Modern SEO = Foundational SEO
As marketers, it can be tempting to get distracted by the newest, latest and greatest, because we are supposed to be ahead of the game on new trends. But with search engine optimization (SEO) it’s not all about new plays, we need to have the fundamentals down, too. Keep reading to learn more about how strong foundational SEO tactics allow your website to excel in the modern SEO arena.
We believe that websites need to be beautiful AND functional. It seems simple, but we’ll say it: your website should answer your searcher’s questions intuitively. This is called great UX.
AND, your website should be coded in a way that answers these same questions for search engines. This is called an SEO strategy.
Above all, if your websites do this, you’ll prove to search engines that the information your website provides is trustworthy, reliable, and an excellent resource for researching renters and residents. By being such a rockstar, your websites can rise to the top on a search engine results page (SERP). This is, of course, a bit of an oversimplification, but let’s dive into the foundation of SEO to understand how to apply these longstanding best practices to leverage modern SEO needs.
Search Engines: Must Crawl, Before They Can Index and Rank
In order to optimize your website for searching engines like Google, or Bing, you need to understand how they work under the hood. Search engines have three basic tasks: crawl, index, and rank.
When search engines crawl, they are examining the code and content for each URL they encounter. Think of this like scanning a map of the state you live in.
Indexing is the process of storing and organizing the content that the search engine found through the crawling process. And then, once a page is indexed, it can be considered to be displayed for relevant search queries. Think of this like looking up routes to all of your favorite day trips in your state, and organizing that information.
Ranking is a search engine’s third step, this is when they offer up links/content that can answer a searcher’s question in the order that the SERP believes is most helpful to least helpful. This is the step most people skip to because they want to know how to earn a top slot on a SERP. It’s all about website content. Writing good, relevant content that creates a good experience for the user is the key number one to earning a top slot, period.
To be blunt: if your website code is confusing, if links are broken, it can be difficult for a search engine to crawl and index your site. Meaning, if a search engine can’t crawl and index your site, they most certainly can’t rank it.
Help Search Engines Crawl Your Website
Were you alive for the pre-Google maps style road trip? We’re talking about paper maps or printing out MapQuest directions. Yah. Us too. These instructions, and navigation experience, got you from point A to point B. Sure there were wrong turns, but eventually, you got there.
Maps aren’t just for road trips. Websites have maps too, XML, and HTML sitemaps. Both are coded instructions about your website, XML sitemaps are written for search engines in mind, and HTML sitemaps are written for humans who need to use and understand your website.
Search engines rely on XML sitemaps to understand how your website is structured. These sitemaps allow search engines to crawl your site and understand the kinds of content you’re offering up. The clearer you can make these directions for search engines, the more they understand which search queries your website’s information might help to answer.
If you make your website code as clear as printed mapquest directions that got ripped in half…well, then a search engine might only be able to crawl half of your site. Not good. You want search engines to crawl every essential page of your website, and leave no coded stone unturned.
Clear internal linking strategies help search engines navigate your website framework with more ease. When your website provider builds a website from the bones up it makes your website more accessible to searchers using assistive devices too.
Three Things That Help Search Engines Understand Your Website
#1. Canonical Strategy — what a mouthful. This is a big-word-way of talking about duplicative website content, and how to signal to search engines which page is the most important. Search engines don’t tend to appreciate duplicate content. Think about it, would you like to read the same information over and over again? Probably not. Plus, then search engines get confused about which version they should be offering up on SERPs.
Using a canonical tag cuts through the confusion. This is a snippet of HTML code and it signals to Google, and other search engines, which page is the main version, and which are the duplicates or near-duplicates. The benefit of using this coded signal is that it consolidates the search engine page authority to one singular page. With all of Google’s trust being placed in this one link, it makes it much more likely to be served up on a SERP, than if it was competing against its look-alike counterparts. Check out the illustration below to understand how canonical tags help search engines prioritize content.
#2. Pagination — As you have more information to share with researching renters and residents and your website grows, you may need to paginate some of your content to avoid the infinite scroll of doom. Pagination is the process of dividing your website content into separate website pages, and pagination needs to work hand-in-hand with canonical strategy, so if you skipped skimmed the section above go back and reread it.
If your website is set up as an infinite scroll, search engines are unlikely to crawl all the way to the bottom. Meaning they’re missing out on your content (and you’re missing out on organic traffic). Not to mention that your website conversions might suffer, because your website strategy is probably not leveraging calls-to-action to lead researching renters and residents on a path to call, sign a lease or fill out a form. Bottom line, infinite scrolls are not a recommended website structure. Phew, ok we’ll step off our soapbox now.
It’s good to know that when you paginate your webpage, it can sometimes lead to duplicative content, which isn’t good for SEO. Therefore, you need to leverage canonical tags to signal to search engines which page is the canonical page (i.e. the important one that they should crawl and serve up on the SERP). Added bonus: creating a paginated website also sets up a clear internal linking structure that is helpful for website visitors and search engines alike.
#3. Schema Markup — Search engines have a big job combing the entire internet. Make their job easier by presenting your business information in a format that is easy for them to find and understand. Schema markup does just that — it’s a type of code used to classify and give context to specific pieces of information on your website, such as business type, brand name, contact details, hours, and more.
Think of schema markup like highlighting specific website content to tell Google, “Hey! This is the phone number!” or, “Here’s the business logo!” Schema markup helps search engines categorize the information in order to provide more relevant results to users. Connecting the information dots in the coded language that search engines understand provides researching renters and residents with better information — and better organic website traffic for you. Win-win.
In addition to the basic name, address, phone number information, schema markup can be used to identify featured snippets and allow your content to tease out what renters want to know, encouraging them to visit your website. For more about leveraging this, read our blog on zero-click searches.
An Ode to Code
Does this feel a little too in-the-weeds? Rest assured, a best-in-class marketing partner will ensure that your website includes these foundational elements in your website code. Learn from current clients about our approach to website redesigns with our recent self storage and senior living case studies.