Dial In These 4 Parts of Your Website to Boost Your SEO Ranking

A cheatsheet for maximizing your search engine optimization efforts.

Written by Alex Zito-Wolf
Published on Sep. 21, 2022
Dial In These 4 Parts of Your Website to Boost Your SEO Ranking
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SEO, short for search engine optimization, is the process of making your website easy for search engines like Google to find and read. This process should be one of the primary considerations for every modern application developer. If you’re developing a website professionally, SEO makes a huge difference to your company's bottom line.

 

How Search Engines Work

The way that the search ecosystem works is that each major company that has a vested interest in scanning and saving website information (think Google) builds what is called a crawler.

A crawler is a program that scans websites on the internet, saving information about each and every one to a long list called an index. An index is just a giant list of websites and their associated information. An important fact about an index is that it is ranked: Web pages that are higher on an index will land higher on the list of search results when you type in a query.

When you publish your website to the internet, unless you specifically tell them not to, your website will begin to be crawled and saved (indexed) by these companies. You might primarily think about search websites when it comes to SEO, but many companies may be crawling your site (e.g., Pinterest, Facebook, Yelp, and so on). SEO allows any of these crawlers to scan and understand your website.

The four most important indicators of website content and quality that web crawlers use are website structure and content, the detailed index of your site called the sitemap, and the information conveyed in meta tags and structured data.

4 Website Features to Optimize for Search Engine Discoverability

  1. Website structure and content.
  2. A sitemap.
  3. Meta tags.
  4. Structured data.

 

1. Website Structure and Content

Crawlers consider your website’s structure and content the most reliable indicator of the quality of information on the site. The structure of the website, in this context, means the order of the content on the page. Crawlers read your website as a data hierarchy, with larger headers indicating the most general information about your webpage and smaller headers indicating the most specific. For SEO purposes, Google recommends that you structure your content semantically, that is, with the highest level topics first, and topics that are children of those high-level topics nested inside them. You can think of information hierarchy as an ordered list, the following represents a logical information hierarchy:

  • H1: Coffee is Really a Health Drink
    • H2: Positive effects
      • H3: Increased Focus
      • H3: Reduced appetite
    • H2: Negative Effects
      • H3: Can there really not be any?
    • H2: Conclusions

This may seem trivial, but it is a core tenet of information architecture and can have a large effect on your page ranking. Crawlers will reduce your site’s overall credibility if you structure the site in an impossible hierarchy, like writing all of your website content as a top level header. 

More About SEO on BuiltIn.comSEO Content Marketing: How to Set Up a Successful SEO Content Strategy

 

2. A Sitemap

A sitemap is a document that you store on your website's server that shows the crawlers directly all of the constituent pages and their URLs. This tool gives the crawler a chance to scan all of your pages quickly because it will know where they are all located. Google describes how to build a sitemap with the appropriate formatting, and the primary concerns for you as a website owner will be making sure that you adhere to these rules as well as update your sitemap frequently. Though there is not much room for creativity, having and maintaining a sitemap is vitally important for SEO. 

More Expert Advice on SEO on BuiltIn.comIs SEO Worth the Investment?

 

3. Meta Tags

Meta tags are HTML elements that describe information about a web page not related to the page’s visual representation, like the title of the page, the icon that appears next to your website tab, and the website description. A number of meta tags are hugely important to the crawlers that will document your site for search engines and other crawlers.

The most important categories of tags are general and social or sharing tags. General tags are for high-level information about the page, while social media crawlers use social tags to decide what information they should add to their thumbnail images when people share your webpage on those platforms.

  1. General tags: Title, description, language, canonical. These meta tags are fundamental to how search crawlers will read your page. They will tell the crawler in plain English what the content of the page is, who it is written by, and what language it is in.
  2. Social or Sharing tags: og:<…> tags, twitter:<…> tags. These tags are related to the information that populates when you share your content through various mediums.

If you do not specify this meta information, links to your site would not generate an image when shared on social media. One thing to remember, though, is that meta tags are not as important as the quality and structure of your content. Crawlers always weigh content most heavily.

Read More Expert Advice on SEO on BuiltIn.comHow AI SEO Tools Are Changing the Future of Search

 

4. Structured Data

Structured data is a special type of data that primarily helps Google categorize and use the data on your web page by adding extra information to their search cards in what they call rich results sections. These are things like product or recipe lists, product ratings on particular items, and answers to specific questions. 

Structured data is added to your site in a format called ld+json, and might look like this: 

{

      “@type”: “Product”,

      “name”: “Red Couch”,

      “image”: [

        "https://example.com/photos/1x1/photo.jpg"

       ],

      “description”: “Red convey luxury, and this red couch from boutiqueliving™️ has luxury in it’s DNA”,

      “sku”: “0446310786”,

      “mpn”: “925872”,

      “brand”: {

        “@type”: “Brand”,

        “name”: “boutiqueliving”

      },

      “review”: {

        “@type”: “Review”,

        “reviewRating”: {

          “@type”: “Rating”,

          “ratingValue”: “4”,

          “bestRating”: “5”

        },

}

Adding structured data to your website will allow Google to feature your webpage information in the rich results sections and to present product details like price + rating, carousel lists, and article information that will help users sort through your site data.

 

Wrapping up

Like most topics in programming, SEO is a deep subject that goes well beyond a single article’s scope. Moreover, the continuous evolution of the algorithms that search engines use to crawl and rank webpages means it’s a moving target. Still, knowing how SEO works can help you make smarter decisions when you are building or marketing websites, and careful consideration of SEO should be a part of any web project.

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