Search Optimization and Core Web Vitals

Search Optimization and Core Web Vitals blog image

Posted: April 5th, 2023

Key Takeaways

  • What is Website Optimization
  • On-Page Optimization
  • Off-Page Optimization
  • Core Web Vitals
  • SEO Tools

What is Website Optimization

This article is a continuation of our article: How to Optimize your Website for Search Engine Optimization. That article outlined Search Engine Optimization factors, determinants, and best practices. This article hopes to emphasize specifically on optimizations that can be performed on and off your website to raise your SEO ranking. 

Website optimization, in this sense, relates to ways that you can optimize your website both internally and externally, while also focusing on the user experience using Core Web Vitals to measure how easy your site is to load, navigate, and access content.

On-Page Optimization

Before you touch any code or modify any keywords, you need to determine what exactly you hope to achieve. The first step involves finding the keywords that you hope to incorporate and optimize for. Doing so, you are able to find what your users are likely typing into search engines in order to find your content.

1. SEO Keyword Research

Each page of your website should be aimed at targeting different keyword clusters in order to prevent them from competing with each other. To find the best keywords for your business to focus on, you might try the following:

  1. Brainstorm: Start out by writing down everything you can think of, the words and phrases that the people you hope to reach might be typing into google to find your content. It is a good idea to try to understand their demographics, interests, needs, goals, and so forth in order to best satisfy their needs. The way they express these questions might also be different to how you might, so this might need to be considered. For example, if you are a doctor, you are likely to type specific names of ailments or medications, whereas your clientele may search simplified terms such as 'knee pain', and so forth. Knowing how your intended audience thinks is key to making good keywords to reach them.
  2. Keyword Research Tool: After brainstorming, plug what you can into a keyword research tool. Google, conveniently, has their own Keyword Planner, that you can use to expound on the ideas of these keywords as well as see the traffic associated with them. This allows you to see terms you might be able to compete with other businesses over if the search volume is particularly low, allowing you to fill certain niche interests.
  3. Organize and Prioritize: Take your results from the Keyword Research and sort them in a list. The best way is in some kind of spreadsheet. Google Sheets is free, but Excel is just as good. Your job here is to determine what search terms have a high-enough search volume to aim for. The idea here is that you don't want to necessarily focus on the highest search volume terms as you are unlikely to show up on the first few pages, especially early on. Instead, break into the less-common terms in order to rank higher on google and build your ranking. 

2. Create Good Content that utilizes these Keywords

The main navigation pages of your website should target keywords, but the majority of your targeting should come from what is called 'long-form' content in the form of blog posts. We will break down some ways to do this, but we've also written an article entitled 8 Benefits of Blogging for your Small Business that you might find interesting. Specifically, good SEO content:

  1. Maximizes the Keywords purpose: Keywords are more than simply writing empty phrases on a page, they need to provide answers, content, that matches the content the client is searching for. 
  2. Gives the user a positive experience: Nothing turns away a potential customer like slow, or difficult content. Pages with excessive pop-ups, ads, and distractions can diminish the client experience. Load times are covered more in the Technical SEO Optimization section later.
  3. Is easy to read: The goal of your content is to help your customer find what they are looking for. This might be information, products, or services. Write for your audience, not for the content. Making your content hard to read also acts against you and goes against the positive experience.
  4. Is Organized: The information on your page should be organized into a logical hierarchy using correct heading tags and layout. You will find a similar heading structure on this page where the main heading is a H1, On-Page and Off-Page (etc.) are H2, and the sub headings inside of On-Page Optimization are a H3. This is a good logical structure.
  5. Doesn't stuff Keywords: The desire to maximize keyword usage can give rise to a bad tactic known as 'keyword stuffing'. Keyword stuffing is the act of using an excessive amount of keywords in the attempt to raise rankings. Unfortunately, many search engines are aware of this tactic and will rank you negatively for it.
  6. Is Packed with Content: Low quality, short content ranks against you. Good quality SEO content on a page should fall between 1,500-2,500 words of up to date, accurate information that answers the needs of your intended audience.

3. Keyword Placement

To tell Google what you're trying to rank for, in addition to naturally including your keyword in the body of your content, you'll want to place it in a few key locations on the page. Locations may include the following:

  1. Title Tag of your Website (Also known as SEO title)
  2. Page Title (H1), and a minimum of H2 headings on the page.
  3. Meta description of the website/pages
  4. Image Filenames and alt text for images
  5. As part of the URL (eg. /blog/the-name-of-your-article)
  6. Throughout the body of your pages.

4. Optimize your Titles

As you may note in the Keyword Placement section, the Page Title (H1) and Title Tag (SEO Title) can be different, and as such you can make these pages different as best suits the needs of the page you are on. For good keyword placement, make sure you:

  1. Include the Keyword: Do this in as natural a way as possible with some related content if you can.
  2. Use only one H1 per page: The H1 heading should be used as the main heading of the page, and so if you need more than one, you may need to separate content to separate pages. Page sections should be separated by h2 tags.
  3. Try to keep title tags less than 60 characters: What is shown in Google will depend on the screen size that is displaying the search result, meaning you should consider how your content will fit in a search result.
  4. Sell the Message: Not only is it important to get your keyword to fit, but it also matters why that is significant to the user. What do they get out of coming to your site over another one? What makes your site better than another site? What will keep them reading? These are all things to consider when crafting your titles and content.

5. Optimize Meta Descriptions

The sentence that follows the title tag on the desired search engine results page is known as the meta description. It's still important to optimize for SEO even though search engines like Google frequently build their own instead of using the one you've provided. When crawling the page, web crawlers read this description to determine what your page is about. This description can be optimized in the following ways:

  1. Keep it Short: Similar to the Titles above, if used by search engines, this section should be no more than 165 characters in length.
  2. Include the Keyword: Same as with titles, keywords are important here to support your pages by telling users/crawlers what they will find on the page.
  3. Sell the Message: Give people a reason to click, give them a clear benefit and reason to visit the page, as well as a call to action.

6. Include, and optimize, images

Images are an important component of SEO optimization. They increase the information quality, keep visitors on your pages longer, and give you the chance to rank and drive traffic to the pages where they are hosted. Optimization of images can be done as follows:

  1. Utilize Filenames: Express your keyword in the filename. Use dashes instead of spaces to separate the words.
  2. Alt Text: Alt text is an image's text alternative, and it is how search engines are able to 'see' an image on a page and determine the relevance it has to the keyword. It also makes your site more accessible to screen readers, and if images break, the alt text remains visible. Don't keyword anything here. Consider describing the image to someone who cannot see it.
  3. Optimize Image Formats: There are a number of great options for image formats that are optimized for web. WebP is a great example of one and there are numerous online tools that can help you optimize images for Web. Larger images force your page to load slower, do what you can to optimize the sizes and formats of your files to work best online!

7. Internal and External Linking

You should incorporate both internal and external links when optimizing for SEO in blog posts.

  1. For internal Links, in the body of the post you are writing, include links to other blog posts on your website. This gives Google several ways to reach any given post, making your site easier for search engines to crawl overall. Depending on how long the post is and how much other content you have available to link to, you should decide how many to include here. Make sure the links are pertinent to the page and the anchor text you are using. 
  2. For external Links, locate 1-3 pages that are pertinent to the topic you're addressing on other websites with high domain authority and link to them in your post. This promotes trust with Google.

Off-Page Optimization

The aforementioned actions are all on-page SEO techniques. On the other hand, off-page SEO refers to the activities you carry out on other pages of your website, other websites, and even other platforms to support the ranking of your page. These are a few off-page SEO strategies.

1. Utilizing Backlinks

The third most significant Google ranking factor is backlinks, or links to your website from other websites. Naturally, backlinks from websites with a higher reputation are more valuable than those from websites with a lower reputation. You will rank higher the more high-quality backlinks you have.

How can you then acquire more backlinks? MonsterInsights provides an excellent guide on this, in which they outline the following methods:

  1. Find Backlink Opportunities with Top Referral Sources: This refers to websites that can link to your content and offer you a backlink.
  2. Use outbound Links to form Partnerships: If you find yourself linking to another company a lot, reach out to them for partnership. If they agree, you can build each other's back links by referencing each other.
  3. Use Google Search Console Reports to get Backlinks: The Google Search Console, a free google tool for analyzing site data, provides something called the Top Linking Sites report, which shows what sites link to your content. This provides opportunities for you if you reach out to them with relevant content.
  4. See what your competitors are doing: How are your competitors getting backlinks? Maybe you can get some of these same backlinks? There are a number of tools available to 'spy' on your competition to see what they are doing. One example is a tool called 'Semrush'.
  5. Creating genuine, original content deserving of links. This is covered a lot in: On-Page Optimization #2 above.
  6. Produce Extensive Guides: The benefit of a long blog or article is that it provides numerous opportunities to link to and from and therefore can provide a lot of weight in SEO, internal linking, backlinks, etc. It can provide a good quality source of information that other companies might reference.
  7. Use good quality Infographics: Your high-quality infographics might be referenced by other creators and provide opportunities for you in that way.
  8. Write Testimonials for other sites: Doing so, you can receive backlinks in exchange.
  9. Participate in different forums that might be relevant to your content. 

2. Share your content on Social Media

In social media profiles, you should link to your homepage as well as share your blog posts frequently with your feed. You receive referral traffic as a result, and the more people who view a post, the greater the likelihood that backlinks will develop. Social media by itself does not directly affect your Search Engine ranking, but your activity on the platforms and the interaction users have with your content there do send social signals that do.

3. Grow your Brand Reputation

Search Engines don't just focus on that one page when deciding how highly to rank a particular page on your website. It considers your brand as a whole by examining additional online data about it, such as reviews, ratings, listings, accolades, and even unrelated brand mentions. Therefore, improving your brand's reputation through listing optimization, receiving favorable press coverage, and requesting reviews is crucial for SEO. While local SEO accounts for much of this, there are many brand-building techniques that also apply to online businesses.

Core-Web Vitals

Core Web Vitals are page experience indicators that assess a website's user experience. These signals gauge how quickly users can interact with your website and the quality of the results they will get. These indicators gauge how simple it is for users to use the website. Your page experience scores will increase if you enhance user experience and make your website better overall.

Mentioned briefly in How to optimize your website for search engines, the three core metrics are as follows:

  1. Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): This gauges how quickly a website's largest element—such as its images, videos, animations, text, etc.—can load and appear.
  2. Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): This guarantees that a website's pages are free of abrupt, perplexing transitions that might distract users from reading the content.
  3. First Input Delay (FID): The first time a user interacts with a website, this demonstrates how responsive your pages are. Additionally, it gauges how quickly a user can interact with the page.

You should perform a quick test of website performance analysis to see how well your website functions in terms of core web essentials. Use Google's Search Console, Page Speed Insights, and other tools like Lighthouse to achieve this. To improve your Core Web Vitals, you should consider some of the following:

1. Reduce JavaScript Execution

if the FID score on your report is low. You should consider reducing and simplifying your JS execution. There will be less time between when your browser runs the JS code and when the page loads as a result.

It's also essential to use as little memory as possible. Why? When your site's code asks the browser, JavaScript is stopped and the page might load slowly. According to Google, one way to reduce execution is to defer unused JS.

You should begin to reduce the amount of unused JS as soon as you become aware of it. Code splitting is one method you can use to accomplish this. This refers to breaking up a single JavaScript bundle into smaller pieces in order to reduce the number of HTTP requests necessary to load a page.

2. Utilize Lazy Loading of Images

Lazy loading must be used if you display images on your website to prevent damage to your site's user experience and core web vitals score. By preserving the website's loading speed and maximizing your LCP score, lazy loading enables loading images at the precise moment that users scroll down the page.

Lazy loading would be required for pages with lots of images, animations, or videos. The best pages to implement lazy loading on are not predetermined, though. Therefore, if your site has a low LCP score, you should think about implementing lazy loading and comparing the results.

3. Optimize Images

Images make up the bulk of many websites. Therefore, it's essential to optimize them since doing so can make your page noticeably slimmer, which will improve its loading speed, LCP score, user experience, and search engine rankings.

Perhaps you believe that image compression will reduce image resolution or quality. Typically, only a close-up view or an image saved in the incorrect format will reveal a difference. For graphics, always try to use png and try to use jpg for landscape images. You can also use next-generation formats like WebP, JPEG 2000, or JPEG XR, but we advise doing some research first.

In addition to compression, turning on the Content Delivery Network (CDN) for images is crucial. Your content is stored on a network of servers spread out across the globe by a CDN. Images can be served more quickly from the server closest to users because servers are dispersed across many different locations.

4. Use the correct dimensions for Images and embedded content

A poor CLS score is one that is over 0.1, and it is typically brought on by components such as images, ads, or embeds that lack measurements in the CSS file. Dimensions do matter if you want to raise your CLS rating. Setting the correct width and height ensures that the browser allots the appropriate amount of space on the page where the component loads.

When embedding YouTube videos into your website, be sure to set the appropriate dimensions. The video may appear fine by default from the back end, but it may appear enormous or distorted in the front end. If so, there is a problem with the dimensions, and you should adjust them.

5. Improve Server Response Time

Long server response times can have a negative impact on both UX and SEO.

Utilize Time to First Byte (TTFB), which indicates the moment the user's browser acquires the very first byte of your page's content, to gauge server response time.

To gauge your performance, gather information on your server's present performance before you begin. Following completion of the report, consider the following advice:

  1. Check your web hosting's speed.
  2. Use a CDN like Cloudflare to deliver your content.
  3. If you are using a CMS, look over your plugins. If we build your site, this is a non-issue. The performance of your site may suffer as a result of each plugin's additional weight on your page. Leave only those who are necessary.

Summing up

Keep in mind that the back end of your website interacts with the front end, so make sure the back end is optimized to provide an optimal user experience in terms of page load time, visual reliability, and responsiveness. Additionally, remembering Google's existing search signals—mobile friendliness, safe browsing, HTTPS, and restrictions on intrusive interstitial—would be beneficial.

Last Modified: May 4th, 2024

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