To capture customer interest and drive conversions, users must be able to quickly and easily find your site. If they can’t, it doesn’t matter how much time and effort you’ve spent increasing page performance and creating great content — without top-tier search results, your site is effectively invisible.
Competition on SERPs has never been steeper. Google now handles upwards of an estimated 1.2 trillion searches every year — and this number is only going up. So how can companies boost the visibility of their existing content? It all starts with web optimization — tools and techniques designed to get your site indexed by search engines.
In this beginner’s guide, we’ll break down the basics of web optimization, tackle key techniques to improve your rankings, and highlight some of the best tools available to get your site front and center on SERPs.
What is web optimization?
Put simply, web optimization is anything that helps your site get noticed by search engines. This starts with content that appeals to automated search engine “spiders” — pieces of code that comb the web for relevant, keyword-driven content.
But having your page found isn’t enough. Your content must also pass checks for relevance, originality, and even search intent to be consistently displayed as a top result.
SEO solution providers and industry experts have differing ideas about exactly what makes optimization efforts successful — for example, many focus on using targeted keywords to boost your ranking for specific search terms. And while this is both useful and potentially profitable, it’s not enough in isolation.
Effective web optimization requires the re-evaluation of all website components and content to ensure the site as a whole is optimized for search engines.
But what does this look like in practice?
Web Optimization Techniques
Pinpoint your market.
Research your target keywords.
Optimize your content.
Account for user intent.
Improve the user experience.
Speed up your website.
Deliver a seamless mobile experience.
Build better backlinks.
Address image attributes.
Measure and monitor.
Before putting time and effort into SEO and web optimization strategies, it’s critical to define specific outcomes.
Here’s why: The sheer volume of tactics, tools, and techniques available to improve search-friendly design is staggering. By understanding where your website struggles and focusing your efforts to address these shortfalls, you can maximize impact while limiting overall spend.
As a result, the best way to start any website optimization effort is with a complete audit of site performance and pain points. Tools such as Google’s PageSpeed Insights can identify loading and usability issues, while basic keyword research can help determine which terms your target market customers are searching for — and how your site stacks up.
For example, if you run a lawn care business in Detroit, you’ll want a high search ranking for terms like “lawn care Detroit” and “Detroit lawn service.” If searching for those terms doesn’t return your site as a top result, you’ve got work to do.
While there’s no single, standardized solution to optimize your website, there are common techniques. Let's take a look at them below.
1. Pinpoint your market.
Before you can optimize your website, you need to define your target audience. Start by identifying your ideal customer: What products or services are they looking for? How much are they willing to spend? What are their priorities when it comes to contacts, contracts and communications?
Tools like Google Analytics and Facebook Insights can help you learn critical information about your users and create accurate and detailed reader personas.
2. Research your target keywords.
Next, select keywords aligned with your target market and use them to return search engine results. If your site isn’t on the first page, then check out your top competitors. They'll provide key data to help optimize your own content.
Great content relies on relevance. Any blog post, video, podcast, or digital resource you create should be geared toward your target market. But it’s also critical to optimize your content for search engines by adding keyword-based page titles, integrating specific keywords where applicable (and without overstuffing), and developing meta-tags that highlight key concepts.
4. Account for user intent.
Improved, AI-driven analysis now helps companies like Google extrapolate user intent based on their search inquiry and display contextually relevant results. This makes it essential for site owners and operators to think like users rather than marketers when creating and optimizing content.
The best way to account for user intent? Enter your keyword into a search engine and evaluate the results that come up. Then, ensure your content aligns with the intent of these top search results, which Google has deemed relevant.
5. Improve the user experience.
Better user experience means increased satisfaction — and can also impact your search ranking. Improving UX requires you to first understand what your users's challenges, expectations, and goals are. You can gain these insights through interviews, surveys, and user testing.
6. Speed up your website.
Website speed is a critical component of the user experience — on any device. As of 2018, Google began incorporating mobile page speed as a factor in search rankings, making improved performance a factor in favorable results. There are dozens of ways to improve website speed, including using a CDN, reducing redirects, and limiting HTTP requests.
7. Deliver a seamless mobile experience.
Speaking of mobile, your website needs to be optimized for all devices, not just desktops. This is especially true of mobile devices since mobile accounts for more than half of web traffic worldwide. In addition to improving load times, optimizing your website for the mobile experience may require you to:
Condense your menus
Remove popups or interstitials
Make the search box or icon easy to find
Provide filters and sorting options
Place CTAs above the fold
8. Build better backlinks.
Backlinks from other highly-ranked sites can help organically improve your standing in search results. Best bet? Create and submit relevant, market-focused content to industry news or knowledge sites. It’s also a good idea to regularly search for your company or brand name to identify any missing attributions and ask for backlinks to be included.
9. Address image attributes.
Images optimization for web content is also critical. Start by giving your images file names that succinctly describe what they display. Then, do the same for any image alt attributes. When it doubt, err on the side of plain language and straightforward descriptions — superfluous image details can result in penalties to your overall ranking.
10. Measure and monitor.
Effective optimization requires ongoing measurement and monitoring to ensure long-term ROI. Here’s why: As customer preferences evolve, top keywords change and search engines shift their focus. Regular evaluation of SEO efforts helps keep your optimization strategy on track.
Compressing your images — while maintaining image quality as much as possible — is a crucial component to any broader web optimization strategy. Even if you spend hours optimizing every other facet of your site, if your image file sizes are too large, they'll slow down your site's overall load time — and visitors won't wait around for them to load before bouncing.
To learn more about compressing images, check out our post on the subject here.
Web Optimization Tools
While the right techniques can help boost the impact of your site’s content and marketing campaigns, the right tools can help streamline the process and give your team more time to focus on what matters — building your brand.
With hundreds of tools now available both free and for-pay, we’ve compiled a list of useful options to help your site maximize optimization efforts.
HubSpot's CMS Hub is a feature-rich solution with optimization tools for marketers, developers, and IT teams alike. These tools include built-in SEO recommendations, adaptive testing, and contact attribution reporting. Optimized web pages can be easily created, managed, and personalized for different visitors and modified to suit specific device types or conversion objectives.
Moz uses multiple data sources to see how your local business listings are performing across the web. Designed for companies with brick-and-mortar storefronts, Moz shows how your listings compare and offers suggestions to help correct inaccurate data or supply more detailed, SEO-friendly information. Basic Moz checks are free, while more in-depth results come with a monthly fee.
If you want to know how your site is performing across the world’s biggest search network, start with Google Analytics. This free tool provides both critical site metrics and actionable data about user behavior at scale to help better tailor online content and campaigns and rank higher in search results.
As noted above, great backlinks can help boost your site’s ranking in search engines and drive referral traffic. Ahrefs Backlink Checker lets you see the top 100 backlinks to your site to help improve linking strategy and drive better search results. The trial version of this tool is free, while the premium option comes with a monthly cost.
Worth noting? You can also use this backlink checker to evaluate competitor sites and capitalize on gaps in keyword strategies.
Google makes the list again with their keyword planner. This tool not only identifies the search volume of specific terms but also suggests potentially relevant keywords that reflect user intent and may not be on your marketing radar, in turn opening new avenues to help boost your site’s overall relevance and ranking.
We know that Google added page speed as a ranking factor for mobile searches in 2018 — and that it had been a ranking factor for desktop searches since 2010.
Using a speed optimization tool like GTmetrix can help you understand how your site’s page speed impacts your rankings on both desktop and mobile. With this tool, you can generate reports that break down your page performance, track your performance over time, set up alerts that notify you when a page underperforms, and more.
Compressing images without losing quality is an essential web optimization technique. But compressing images manually can require a huge investment of time. A tool like EWWW Image Optimizer automates part of the process.
EWWW Image Optimizer has a CDN that automatically compresses and converts images as they are viewed. It allows for unlimited file sizes, and can handle PNG, GIF, and WebP files.
Yoast SEO can help you improve your website's on-page SEO. It not only analyzes the readability of your text — it also analyzes its SEO. That means you'll get suggestions for improving grammar, sentence structure, and reading level, as well as suggestions for adding keywords, optimizing meta descriptions and URLS, and adding internal links.
While some platforms like CMS Hub will provide these SEO recommendations automatically as you write, other platforms like WordPress, Magento, Drupal, TYPO3, and Neos CMS don't. So you can download and install Yoast SEO to help simplify the on-page optimization process.
SEMrush can help you optimize your content before you start writing.With this tool, you can search keywords you want to target and see the top 10 competitors who are ranking for those keywords in Google. Based on the current SERPs, SEMrush will offer actionable recommendations for how to write your own keyword-driven content. These recommendations will mention semantically related keywords, readability, word count, video usage, page title, and more.
To optimize your content, you need to have a deep understanding of your website visitors. Lucky Orange offers several ways to learn about your audience, including dynamic heatmaps, session recordings, live chat, conversion funnels, form analytics, surveys, and more. This will help ensure your optimization efforts are backed up with data.
Want to boost conversions and generate better ROI? Make sure your site gets noticed with targeted website optimization.
Start with an evaluation of current site performance, then implement key strategies to capture the attention of popular search engine spiders. Finally, deploy the right tools at the right time to automate key processes and discover new optimization opportunities.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in November 2020 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.
Originally published Oct 4, 2021 7:00:00 AM, updated June 30 2022