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8 Experiments To Improve Organic Traffic

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8 Experiments To Improve Organic Traffic

Imagine the results you could achieve if you knew the Google search algorithm.

Just think of the organic traffic you could drive to your site if you knew exactly what Google was taking into account when generating search engine results, the precise amount each factor plays on rankings, and precisely what it would take to get to the top. 

But of course, Google would never let you see behind the curtain. Not only could a bad actor use this information for nefarious purposes, but it would take all the fun out of search engine optimization. 

So instead, every time there’s a new algorithm update, it’s up to us to figure out what exactly has changed and how to best leverage this to our advantage. 

And because we in the search engine optimization world are a community, we tend to figure these things out collectively. 

And because there are no (or very few, anyway) absolute answers, a lot of optimization comes down to best practices, theories, and outright guesswork. 

Luckily, there’s a great way to determine if these theories are based on reality or just sheer conjecture. Of course, we’re talking about experimentation.

(Insert mad scientist laugh here.)

Before you get carried away and rush to put on your safety goggles and lab coats, relax. No bubbling beakers full of mystery liquids are involved, and your risk of accidentally creating a monster is very low.

(I would say zero, but I’ve seen the “Terminator” series, and it never explicitly says that a search engine optimizer didn’t create Skynet, so let’s play it safe.)

All your SEO experiments can be done from your desk chair’s comfort (and safety). 

But before we dive into those, let’s first talk about how to test your SEO.

Steps For A Successful SEO Experiment

Thankfully, we don’t have to develop an entirely new framework for devising, conducting, and measuring our SEO tests – we can repurpose the scientific method you’re probably already familiar with. 

Been a while since high school chemistry? Don’t worry; these five steps are sure to sound familiar:

  1. Make an observation. (E.g., my site is not on the first page of Google search results.)
  2. Ask a question and form a hypothesis. Is my meta description optimized for ranking? If I write better meta descriptions, it will improve my ranking.
  3. Gather data. Upon changing these descriptions, track the change in ranking position and site visits.
  4. Analyze the data. Create tables, graphs, and diagrams to help you understand the link between what was changed and changing results.
  5. Draw conclusions. Does the evidence support your prediction? Why or why not? Was site traffic increased due to your new meta descriptions, or did you also receive national news coverage during your testing period?)

You’ll want to do what marketers call A/B testing for accurate results. This means creating two versions of the same page, with only one difference, so you can see which gets the better response. 

Before you start, keep one thing in mind: Incremental changes are essential. If you go wild and change all of these at once, you’ll have no idea which one(s) is making a difference. 

Play it slowly and be patient. Test one, then wait for the results before moving on to the next. This will give you an obvious idea of what you need to do moving forward to ensure you’re always claiming front-page real estate.

With that out of the way, here’s a look at eight different things you can test to improve the ranking of your site:

1. SEO Title

Have you ever written what you thought was an amazing page title, only for Google to rewrite it in search results? That usually happens when the search engine doesn’t feel like your title was a good reflection of the page’s content. 

But you can change this anytime you like.

And even if Google does replace the one you created, Google’s John Mueller confirmed the original title is still used for ranking purposes. This means even if you’re getting your SEO titles changed, it’s still a good idea to try to optimize them.

Here are a few things you can test to see if they generate results:

  • Include your target keyword.
  • Change their length (shorter is not always better).
  • Experiment with brand name positioning or remove it altogether.
  • Get click-baity (e.g., Do you want to lose 20 lbs. fast?).
  • Add published date to demonstrate information relevancy.
  • Get creative (people love what’s new and whimsical).

2. SEO Meta Description

Now, wait just a minute – you’re probably saying right now – Search Engine Journal has been clear that Google hasn’t used meta description in its rankings since sometime between 1999 and 2004. 

Put down your pitchforks. Just because they aren’t a direct factor in SERPs doesn’t mean meta descriptions aren’t an essential SEO element. 

For example, they can help improve your click-through rate, compel searchers, generate brand exposure, and help differentiate you from the competition. And all of these impact user behavior, which is a signal that Google factors in. 

There have been entire articles written about creating awesome meta descriptions. But for our purposes, here are a few things you can A/B test to see if you can improve your organic traffic:

  • Try different lengths. Traditional SEO wisdom suggests character count between 156-165 – see what works for you.
  • Add keywords.
  • Change your tone. Generally speaking, your style should match your brand’s voice, but for a specific page, maybe this isn’t the case.
  • Get specific – are you getting a lot of visits from one long-tail keyword? Add that to your meta description. 

3. Internal Anchor Text

You may know anchor text as the visible, clickable (usually blue) text in a hyperlink like this. 

Not only is this useful for giving additional context to users, but Google has confirmed: Anchor text helps it better understand a page’s content, allowing it to rank those pages for relevant searches. 

For example, in the paragraph above, “Google has confirmed” is the anchor text attached to the target link, which directs to a link proving that confirmation. 

There are several types of anchor text you can use, including those with exact or partial-match keywords, branded (Search Engine Journal), images, generic (“click here”), and naked links (https://www.searchenginejournal.com).

To experiment with the impact, internal anchor text can have on your organic traffic. You can try things like:

  • Changing their length (though shorter is often better).
  • Adding keywords, particularly low-density keywords.
  • Increasing specificity.
  • Changing them to be more target link-specific.

4. Schema Markup

Schema markup is a type of structured data used by Google and other search engines.

Following guidelines established by Schema.org, it is essentially a lingua franca for search engines. It’s an established standard that uses a unique vocabulary to help search engines more clearly understand your content. 

It’s used to create rich snippets for adding information about events, recipes, people, videos, reviews, and products, among other things. These, in turn, make your link appear more prominent in SERPs. 

And while schema is not directly factored into your ranking score, like SEO title, it can improve your click-through rate and impact your user behavior scores. 

Experiment with adding schema markup to your pages and see if it improves your results.

5. Images

A picture is worth a thousand words – everyone knows that. This is because humans are visual creatures. And web designers and SEO professionals have recognized the importance of including images on webpages for a long time. 

And it’s not just because they add visual interest and grab attention; they can also improve your search ranking.

Original (not stock), high-quality images optimized for SEO can reap the rewards. 

Here are some things you can try with your images to improve your traffic:

  • Add images. You should add images to every page. No one wants to read a wall of text.
  • Choose a different file name. You want to immediately make it clear to Google what your image is depicting. Try adding your keywords.
  • Change your formatting. There is no one-size-fits-all for digital images. You may want to change your file type depending on your image needs. JPEGs are good for larger photos. PNG files preserve background transparency. 
  • Compress files when possible. In general, smaller files are always better.
  • Ensure responsiveness. With mobile search being such an essential factor in modern SEO, you want to ensure your images always look great on phones and desktops. 
  • Add alt text if the image can’t be displayed for some reason. 

6. Headers

Your headlines and subheads give your page structure. This makes it easier for humans to browse and for search engines to understand what each section is about. 

Google’s John Mueller was very clear about this, emphasizing the presence of any headings, not just H1s, sends a strong signal about the page’s content. It would be best if you took special care with all your H tags, from H1 down to H6. This is because they also serve as an accessibility aid and navigational tool in addition to their structural benefits. 

Once upon a time, your headers were a massive factor in your ranking. But then, like always, people abused them, and Google started cracking down on keyword stuffing, overuse, and other dirty heading tricks. 

That said, while they are far from the only factor Google takes into account, there is no question they are essential.

Here are a few things you can play with to try and improve your SEO results:

  • Add more headings (except H1s). Improve the structure and clarity of your content by adding more subheads.
  • Try using them to break up blocks of text. No one likes massive text blocks. H2s, H3s, etc., are the perfect solution.
  • Add keywords. Like nearly everything else we’ve discussed, you should experiment with the use of keywords in your headings. 
  • Optimize for featured snippets. Grab attention and draw new traffic by claiming those special boxes on search results. Write your headers to land these.
  • Get creative. Try making your headings and subheads more interesting. 

7. Word Count

 You already know content is the essential thing in any SEO strategy. But you may not have thought much about how the number of words you use can impact your ranking and traffic.

While you shouldn’t expect word count to push you over the top and take you from page six to the top result, it can help define your site as relevant and valuable to a search query – and draw in readers. 

What do we mean by this? Again, it’s not a direct ranking factor, according to John Mueller.

With that said, longer-form copy tends to rank higher. This is because using more words provides Google with more information on what your page is about. 

And if these longer pieces are well-written (like the one you’re reading in the author’s ever-so-humble opinion), they’ll help establish you as an authority on the topic. 

And experimentation is easy. Take one of your existing articles or blog posts and duplicate it. On the second one, expound at greater length upon your topic. 

Please note, we’re not talking about using your word count tricks from college (e.g., “at a later date” instead of just “later”). Instead, you should expand on ideas and topics, add examples and cite additional sources.

Then, see which one performs better on search engines. Chances are, it will be the longer one. 

Read this piece for more on using word count for SEO optimization. 

8. URL

Some SEO experts will swear URLs with keywords perform better than generic ones. Is this the case?

Well, yes and no.

On the one hand, Google has confirmed when it performs its initial crawl of a site, keywords in URLs help it understand what the site is about.

However, as this is only factored in when a new site is crawled, its role in an ongoing SEO strategy is minimal. 

But again, this doesn’t mean you can’t use them to your advantage. Clear URLs create a better user experience and can be used as naked anchor tags much more accessible than one with 75 random numbers and letters tacked on at the end. 

Experiment with your URLs. Take some of your old, non-descriptive links and add keywords to them. Shorten long URLs.

If you’re worried about losing links from the old page, add a 301-redirect pointing to the new one. 

Don’t Be Afraid To Try Something New

Search engine optimization is a constantly shifting landscape. Changing trends can change how people interact with your website.

As algorithms change and new technologies emerge, your strategy needs to evolve. 

There has never been, and probably never will be, “set it and forget it” search engine optimization. It will always require forward-thinkers and people willing to experiment to find new ways to get their websites to the top of the rankings. 

Who says you can’t be one of them? Someone had to be the first to figure out that keyword stuffing helped rankings, and someone else had to figure out when it stopped working.

If you’re willing to experiment and try new things, you may find the next brilliant new strategy. Just don’t forget to share it with us.

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Gen Z Ditches Google, Turns To Reddit For Product Searches

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In this photo illustration, the Reddit logo is displayed on a smartphone screen.

A new report from Reddit, in collaboration with GWI and AmbassCo, sheds light on the evolving search behaviors of Generation Z consumers.

The study surveyed over 3,000 internet users across the UK, US, and Germany, highlighting significant changes in how young people discover and research products online.

Here’s an overview of key findings and the implications for marketers.

Decline In Traditional Search

The study found that Gen Z uses search engines to find new brands and products less often.

That’s because they shop online differently. They’re less interested in looking for expert reviews or spending much time searching for products.

There are also frustrations with mobile-friendliness and complex interfaces on traditional search platforms.

Because of this, traditional SEO strategies might not work well for reaching younger customers.

Takeaway

Companies trying to reach Gen Z might need to try new methods instead of just focusing on being visible on Google and other search engines.

Rise Of Social Media Discovery

Screenshot from Reddit study titled: “From search to research: How search marketers can keep up with Gen Z.”, June 2024.

Gen Z is increasingly using social media to find new brands and products.

The study shows that Gen Z has used social media for product discovery 36% more frequently since 2018.

This change is affecting how young people shop online. Instead of searching for products, they expect brands to appear in their social media feeds.

1719123963 547 Gen Z Ditches Google Turns To Reddit For Product SearchesScreenshot from Reddit study titled: “From search to research: How search marketers can keep up with Gen Z.”, June 2024.

Because of this, companies trying to reach young customers need to pay more attention to how they present themselves on social media.

Takeaway

To succeed at marketing to Gen Z, businesses will likely need to focus on two main things:

  1. Ensure that your content appears more often in social media feeds.
  2. Create posts people want to share and interact with.

Trust Issues With Influencer Marketing

Even though more people are finding products through social media, the report shows that Gen Z is less likely to trust what social media influencers recommend.

These young shoppers often don’t believe in posts that influencers are paid to make or products they promote.

Instead, they prefer to get information from sources that feel more real and are driven by regular people in online communities.

Takeaway

Because of this lack of trust, companies must focus on being genuine and building trust when they try to get their websites to appear in search results or create ads.

Some good ways to connect with these young consumers might be to use content created by regular users, encourage honest product reviews, and create authentic conversations within online communities.

Challenges With Current Search Experiences

The research shows that many people are unhappy with how search engines work right now.

More than 60% of those surveyed want search results to be more trustworthy. Almost half of users don’t like looking through many search result pages.

Gen Z is particularly bothered by inaccurate information and unreliable reviews.

1719123963 785 Gen Z Ditches Google Turns To Reddit For Product SearchesScreenshot from Reddit study titled: “From search to research: How search marketers can keep up with Gen Z.”, June 2024.

Takeaway

Given the frustration with search quality, marketers should prioritize creating accurate, trustworthy content.

This can help build brand credibility, leading to more direct visits.

Reddit: A Trusted Alternative

The report suggests that Gen Z trusts Reddit when looking up products—it’s their third most trusted source, after friends and family and review websites.

1719123963 403 Gen Z Ditches Google Turns To Reddit For Product SearchesScreenshot from Reddit study titled: “From search to research: How search marketers can keep up with Gen Z.”, June 2024.

Young users like Reddit because it’s community-based and provides specific answers to users’ questions, making it feel more real.

It’s worth noting that this report comes from Reddit itself, which probably influenced why it’s suggesting its own platform.

Takeaway

Companies should focus more on being part of smaller, specific online groups frequented by Gen Z.

That could include Reddit or any other forum.

Why SEJ Cares

As young people change how they look for information online, this study gives businesses important clues about connecting with future customers.

Here’s what to remember:

  • Traditional search engine use is declining among Gen Z.
  • Social media is increasingly vital for product discovery.
  • There’s growing skepticism towards influencer marketing.
  • Current search experiences often fail to meet user expectations.
  • Community-based platforms like Reddit are gaining trust.

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Google Clarifies Organization Merchant Returns Structured Data

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Google updates organization structured data for merchant returns

Google quietly updated their organization structured data documentation in order to clarify two points about merchant returns in response to feedback about an ambiguity in the previous version.

Organization Structured Data and Merchant Returns

Google recently expanded their Organization structured data so that it could now accommodate a merchant return policy. The change added support for adding a sitewide merchant return policy.

The original reason for adding this support:

“Adding support for Organization-level return policies

What: Added documentation on how to specify a general return policy for an Organization as a whole.

Why: This makes it easier to define and maintain general return policies for an entire site.”

However that change left unanswered about what will happen if a site has a sitewide return policy but also has a different policy for individual products.

The clarification applies for the specific scenario of when a site uses both a sitewide return policy in their structured data and another one for specific products.

What Takes Precedence?

What happens if a merchant uses both a sitewide and product return structured data? Google’s new documentation states that Google will ignore the sitewide product return policy in favor of a more granular product-level policy in the structured data.

The clarification states:

“If you choose to provide both organization-level and product-level return policy markup, Google defaults to the product-level return policy markup.”

Change Reflected Elsewhere

Google also updated the documentation to reflect the scenario of the use of two levels of merchant return policies in another section that discusses whether structured data or merchant feed data takes precedence. There is no change to the policy, merchant center data still takes precedence.

This is the old documentation:

“If you choose to use both markup and settings in Merchant Center, Google will only use the information provided in Merchant Center for any products submitted in your Merchant Center product feeds, including automated feeds.”

This is the same section but updated with additional wording:

“If you choose to use both markup (whether at the organization-level or product-level, or both) and settings in Merchant Center, Google will only use the information provided in Merchant Center for any products submitted in your Merchant Center product feeds, including automated feeds.”

Read the newly updated Organization structured data documentation:

Organization (Organization) structured data – MerchantReturnPolicy

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What Is It & How To Write It

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What Is It & How To Write It

In this guide, you will learn about alternative text (known as alt text): what it is, why it is important for on-page SEO, how to use it correctly, and more.

It’s often overlooked, but every image on your website should have alt text. More information is better, and translating visual information into text is important for search engine bots attempting to understand your website and users with screen readers.

Alt text is one more source of information that relates ideas and content together on your website.

This practical and to-the-point guide contains tips and advice you can immediately use to improve your website’s image SEO and accessibility.

What Is Alt Text?

Alternative text (or alt text) – also known as the alt attribute or the alt tag (which is not technically correct because it is not a tag) – is simply a piece of text that describes the image in the HTML code.

What Are The Uses Of Alt Text?

The original function of alt text was simply to describe an image that could not be loaded.

Many years ago, when the internet was much slower, alt text would help you know the content of an image that was too heavy to be loaded in your browser.

Today, images rarely fail to load – but if they do, then it is the alt text you will see in place of an image.

Screenshot from Search Engine Journal, May 2024

Alt text also helps search engine bots understand the image’s content and context.

More importantly, alt text is critical for accessibility and for people using screen readers:

  • Alt text helps people with disabilities (for example, using screen readers) learn about the image’s content.

Of course, like every element of SEO, it is often misused or, in some cases, even abused.

Let’s now take a closer look at why alt text is important.

Why Alt Text Is Important

The web and websites are a very visual experience. It is hard to find a website without images or graphic elements.

That’s why alt text is very important.

Alt text helps translate the image’s content into words, thus making the image accessible to a wider audience, including people with disabilities and search engine bots that are not clever enough yet to fully understand every image, its context, and its meaning.

Why Alt Text Is Important For SEO

Alt text is an important element of on-page SEO optimization.

Proper alt text optimization makes your website stand a better chance of ranking in Google image searches.

Yes, alt text is a ranking factor for Google image search.

Depending on your website’s niche and specificity, Google image search traffic may play a huge role in your website’s overall success.

For example, in the case of ecommerce websites, users very often start their search for products with a Google image search instead of typing the product name into the standard Google search.

Screenshot from search for [Garmin forerunner]Screenshot from search for [Garmin forerunner], May 2024

Google and other search engines may display fewer product images (or not display them at all) if you fail to take care of their alt text optimization.

Without proper image optimization, you may lose a lot of potential traffic and customers.

Why Alt Text Is Important For Accessibility

Visibility in Google image search is very important, but there is an even more important consideration: Accessibility.

Fortunately, in recent years, more focus has been placed on accessibility (i.e., making the web accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities and/or using screen readers).

Suppose the alt text of your images actually describes their content instead of, for example, stuffing keywords. In that case, you are helping people who cannot see this image better understand it and the content of the entire web page.

Let’s say one of your web pages is an SEO audit guide that contains screenshots from various crawling tools.

Would it not be better to describe the content of each screenshot instead of placing the same alt text of “SEO audit” into every image?

Let’s take a look at a few examples.

Alt Text Examples

Finding many good and bad examples of alt text is not difficult. Let me show you a few, sticking to the above example with an SEO audit guide.

Good Alt Text Examples

So, our example SEO guide contains screenshots from tools such as Google Search Console and Screaming Frog.

Some good examples of alt text may include:

”The
”Google
”List
”Screaming

Tip: It is also a good idea to take care of the name of your file. Using descriptive file names is not a ranking factor, but I recommend this as a good SEO practice.

Bad And/Or Spammy Alt Text Examples

I’ve also seen many examples of bad alt text use, including keyword stuffing or spamming.

Here is how you can turn the above good examples into bad examples:

”google search console coverage report
”google
”seo
”seo

As you can see, the above examples do not provide any information on what these images actually show.

You can also find examples and even more image SEO tips on Google Search Central.

Common Alt Text Mistakes

Stuffing keywords in the alt text is not the only mistake you can make.

Here are a few examples of common alt text mistakes:

  • Failure to use the alt text or using empty alt text.
  • Using the same alt text for different images.
  • Using very general alt text that does not actually describe the image. For example, using the alt text of “dog” on the photo of a dog instead of describing the dog in more detail, its color, what it is doing, what breed it is, etc.
  • Automatically using the name of the file as the alt text – which may lead to very unfriendly alt text, such as “googlesearchconsole,” “google-search-console,” or “photo2323,” depending on the name of the file.

Alt Text Writing Tips

And finally, here are the tips on how to write correct alt text so that it actually fulfills its purpose:

  • Do not stuff keywords into the alt text. Doing so will not help your web page rank for these keywords.
  • Describe the image in detail, but still keep it relatively short. Avoid adding multiple sentences to the alt text.
  • Use your target keywords, but in a natural way, as part of the image’s description. If your target keyword does not fit into the image’s description, don’t use it.
  • Don’t use text on images. All text should be added in the form of HTML code.
  • Don’t write, “this is an image of.” Google and users know that this is an image. Just describe its content.
  • Make sure you can visualize the image’s content by just reading its alt text. That is the best exercise to make sure your alt text is OK.

How To Troubleshoot Image Alt Text

Now you know all the best practices and common mistakes of alt text. But how do you check what’s in the alt text of the images of a website?

You can analyze the alt text in the following ways:

Inspecting an element (right-click and select Inspect when hovering over an image) is a good way to check if a given image has alt text.

However, if you want to check that in bulk, I recommend one of the below two methods.

Install Web Developer Chrome extension.

Screenshot of Web Developer Extension in Chrome by authorScreenshot from Web Developer Extension, Chrome by author, May 2024

Next, open the page whose images you want to audit.

Click on Web Developer and navigate to Images > Display Alt Attributes. This way, you can see the content of the alt text of all images on a given web page.

The alt text of images is shown on the page.Screenshot from Web Developer Extension, Chrome by author, May 2024

How To Find And Fix Missing Alt Text

To check the alt text of the images of the entire website, use a crawler like Screaming Frog or Sitebulb.

Crawl the site, navigate to the image report, and review the alt text of all website images, as shown in the video guide below.

You can also export only images that have missing alt text and start fixing those issues.

Alt Text May Not Seem Like A Priority, But It’s Important

Every source of information about your content has value. Whether it’s for vision-impaired users or bots, alt text helps contextualize the images on your website.

While it’s only a ranking factor for image search, everything you do to help search engines understand your website can potentially help deliver more accurate results. Demonstrating a commitment to accessibility is also a critical component of modern digital marketing.

FAQ

What is the purpose of alt text in HTML?

Alternative text, or alt text, serves two main purposes in HTML. Its primary function is to provide a textual description of an image if it cannot be displayed. This text can help users understand the image content when technical issues prevent it from loading or if they use a screen reader due to visual impairments. Additionally, alt text aids search engine bots in understanding the image’s subject matter, which is critical for SEO, as indexing images correctly can enhance a website’s visibility in search results.

Can alt text improve website accessibility?

Yes, alt text is vital for website accessibility. It translates visual information into descriptive text that can be read by screen readers used by users with visual impairments. By accurately describing images, alt text ensures that all users, regardless of disability, can understand the content of a web page, making the web more inclusive and accessible to everyone.

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