What does “SEO Value” even mean?

What is SEO value?

Search engines are one of the most used tools on the web. If you need to find the best recipe for blueberry muffins, you Google it. If you need to rid yourself of a computer virus or malware, you probably Google it. If you’re a computer savvy individual, and a family member asks you how to do something on the computer, your way out is, “I don’t know, have you tried Googling it?”

SEO – or search engine optimization – is a series of tactics used to make your website rank higher on any given search engine based on keywords users enter when searching for something. The way search engines decide how high to place something is via a somewhat obfuscated algorithm. And there are tactics that you can take advantage of this algorithm so that when searching for certain keywords, your website ranks higher in the search results, making it easier for your content to be discovered.

These tactics are often guised with the term “SEO Value”. In the nineties, companies would increase “SEO value” by stuffing their webpages with keywords. Developers were clever; they would make the text so small you couldn’t even read it, or would place white text on white backgrounds, making the thousands of repetitive keywords used to impact search results hidden from the end user.

Google caught onto this tactic, and tactics like it and modified their algorithm to not only ignore keyword stuffing, but to de-rank or ban websites that did so.

What is SEO today?

Today, Google’s algorithm has gotten incredibly complex, and has been tested to factor in not only keywords, but content quality, code quality, page load time, mobile friendliness, bounce rate, navigation/internal linking, time spent on your site, among many other things.

SEO value, contrary to popular belief, is not just volume of content, it is not just using the right keywords, it is not just creating a responsive website. SEO value is about making your website useful and interesting. Boosting your position in search is not something that happens over night, and is not something you can brute force your way to.

How can I improve my SEO value?

  1. First and foremost, make useful content.  Google determines the usefulness of your website by how easy the content is to read, how closely search terms match your content, and how users interact with your site. If they find that the content on your site doesn’t closely match what a user searched for, AND the user abandoned your site to find their content elsewhere, you will get docked some points. Make sure your content is useful.
  2. Make sure your content is consumable. By this, I mean, make sure your content is easy to read. I understand people using ads in order to provide free content, but it shouldn’t impact user experience. Not only will it impact how users view your brand, but it will kill your rankings.
  3. Make sure your content is easy to read. Not just for users, but for bots. The quality of your code is actually VERY important for search. If your content is constantly nested within unnecessary html tags, it makes it harder for search engines to know what your content is really about.
  4. Don’t be sneaky. Don’t redirect bots one place, and users another in an attempt to “trick” bots into thinking your content is useful. Don’t keyword-stuff your content, or overdue back-linking when it’s unnecessary. Google’s bots are not as dumb as they used to be, and they’re slowly but surely getting smarter.
  5. Use structured data. Yes, search bots are smart, but they’re bots. They are imperfect, and won’t always know what your content is all about. You can use structured data to define what your content is all about; you can not only up your rankings, but have a little more control over how your content is displayed in search.
  6. Go Mobile. Mobile web-browsing is not a new thing. At my current job, our mobile traffic has more than doubled in the last two years, from 50k visits per month to over 250k visits per month. Granted, that’s only 5% of our visits, that’s a LOT of people, and that number is clearly growing. If Google, sees you’re getting more and more mobile traffic, but not offering mobile friendly content, your organic traffic will most certainly take a hit. Use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test to determine if your site is mobile friendly, and make the necessary changes if it is not.
  7. Use an SEO tool. While tools like Moz are great, you can start with something like Google Webmaster Tools. It will give you insight into what keywords and search terms your site gets indexed under, and how it ranks there. This data isn’t meant to tell you to keyword-stuff your content, but instead meant to inform you what types of words and phrases your visitors use. You can then tweak your copy to cater to those search terms, giving you the opportunity to create very consumable content.
  8. Use Google Trends. Google Trends is a tool that lets you compare search terms, software genres, news topics, etc. and see how often they are searched for. If you’re not getting sufficient organic traffic, compare your top keywords with your least used keywords found via Webmaster Tools, and see which keywords are actually being searched for. From there you can figure out which keyword spaces you need to improve upon.
  9. Above all, make user your website offers a good user experience. Combine good design, easy navigation, readable content, clean code, and engaging content for your users.

Google’s algorithm is changing constantly; it is slowly evolving to provide its users with the best web experience possible, and therefor does its best to reward websites that follow that principle.

At the end of the day, your users are people, not bots, statistics, or equations. Treating them otherwise will not only negatively impact your “SEO value”, but the perception of your brand. As a business, your website is first and foremast a source of information. It a product that allows users to access your content, products, and a better understanding of who you are. SEO Value as a tactic is secondary to creating a good, usable, useful website for your users.

The mute button

Since the dawn of time there have been ads. Ok, not the dawn of time per se, but as far back as any of us can remember, there have been advertisements shoved in our faces, through our ears, and down our throats from one medium to the next. Be it a radio jingle, or a tv commercial skit, ads have existed for quite some time.

But as long as ads have existed, humans have found ways to get around them. TV and radio had a volume control and mute buttons, VHS players had fast-forward buttons.

We are in the dawn of a new era, where everything is digital; every move we watch, every tv show, every song, every newspaper, every piece of information you desire can be found online. And yes, there are ads. There are people wanting something from you – money, your email address, something.

Ever been reading a really interesting blog post when THIS happens?:


Site popups of any kind are annoying

Yes, we’ve all been there! What impression does this leave you with? My first thought is “I need to join a trial to even read this?! Am I really required to give my credit-card info just to read an article, when you’ve got 3 ads in the first fold?”

Little do I notice the little “x” button. So small.

Brad frost illustrated this perfectly : “Welcome to our website, screw you!”

Wecome to our website! Screw You!


So what do I do? I go and install today’s version of a mute-button: yes, an adblocker. Because, let’s face it, people don’t like dealing with the things they don’t like. You wouldn’t willingly step in a pile of dog shit, would you?

There are far more elegant ways to make money through your website than shoving garbage down people’s throats.

This is not an issue of whether someone values your content or not; it’s a matter of how you justify your actions. Interrupting what I’m doing or trying to do isn’t going to make me want to pay for your services.

This is why user experience is key in every site. User experience matters – it affects your SEO ranking, it affects your revenue, and it affects how people perceive your brand. This is crucial to understand.

When a user lands on your site, what you present to them, whether you like it or not, sets expectations. It sets a tone. Your users aren’t stupid; they know your motives. They can tell whether you’re just the type of company that sees them as dollar signs, or sees them as people.

When you dive into building your next site, or launching your next optimization test, ask yourself if what you’re doing is genuinely useful to your visitors. Don’t try and trick them into buying something, or confuse them down a funnel. Don’t offer them content, and present them with distraction. If you say “click here to read more” then don’t give them something to read, why on earth do you think they’ll do anything but leave?

When we get fixated on “conversion rate” and “rpv”, we tend to view our users not as people, but as equations – statistics. As much as we’d like to pretend our users won’t notice – they do. And yes, they will use the mute button 🙂

Dealing with older browsers

The web is constantly evolving; the HTML language is expanding, CSS is getting more advanced, and we are finding more and more ways to make the web interesting.  However, for some reason, some people don’t upgrade their browsers, making it very difficult for us to share that creativity with others; so how do we deal with people who are running IE8, or even worse, IE6?

In this article, I’ll give you some tips and practices in no particular order that you can use to make life a little easier for you and your users.

#1:  Use a JavaScript Library like Modernizr

Probably the most common method of dealing with those pesky Windows XP users running Internet Explorer 8 or older (only joking XP users!  Windows XP is great, really it is.)

Modernizr is great, because it can be as light or as bulky as you need it to be.  On their website, you can choose which HTML and CSS elements you need to support, and build a modernizr script to help you.  It will tell the DOM to recognize HTML5 elements such as <section> or <nav>, and can add classes to the <body> tag so you can identify what is and is not supported in a particular browser, and use CSS and/or JavaScript to make any browser-specific changes necessary.

#2 Know your audience

Legacy browser support can be a massive pain in the butt; but as a web designer, your biggest concern should be to give your audience the best experience possible regardless of what browser they use.  So, spare yourself the headache and know your audience.  Use tools like Google Analytics to figure out how people are accessing your content, and develop your own standards & practices.

If you don’t know your audience yet, you can do 1 of 2 things.

  1. Take the Google approach and support only the latest three versions of the major browsers.  For example, if IE11 is the latest version of Internet Explorer, the oldest version of Internet Explorer you would support is IE9.
  2. Ask other people what their audiences look like.  If your website hasn’t been around long enough to gage who is using what, consider finding a company or asking a colleague in the industry what their numbers look like as a starting point, then, as your website gains traffic, use your own analytics to make your own decisions.

#3:  Test on older browsers

Never rely on just the latest version Google Chrome or Firefox to test your code.  Unfortunately, while browser “manufacturers” try to render code accurately and consistently, no browser is 100% equal.  People tend to rant and rave how IE is the absolute worst it comes to rendering code, but they aren’t the only ones you should worry about.

And sometimes, it’s not the browser alone, but the operating system.  Every operating system handles application text differently, not one is the same.  When QAing your work, you should test every version of every browser you intend to support on every operating system you intend to support.  How?

You could setup a virtual machine, but that can be tricky, expensive, and impact your computer’s performance.  I like to use BrowserStack.  BrowserStack let’s you choose between multiple versions of Windows, OSX, or choose different iOS or Android Devices, and multiple versions of the many browsers each operating system can run.  Need to test IE9 on Windows 7?  Easy!  Need to test Firefox 10.0 on OSX?  No Problem!  BrowserStack will give you remote access to a machine with the OS and browser of your choice through your browser, making it easy to test your website’s browser compatibility.

#4 Be Responsive

When building a web experience intended to reach people on multiple platforms, browsers and operating systems aren’t the only factor.  Consider the device your users are using, and the monitors they are viewing content through.  Different screen sizes, resolutions, etc., all play a huge role in your website’s usability.

Whenever possible, test your website in various resolutions.  A good start is to just shrink the size of your browser window.  Or, again, use BrowserStack.  Along with choosing the operating system and browser, you can set the desktop resolution all the way down to 800×600, or view your site through various devices, inheriting their viewport/resolution.

#5 Consider the fallbacks

As mentioned before, Modernizr can be used to determine what various CSS and HTML features a browser can support, and will add classes to the <body> tag for each unsupported feature.  Utilize this tool to create fallbacks.

For example, if you’re using CSS transitions for hover effects, use jQuery or JavaScript animation as a fallback.

Hopefully the above tips and practices above will help ease the strain of supporting older browsers.  How do YOU deal with older browsers?  What do you support, and what tricks do you use to support them?  I’d love to hear your ideas in the comment section below![/az_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]