens as a separate tab). This adds legitimacy to you as a writer, and shows Google that you’re dedicated to providing useful quality content (vs. self-serving content).
Meta Tags have been obsolete in Google’s organic rankings for several years, and Google holds more than 2/3 of the market share in the realm of search (67.3% as of December, 2013). However, the remaining one-third of the market shared by Bing, Yahoo! and other “secondary” search engines (Oamos is pretty fun), continue to use Meta Tags. As such it would be unwise to neglect Meta Tags entirely, but don’t spend too much time on it.
Home Page Linking
It is important to link directly from your homepage to your most important product or service pages, to ensure that Google’s algorithms will view them as highly significant to your audience. If you have a priority service or product that takes two to three clicks to navigate to (from the home page), this may skew Google’s point of view on what in your site takes priority. Show Google which pages are most important by providing easy accessibility directly from the home page.
Simple and straight-forward navigation is a key component to win the SERP wars against your non-profit competitors. When looking at the organic ranking of two sites with comparable levels of quality content, the site with more user-friendly navigational options will likely be ranked higher. When building, or “remodeling,” your site, take great pains to ensure that the menu hierarchy is strategically designed to allow for easy navigation. Always remember to add a breadcrumb widget to each page, and do not hesitate to link relevant content to internal pages. Give your audience clear and simple options to navigate the many pages of your site.
We live in a high speed world and the speed at which your site loads is an important aspect in your organic rank on Google. It seems obvious, but it is not uncommon to see otherwise great web sites with slow load time. Should a spider detect a slow load time it will potentially decrease your site’s organic ranking. Therefore it is critical to stay on top of your server, and make sure to test your own sites loading from time to time (Pingdom has an easy to use tool).
Back End Coding
It is important to consistently pay attention to your sites back end as clean code is essential to easy “inspection” by spiders. The more complicated and complex your coding is, the more work is required of the spiders which crawl your site. Ultimately you want Google to be able to see the high quality content you spent so much time developing, complex coding can act as a barrier to that content. The most important strategy with regard to SEO and back end coding is to keep your HTML up to date, make sure you’re taking advantage of the latest refinements. HTML 5 is currently viewed as the most SEO friendly coding structure, however HTML 6 will soon indoctrinate XML elements. Once that occurs you will need to update your code accordingly. Of course some sites need a little more grandeur to give an audience, which means more sophisticated coding is required. Whenever possible, consider externalizing complex coding like CSS and Java. This will help with load time and will put less strain in scanning the back end. An easy way to check the cleanliness of your site is through the W3C Validation tool.
Despite the considerable changes that the Hummingbird algorithm update has brought to the field of SEO, numerous strategies remain important for enhancing your organic ranking. As such, it is important to continue utilizing the practices discussed above. Next week, in the final post of the series, we will examine new strategies to implement for your site.