You probably don’t need any convincing that digital marketing and SEO are crucial for your business. The internet is where most people go first to find answers to their questions and businesses that can meet their needs. The key is to be the company users find when they are searching for the products or services you provide.
If you are going to rank well in the results for searches relevant to your business in the AEC or interior design industries, you of course are going to need to create great content that meets the needs of your audience. But you also need to pay attention to some behind-the-scenes factors that will affect how Google ranks your content.
We’re going to explore 4 important (though often overlooked) SEO factors that can help make sure your content ranks as highly as possible. Keep reading to find out what you might need to optimize.
Understanding Context: Search Engines
SEO stands for “search engine optimization.” In order to fully understand the SEO factors we’ll be looking at, it would be helpful to start with an overview of how search engines work. If you already have a good handle on this, feel free to skip down to the next section.
We’ll tend to refer specifically to Google since it is by far the largest search provider. But everything we say will apply to Bing, Yahoo, and others as they all function in basically the same way. They crawl, then index, then serve.
Crawling is the process in which the search engine makes its way through websites, examining the content on each page and following the links it finds to discover more pages. The search engines’ crawlers are constantly looking for new content and changes in content previously crawled.
Search engines then index all the content discovered to make the process of accessing it through search as efficient as possible. The programming and engineering involved here is pretty remarkable, if you think about it. It is what allows Google to sift through data pulled from billions of webpages in a fraction of a second.
Caption: 4.5 billion results, delivered in .57 thanks to some killer indexing.
Finally, search engines take all this nicely-organized data and serve results when you enter a search query. Google does its best to rank the results it shows users based upon how relevant and useful those results are likely to be. Most users are going to click on one of the first few results, which is why rank is so important.
Which brings us to some of the factors that affect that ranking.
Most websites have a robots.txt file, whose purpose is to instruct crawlers (also referred to as ‘bots’ or ‘robots’) about how to crawl the site. They could, for instance, tell crawlers to crawl everything, to crawl nothing, or to only crawl certain areas.
From an SEO point of view, what you need to watch out for is to make sure your robots.txt file isn’t blocking crawlers from indexing content that you don’t want to have blocked. If Google can’t crawl your content, it isn’t going to be indexed and therefore isn’t going to show up in search results.
(Technically, a page can still be indexed even if the robots.txt file instructs bots not to. That’s why this isn’t a way to protect sensitive data. But it creates a huge obstacle that you want to avoid.)
We all know what standard search results look like, right? They include a url, a page title, and a brief description:
But have you ever noticed that some results look a bit different? Look, for example, at the search results for “pumpkin pie” below:
Here we can see other elements like a special display type for recipes, an informational sidebar on pumpkin pie, and a rating under the “Perfect Pumpkin Pie Recipe” result. These are all examples of rich results (or rich snippets), which Google creates from special tags that indicate certain kinds of data on a webpage. (These are called “structured data” tags.)
What does this have to do with SEO? These kinds of rich snippets give the user more information, often in a more engaging format. As a result, they tend to be clicked on at a higher rate than regular results. This acts as a signal to the search engines that these pages are more relevant, which will increase their ranking.
A Secure Connection
Security is important on the internet. Given the prevalence of cybercrime, users want to know that they are safe when they are interacting with your site — especially if they are entering sensitive data.
Security matters to Google, too, which is why having an SSL (secure socket layer) certificate for your site is actually a ranking factor. (When a site has this you’ll see the URL begin with HTTPS instead of HTTP.)
Without getting too technical, this means traffic between users of your site and the server hosting it will be encrypted. This ensures that any information passing back and forth cannot be stolen by hackers.
Since this is a ranking factor Google uses, it directly impacts your search rankings. But there is an indirect impact for SEO, too. Have you ever seen this?
That message (along with the caution symbol) will discourage people from engaging with your site. You’ll end up with a higher bounce rate (a bounce is a brief visit where the user doesn’t interact with the page at all), which will signal to Google that your page isn’t useful to users.
Another ranking factor that Google has signaled is increasingly important is site speed. How long does it take for a user visiting your site to be able to see and interact with your content? You probably know from your own experience that if a site loads slowly, you’re not likely to stick around.
Just as with having an SSL certificate, there is an indirect negative impact on your ranking with poor site speed as well. By now, you can probably figure out what it is. A slow-loading site means more bounces, a signal that your site isn’t so useful to visitors.
Curious to know how your site is performing on this metric? Check your desktop and mobile scores in a tool developed by Google.
We’ve looked at four important things to look at when optimizing your website to rank well in search results: Your robots.txt file, rich snippets, SSL, and site speed. There’s much more to SEO, like keywords, of course. Check out this post on SEO for architects for a look at many other factors those in the AEC and interior design industries should be paying attention to.
SEO is a key aspect of marketing and of building an audience for your brand. But we know it can all sound a bit overwhelming. Frankly, it doesn’t always make sense for a business to try to handle all these details in house.
At Bizop, we partner with design-driven firms to handle their SEO and content needs so they can focus on what they do best. If you’d like to start a conversation about how we can help grow your brand through SEO, get in touch.