Making friends with expert SEO recommendations is a milestone for building a successful online product. Whether your goal is to create a robust company website, a SaaS web app, or a complex e-commerce site, you need to embrace search engine optimization. Before you team-up with a software house to discuss your project, it’s best to take a deep dive into designing and developing guidelines in terms of SEO.
Implementing SEO strategy is more than just a digital mantra. It also reaches beyond creating compelling content to rank high in search engines. Although conquering Google’s RankBrain algorithm plays a huge role in gaining more valuable traffic to your website, this article is more about the technology itself.
If you get professionals to take care of your online product and build your website or app from scratch, you need to know the answers to below questions.
Let’s pull back the curtain:
How to work with developers to implement SEO recommendations?
In other words, what are the most common requirements for developers and designers? What are the SEO techniques they need to get onboard?
First and foremost, the unique, differentiated, and valuable content is a must. Why? Because Google will verify your website, and that process will mainly rely on the content you will embed on each page. For instance, if two (or more) pages with different URLs within your site’s architecture, will share the same content, search engine robots will classify them as duplicate ones.
As soon as that happens:
You will have to face unpleasant consequences that can affect your digital business. The most important one – the website will drop down in SERPs because robots will decrease its value.
Although some developers have tried tricks to outsmart the algorithms, you can’t take them seriously. Search engines have become more intelligent and resistant to hiding content gimmicks.
“Sometimes decisions makers want to pack a page with loads of information, but not necessarily make it visible for the users” – admits Sandra Ptaszek, Front-end Developer at DeSmart. “In that scenario, developers try some old tricks with hiding content inside the code and mask it at the same time with the help of code styles. Unfortunately, it won’t do the trick – you can’t fool search engine robot just like that.” – says Sandra.
Luckily, there’s a solution:
On-Page SEO: What is rel=canonical and why should you use it?
For many website owners, content duplication restrictions are more than annoying. It’s doubtful to skip the problem, especially when it comes to e-commerce sites. To improve the findability of their products, online shops have to sort and filter them.
How to cope with duplication?
“This is when the rel=canonical tag comes in handy” – says Wojciech Władziński, Head of SEO at SEOgroup company. “This SEO technique is significant because the meta tag tells the search engine that a certain URL is an original, canonical link. Thanks to rel=canonical, Google robots will be able to go through the duplicated pages and to highlight the original one. As a result, a relevant page will be displayed in search results.” – Wojciech Władziński convinces.
In other words:
Google will be able to determine which page to display in search. Thanks to the rel=canonical tag, we make it crystal clear to which URL we will assign all our SEO activities.
Moreover, Google won’t be indexing additional and unnecessary resources on our page. If we decide not to use rel=canonical, however, the additional resources might harm our search ranks.
How to design an SEO-friendly website structure?
Meaning – how do web development and app building look from the SEO perspective? What do you need to bear in mind in terms of search engine friendly designing and developing?
Here it goes:
The fundamentals of building web applications are about using appropriate HTML tags. With the help of those, we can provide essential information about how to display our page, and which section of our page is the most important.
Year after year, we have been reinforcing our dev arsenal with different weapons for dealing with search engine robots. For instance, thanks to the microdata available in Schema web vocabulary, robots can learn more about the page content. In practice, we can enrich a page’s content with additional information, without presenting it on-site.
But it doesn’t end here:
Another crucial aspect of SEO-friendly web development is making sure the content to be correctly rendered, indexed, and ranked in search results. To deliver that, we need to embrace the SSR approach. Server-Side Rendering is a traditional rendering solution which enables us to boost the process of reading our pages by search engines.
The last element that will be a milestone for your SEO strategy is creating a sitemap. Basically, it’s an XML or HTML file consisting of all the links available within your web app. This file forms an actual map of your website. Why do you need a sitemap? Again, it’s about seizing the search engine beasts. Having a sitemap will help them to index our pages more efficiently. To achieve the best results, you need to power up the file with additional information about the links. This trick will let robots analyze your web app easily.
Why dedicated software has to bow in front of search engines?
We cannot separate the process of building a dedicated software from working with search engines. Why? Because the Internet is literally bombing us with tons of incentives. The human brain needs to defend itself by filtering valuable information from rubbish.
So do search engines. They need to select the most relevant websites and match them to searched keywords and phrases.
How does it affect building software products?
“There was a time when web applications’ content was interpreted as a sequence of characters, and that was a basis to sort them in SERPs.” – admits Sandra Ptaszek. – “Whereas today, we are armed with more tools to influence search engines and make them interpret our web apps the way we want to. More precisely we describe, tag, and index our website, the higher search results it will generate.”
Businesswise, you need to take a lot of effort to cut through the clutter. With loads of apps and websites in the Internet stratosphere, standing out from the crowd is not easy. Especially with a brand-new software.
The way to achieve success with launching an online product is to gain traffic to your website. It’s a starting point to convert prospects into leads, and then – leads into customers. One of the most decisive sources of traffic is search engines and Google in particular.
“According to reports, search engine marketing (SEM) has one of the biggest ROI (Return on Investment), which proofs the significance of SEO strategy and investing in paid campaigns” – says Wojciech Władziński from SEOgroup. – “Moreover, it’s a wise move to allocate money and efforts to produce content which will precisely answer the questions asked by your future clients.”
Here’s the bottom line:
When we talk about working with search engines, it’s impossible to skip the page load time aspect. It has an immense influence on, both, how your page will be displayed in search, and how users will react to it.
With the crazy pace, we all have to deal with, Internet users are running short of time. Meaning – they also lose their patience in seconds. If your page is loading slowly, they will abandon the process before anything comes up on the site. If you lose them there, you will lose them for good.
“In the recent Google’s survey, nearly half of the respondents have agreed about the most annoying thing about Internet surfing on mobile devices. What drives them crazy is the long page load time. 60% of users expect a mobile site to load during the first 3 seconds. If that time is longer than 5 seconds, 75% of users declare to bounce from the site” – says Wojciech Władziński.
How is the marriage of SEO and UX for mutual reinforcement?
From drawing a mock-up up to a detailed project, UX design is hard to overestimate with regards to search engine optimization. How can website design affect SEO?
As we highlighted before, optimized page load time is paramount. When it loads quickly, the user will see it immediately, and so will the search engine. Remember to test the mobile version as well.
What also affects how much traffic you’ll get from search, is top navigation and footer navigation. Wrong structure of internal links can hurt your SEO.
Also, being cheesy with naming those links is also the thing you need to avoid – how many “products,” “features,” “solutions” have you seen? And how about “read more”? Are they persuasive? Hardly.
Good UX practice is to:
- Name the internal links intuitively, with the correct description. Users need to understand them in seconds, and robots have to interpret them correctly.
- Create striking headlines. This is where UX meets SEO and copywriting. Good H1, H2, H3 has a searchable keyword injected in the copy. It’s also best to match a headline with a specific question your future client type into a search field.
- Design a website structure, so that a user won’t have any problems with finding specific information he was looking for. A well-designed structure will help in building a hierarchy, from the most to the least important information. As a result, robots will navigate on our pages in a logical order, and that will enable them to index our website correctly.
- Do your best with designing sign up forms. Make your prospects gravitate to your website is a good start, but it takes more work to convert them into leads and eventually into customers. UX design and e-commerce copywriting play a huge role in creating on-site lead formulas. At the end of the day, it’s a meaningful part of search engine optimization.
“You need to bear in mind, that to be regarded as a reliable brand, you need to secure your website with an SSL certificate, and to format your content according to the latest UX standards.” – says Wojciech Władziński. – “Remember also to run A/B tests to check which element on the page will bring better results. Take your time to set goals and configure events in Google Analytics.”
What are the biggest challenges regarding SEO for e-commerce and marketplaces?
How to start the SEO for an e-commerce website? The potential for e-commerce is still massive, but you need to be aware of what kind of competitors you will have a challenge on the field of search engine results.
Some industries are overloaded with the number of business players trying to rank high on certain phrases. It takes a heck of time and resources to achieve satisfying results when a particular sector is packed with strong competitors.
How can you prepare yourself to combat?
Your SEO strategy should start with serious keyword analysis. There are plenty of services like Answer the Public, BuzzSumo, or Soovle, where you can check your target keywords and most popular questions about them.
However, when it comes to e-commerce web development itself, you need to pay attention to:
- Structure. Online shops categories are very likely to become autonomic pages or landing pages during PPC campaigns. Hence, it is decisive to match them with the actual phrases your future clients use in search to find the product they need.
- Well-designed faceted navigation. As customers, we are usually in a hurry. We expect to find our dream product fast. Otherwise, we are likely to bounce. To do this right and to make our customer hit the buy button, you need to let him filter and sort products on your online shop.
- Descriptions. Categories, subcategories, and product pages can’t live without unique descriptive content. It’s an utterly bad idea to copy/paste the content from the producers’ websites (or any other websites already indexed in search engines). It takes a lot of time and creativity to create unique descriptions, especially when you have hundreds of products in your offer, but it’s definitely worth it.
Structured data. It is a type of code that tells search engines what your content is about. These semantic markups enable robots to crawl on your page and display additional information in search results. In terms of an e-commerce site, it can be the price or a customer rating.
Although implementing these markups is rather complicated, we encourage you to use this structured data testing tool.
- URL parameters. OK, so if you took our advice, and tried filtering products on faceted navigation, you will see that the URL has changed. Different parameters have been added to the address, and they basically tell us what kind of filters you have used.
Here’s an example:
To avoid generating tons of URLs with duplicated content, you need to use the canonical tags.
Ready to put this into action?
Well, that was quite a trip! To wrap things up, here’s a handy SEO checklist. When you build a website or a web application, you need to remember about:
- Unique and valuable content
- The rel=canonical tag to determine the original URL
- SEO-friendly website structure (appropriate HTML tags, Server-Side Rendering approach, and creating a sitemap)
- Fast page load time
- Search engine-friendly UX design (proper internal linking, compelling headlines, correct website structure)
We hope that our complete SEO guidelines will help you to start building an SEO-friendly web application. And most importantly, if you decide to hire a software house to do that on your behalf, you will know what to require from developers and UX designers.
If you have any questions, we will be more than happy to answer them.