Modern SEO is More Than Just Keywords

Chad Rieder headshot

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Written by Chad Rieder | Front-End Developer + UX Architect

Has your website been modernized to meet the needs of today’s SEO? Gone are the days of simply stuffing keywords and keyphrases into content and hoping the search engine gods award your site with a high ranking. A modern website needs to be mobile-friendly, accessible and fast-performing for it to really stand out against the competition in search results.

In 2015, Google first reported that more users were searching on their site from mobile devices than desktop computers. This data was pivotal, pushing a change to their algorithm to give a higher ranking to mobile-friendly websites. More recently, Google has put an even higher emphasis on website performance. Website visitors expect and deserve a fast-loading experience that is optimized for performance and usability, yet this is an often-overlooked component of traditional search engine optimization. According to this SEMRush post, you have one to two seconds to capture a user’s attention before the bounce rate increases significantly and you lose potential customers and conversions. Furthermore, page experience will become a part of Google’s core web vitals in June of 2021.

Moral of the story – if you do not have an optimized site, your ranking will suffer.

Website performance techniques to improve SEO

While there are many intricacies that go into a well-coded website that benefit performance, below is a list of high-level techniques that will help speed up a site:

  • Code efficiently – Code modularly so components can be reused. Extraneous code should be removed. Write custom code as much as possible and avoid using bloated plugins.
  • Content delivery network (CDN) – Delivering content via a CDN can increase web performance significantly.
  • Image optimization – Images should be sized properly for the web and the devices they load on.
  • Minimize quantity of web fonts – Web font files hold a lot of data, which can slow a website down.
  • Single page applications – JavaScript frameworks like React, Vue and Angular can help create highly-performant websites and applications by reducing server calls.
  • Upgrade hosting – Having a quality host serving up and caching your website data is critical for performance.

A modern website should also be accessible to anyone who uses it. Accessibility and SEO overlap to the point where the lines of differentiation blur. It’s a designer’s responsibility to ensure colors and font sizes meet accessibility standards. It’s a developer’s responsibility to think from the end user and code semantically. Does the markup have meaning and structure? Is alt text in place for images so that a visually impaired person can understand the context? Can the website content be tabbed through easily for a screen reader? When these items are in place, the user experience and SEO benefits greatly.

The traditional SEO approach of implementing keywords, keyphrases and backlinks still holds value. But Google ultimately wants to ensure it provides high-quality, relevant results, which now includes the overall experience and performance of a website. Search engine optimization should no longer be considered a standalone feature of web development, but rather it should be the result of clear content strategy and a well-crafted website. The experience of the end user is what matters most, regardless of how many times keywords are stuffed into the content. There are no shortcuts.