Google's algorithms have come a long way since the early 90's and the original PageRank formula. There are thousands of algorithm changes per year and over 200 factors that go into a website's rankings. So it is easy to get caught up with all of the SEO minutiae.
By focusing on the core sustainable SEO metrics, many of the SEO factors will fall into place. In short, engaging the user with your site for as long as possible, is the general goal for creating sustainable SEO.
Three Simple Rules To Sustainable SEO
In my opinion, sustainable SEO can be broken down into three simple rules. By focusing on these three rules we can best utilize our resources.
1Create Awesome Content
There is no absolute rule for creating awesome or engaging content, but the first thing the user sees should hook them into wanting to read more. The content you post is subjective and depends entirely on your audience.
For example, if we look at a site like buzzfeed.com all you have to do is put a animated gif at the top, and maybe a few more in the body, and you should be good to go.
Simply stated best as, "Content Is King."
2Render Properly Formated HTML
HTML5 semantic markup like
h1 tags introduce meaning to the page for crawlers, browsers and developers. You can think of semantic markup structure like a table of context in a book. There are Chapter headings - which would be the
h1 tags; and there are subheadings - which would be the
We need to know how efficiently Google is crawling our website. The more efficient the crawl, the better Google will understand our website.
We can check this directly in Google Search Console by scrolling down to settings and opening the Crawl stats report. Here we can see a lot of data about how Google is crawling our website.
3Load Your Content Quickly
Choosing the right tech stack architecture for your business model will have big impact on SEO for your site. How you render your HTML, or what part of your tech stack is responsible for generating the actual HTML markup, should be part of your business model architecture.
If your site needs room to scale beyond, let's say, 500 pages and has highly dynamic data, then a server-side rendering CMS like WordPress should be considered. Here, when the user makes a request to a page, the HTML is generated on the server.
This is great for SEO because bots get fully rendered HTML on the initial request. In addition, the data will always be fresh because you're making a new request to the server each time. But the fallback is it's generally less efficient, because you might be fetching and rendering the same HTML over and over again.
As you can see, substainable SEO is geared more toward the development side of SEO. It leverages the power of technology rather then the risk of gambling. Do as much research as possible and create a development plan that works best for your business model.
Many SEO marketing agencies would have you believe that SEO is about staying ahead of the game, and not to waste time with First Contentful Paint.
While it's the unsustainable route, you can juice up your SEO for a short period of time by focusing on the following metrics:
This is the amount of content you have on a subject; and it focuses on quantity over quality.
How many links you have coming to your site from other sites. This gets abused by endlessly signing up for accounts at white label websites like Yellow Pages, just to get a quick backlink.
Writing content for other highly-ranked websites and leveraging their traffic back to your site.
Research what keywords are getting the most searches and fill your content with them.
As with most SEO, there is an upside and a downside to these metrics. But in general, if the metric is open to abuse than it's probably not a great way to enhance your SEO.
How SEO Got to This Point
Google has been combating the exploitation of their algorithms since they began in the late 90's. Their first algorithm PageRank was based on a formula where websites were proportionally ranked, based on the amount of incoming links from other sites.
People, known as black-hats quickly learned how to exploit the algorithm by spamming backlinks all over the Internet. This increased their site page rankings until Google updated their algorithms, and so the game of SEO began.
Metrics That Do Matter
As we enter the age of quantum machine learning and the power of data, we can't just stick a bunch of keywords into a page and expect to do well for long.
To help cut through the clutter of metrics, here are a few that you do want to focus on.
The first one is the click-through rate or CTR, that defines how likely the user is to click on your link when displayed in a search engine ranking page, or SERP. The higher the CTR the better, and that usually means you have a very relevant title and description.
Now if the user clicks on your link and immediately clicks the back button, that is called a Bounce, or pogo-sticking. The higher your bounce rate is, the less likely your site is to rank well in the long term. This tells Google that, apparently, the content on the page is not very relevant.
If the user does stay on the page, Google will keep track of the Dwell Time; which is the amount of time they spend there before clicking back to the search results. The longer the Dwell Time, the better.
Ideally the user never clicks back, and their session will last forever. Then they will never need to go to another website ever again. Because that doesn't happen very often, you keep track of the average Session Duration and the average number of Pages Per Session.
SEO is a long game. Spend your SEO efforts on creating a following of users that engage with your content and genuinely rely on your website. It is a wast time trying to exploit the algorithms. If users don't want to engage with your content, than Google doesn't want to either.