My take on the best practices followed by SEO market leaders in the industry.
Building a website without SEO is like driving aimless and directionless on the road. In both cases you are just wasting resources without any purpose. Many startups struggle when it comes to SEO and the reason is simple, they either fail to implement SEO right at the beginning or don’t have the right strategy.
We have partnered with many successful startups and entrepreneurs and we have witnessed their growth journey through all stages, right from inception. The key to be successful in the startup arena is to get the basic things right first and SEO is one of them. To help entrepreneurs understand and implement better SEO practices, we hosted Ravi Bhushan Kumar — CPTO (Housing, Makaan & Proptiger), Sitakanta Ray — Founder & CTO (MySmartPrice) and Vikas Rana — CTO (HolidayIQ) , who shared their tried and tested methods to use SEO for a long-term and sustainable growth.
‘If you ever want to hide a dead body, do it in the second page of Google’ this is a very common joke but has a really deeper meaning that makes anyone understand the importance of why website rankability is crucial. While many businesses think that they have understood SEO, yet only few get it right by being able to adopt the best practices. In this blog we will share some of these practices adopted by technology and product leaders, who have in-depth first-hand experience in growing and sustaining organic traffic by adapting to ever changing search algorithms.
If an organization figures out the right SEO practices then it can have 100x organic growth within a year. But instead of going too technical and advanced, it is highly crucial to make sure that the basic elements of SEO are in place first. Things like crawling health, site index, mobile readiness and page performances need to be in order for your website. Searchability is the function of crawlability, indexability and readability.
Getting these things in order resulted into substantial growth within one year for Housing, Makaan & Proptiger websites. Speaking of their growth story, Ravi Bhusan said, “Four to five years ago we got into manual penalty and that time I realized the importance of having organic traffic and getting the basic strategies right helped us. Today we are in the multi million traffic zone with 500 % growth in organic traffic for Makaan.com, 250 % for Housing.com, and 300 % for Proptiger. We also have content platforms for each of these sites, which saw 1000 percent growth.”
Here are few things businesses can’t overlook while optimizing their website for SEO:
Content is Still the King: Everyone knows how important it is to have quality and relevant content, but the crucial thing is to understand how to take maximum advantage of content for growing traffic. Many business are still clueless when it comes to how to create, distribute and interlink content across different sections of the websites. These are the important factors one needs to figure out first. Also, don’t influence the content writer to write SEO content, let him write naturally. Google prefers user generated content compared to automated content. While machine generated content is scalable and suitable for taxonomy pages, user generated content is a big driver of traffic. The key is to have mix of human generated content with machine generated content, this reduces the chances of duplication.
Perfect the User Experience: User experience is what matters the most, otherwise your site won’t sustain ranking in Google. Time on site, bounce rates, overall engagement level, landing experience are important and shouldn’t be ignored. You can build a website with some quick fixes for these things, which will result in spike in traffic but it will be only temporary. No matter how accurate your metas, headers, titles or footers are, Google doesn’t show your page if it don’t match the searcher’s intent.
Milliseconds Matter. According to Google tools, if the page loading time is 3 seconds on a 3G network then it has excellent page performance. But in subsequent phases every milliseconds will get tougher to keep up. Even if you put your effort and improve by few milliseconds, it’s still worth it. Having 2–3 seconds difference from your competition will give you the edge.
Linking is a Beast, Tame it: If you have huge website with content in place then it is important to structure the links in such a way that the Googlebot crawler can make sense of the different sections of the website. Creating a large website with many pages, knowledge repository, content or information set isn’t enough. Interinking is crucial, otherwise you are just creating spaghetti sort of structure.
There are websites with limited pages that have high number of organic traffic just because they have properly aligned content with high volume search keyword. It’s important to have a thematic outcome from different sections so that the Googlebot gets a meaning out of your website.
“MySmartPrice is supposed to have all products available online. However the irony is amongst all our competitors we have the least number of pages indexed. A lot of people think that more pages, more keywords, means more traffic, but I believe that the site size doesn’t matter quality does. Larger sites are better, if you are getting value. Otherwise every additional page will take the value away than adding one,” adds Sitakanta.
Invest in SEO Tools: You need to keep a check on what percentage of your website pages are getting indexed by Google. This data is crucial and will allow you to reverse engineer the pages that are not indexed. But this can’t be done without an in-house system that can capture the bot footprint to measure the faulty behaviour data and understand the trend. Otherwise you will never be able to figure the reasons for not being indexed. For example, sometimes URLs get duplicated and you won’t be able to figure it out. Hence, instead of fully depending on WMT, it is important to have your own tools for log analysis and management. Google Webmaster will give you some glimpse, but never expose the entire universal data. You can get signals from them but you need to work on that and get full details using your own tools.
Mobile-First: It would be catastrophic if you prioritize desktop over mobile. Today, more than 70 percent of your traffic comes from mobile platform. Google is shifting their focus to mobile first indexing and all the tools that are getting released from their side is giving this clear indication. Hence, whenever you think of an SEO strategy, mobile should be the priority.
Isomorphic It: While few years ago single page architecture (SPA) used to be popular, but now developers have moved to isomorphic architecture. In recent times SPAs grew to be more cumbersome, hence developers moved to isomorphic applications that can run on both, server and client side. Also it reduces critical rendering and is more SEO friendly. “We gradually shifted from single page architecture as we realised that it was creating further burden. We had to pre-render the pages, keep the repository and serve fragment pages to Google while we were still on single page architecture,” adds Ravi.
Have a Clear Caching Strategy: Caching can be both good and bad. Premature optimization is the root cause of SEO evil. Hence, It is important to have a clear cut strategy on the server as well as client side for caching. This will drastically reduce the page load time and improve rendering of the page. There are many tools and technologies like CDN, Local Storage, Redis, etc., that are easily available. The technology architect of the company should be clear about the caching and invalidation strategy.
SEO is not tricky once you get the basics right. Businesses need to create proper guidelines for SEO and train the team properly on how to use it. The team needs to learn what is acceptable according to the Google guidelines and what is not. As Vikas says, “A SEO culture needs to be built within the team which supports good quality link building instead of quantity. Pressure regarding growing traffic will be there but SEO needs to be done the right way, the key is to keep the quality in mind.”