The more technical components of on-page search engine optimization (SEO) factors that are are good to know. These technical features sometimes effect the way pages are designed and navigated. It is how your website communicates to search engines.
Structured Data Matters
Structured data is “code that you can add to your sites’ pages to describe your content to search engines, so they can better understand what’s on your pages. Search engines can use this understanding to display your content in useful (and eye-catching!) ways in search results. That, in turn, can help you attract just the right kind of customers for your business.” Google will also use this snippet information to with their other search products, such as Google Maps.
Google provides their Google Structured Data Testing Tool to help you out and test for mistakes in the implementation of structured data. Additionally, you can utilize their Data Highlighter, a free tool within the Search Console. Alternatively, the Markup Header tool will get your markup code ready to copy and paste to your page.
You can track how you are doing with your structured data with Enhancement reports in Search Console. Google also states that when your structured data is correct, it allows them to add special features in Search results, including review stars, fancy decorated results, and more.
Intuitive Site Navigation
The navigation of your website is an important aspect in helping your viewers to quickly find the content that they are seeking. It also helps search engines interpret what areas are of greater significance to the designer. For Google, the role a page plays in the bigger picture of website is also useful.
Your “root” page, often called your “home” page, is usually the most frequented and is the starting point for your visitors. You will want to consider how they will migrate through your website to your pages on specific topics. Is there enough content to have a page that will group a related topic? You might even need multiple categories and subcategory pages depending on the volume of content your present on a specific topic.
Breadcrumb lists are rows of links that allow the visitor to navigate quickly to a previous page without throwing them to the home page to start their search again. Google recommends using their “breadcrumb structured data markup tool.” Additionally, you might consider using a navigation page to help viewers to maneuver around your website.
Your website designer should upload a XML sitemap file for search engines to utilize. Crawlers use them to discover new and updated pages on your site with all relevant links. Also note, that your 404 pages should be effective in guiding your viewers back to your website (without pressing the back button on their browser). 404 pages are displayed when a link doesn’t connect you to a working page on your website.
Google also ranks additional design factors, such as if your website is viewable on a mobile device. In fact, according to Google, “having a mobile ready site is critical to your online presence. Starting in late 2016, Google had begun experiments to primarily use the mobile version of a site’s content for ranking, parsing structured data, and generating snippets.“(While they recommend site design for smartphones, they encourage you to optimize your website for multimedia and feature phones.)
There are many ways to make your website mobile friendly. Responsive website design is one of the most popular implementation methods. You can check your website with the Google Mobile-friendly test to see if your pages meet the criteria. You may also consider using Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP). AMP is a special type of HTML that ensures that your website is fast and user friendly. However, it is only used for static content, such as blog posts or product landing pages).
Security and Page Speed
Beginning July 2019, Google’s Chrome browser now marks websites that do not have a secured socket layer (SSL) certificate as insecure. They also rank pages with a secure website higher than those that are not. (HTTPS verses HTTP).
Additionally, Google will use mobile page speed as a ranking factor for mobile (smartphone) search results. Only the pages that “deliver the slowest experience to users” will be impacted by this update. According to Zhiheng Wang and Doanam Phan (both from Google), the “intent of the search query is still a very strong signal, so a slow page may still rank highly if it has great, relevant content.“
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