When most businesses think about SEO, the obsession is usually about external factors and how these factors can influence search engine rankings. For example, some of the common things most businesses worry about are link building and social signals.
While these factors are important, businesses give them more prominence than is necessary. I know this because I recently lost half of the traffic to one of my sites, and it was simple changes like the ones below – that had nothing to do with link building that all – that fixed things.
Here are five often-ignored factors that can impact your SEO tremendously; either positively if you effectively implementing them, or negatively if you completely ignoring them.
1. Your Web Hosting Company
A few years back, I migrated my website to a premium web host top bloggers have been vouching for. My reasoning was, "If so many people were saying this web host is this awesome, it must indeed be awesome."
Eventually, I made the move and I was paying around $100 monthly for hosting; it was “premium hosting” after all. Something I failed to realize, however, was that around the time I moved by site to this web host, search traffic to my blog started to reduce.
On the surface, everything was working fine; due to the restrictions the web host placed on plugin installations and other aspects of my blog, as well as their solid infrastructure, my site was indeed faster than it has ever been, but traffic more than cut in half.
I didn’t connect the loss of traffic with my web host until I decided to change host, and boom, traffic is up. Almost as soon as I made a switch, I realized a sudden jump in search engine traffic; I had lost around 30% of my search traffic after switching to said host, and traffic went back up right after I changed hosts; now, I was with said host for close to two years, so you can imagine how much traffic I had lost in that period. I did some research, and it was clear the loss in traffic had been due to my host all along.
Pay special attention to your traffic when you move hosts; if you notice a sudden decrease in search traffic after changing hosts, investigate the reason behind this. If you can't trace it to something else, it most likely has to do with your host.
2. Your Website Template
A few years back, I ordered an SEO review for my site; this review included a lot of suggestions which I told my developer to implement into my design.
Search traffic to my blog kept improving once I had the new design installed, and after a few years I got tired of it and decided to change it; I had another custom design built without implementing the original SEO suggestions into the design.
I saw a sharp drop in search traffic shortly after installing the new theme. I later decided to switch back to my old theme because it had a feature I needed at the time; to my surprise, search traffic gradually started to increase at this period.
I did nothing different; there was no link building or attempt at improving my SEO, and there was no major search engine update to my knowledge, so this appeared to be a surprise. In less than a month, my search traffic doubled and it has been increasing ever since. This was due to my site theme.
While we often see website templates as something to install for usability and site performance, the theme we use can also have a serious effect on our SEO.
Some basic things I have noticed to help SEO in any website template are:
● Use of breadcrumbs
● Clean code and a fast loading template
● Easy navigation and a proper link structure
Thankfully, a lot of website templates today, especially if you use WordPress, are SEO-friendly so you don't need to spend thousands of dollars purchasing a custom template. Just ensure the template you purchase is built with SEO in mind.
3. Your Site Speed
Research has shown that a one second delay in your site speed can cost you 7 percent in conversions. If that doesn't sound shocking enough, that's over $1.6 billion in lost sales annually for e-commerce giant Amazon for a single one second delay in their site loading.
In 2010, in an attempt to focus more on user experience through the rankings displayed in Google search results, Google announced that it will be using site speed as a ranking factor. In 2013, Google further announced that it will be using site speed as a ranking factor for mobile sites as well and that mobile sites that are not fast enough will most likely be demoted in the SERPs.
Site speed is one very important factor that businesses ignore when it comes to SEO but, as we can see from the studies earlier referenced, improved site speed will not only help you rank better but it will also make you more money.
In my case, changing to a better theme made my site faster; I also made limited the number of plugins I use (generally avoiding resource-intensive plugins – as revealed by the P3 WordPress plugin). Finally, I used a CDN (CloudFlare is a good free option!) to ensure my site is fast irrespective of user location.
4. Your Site's Mobile Friendliness
Recent research has shown that mobile traffic to retail websites in the UK has overtaken desktop traffic for the first time.
Understandably, seeing the surge in increase in the usage of mobile devices to access the web, search engines are starting to give it more attention. In fact, Google has taken it so seriously that itrecently announced that sites that are not mobile-friendly would most likely be demoted in the search engines for results that are displayed to mobile users.
By not making your site mobile friendly, you can potentially lose half of your search traffic, so make sure you start paying more attention to optimizing your site for mobile users.
For my site, I wanted a consistent user experience so I didn’t create a mobile site that looks different from my main site; I simply made my site responsive and that made it mobile-friendly; that way, users see the same site that adapts to any device they use.
5. Quality Content
Research has shown that businesses that blog have 97% more inbound links, 434% more indexed pages and 97% more indexed links. As a result, businesses that blog generate 126% more traffic. In fact, Google recently made it known that content is the most important ranking factor.
One of the best things you can do to improve your SEO is to invest in having quality content created for your website on a consistent basis; this becomes more effective if this content is published on a blog associated with your domain name. Following research that shows that long, comprehensive content is better, I started to create better content, and this had a slow but steady impact on my search traffic.
While most attention is focused on external factors such as link building and social signals when it comes to SEO, it is important to realize that those factors are not the most important factors; in fact, often, they are the least important factors. Hopefully, you can double your search traffic by implementing the above factors.