Old Websites Are Bad for SEO. Here’s How to Fix Yours

Search engine optimization is constantly changing. What worked last year (or even last month) may no longer be an effective strategy.

Just look at the way SEO has changed in the last decade.

Ten years ago, keyword-dense pages were viewed as the surest path to the top of search results. In response, marketers started stuffing keywords everywhere — on the home page, in half-baked blog posts, even on the background of pages in white (read: hidden) text.

After that it was backlinks. Google no longer trusted marketers to be honest about their sites, so it turned to external sources as a form of social proof. The more links pointing back to a website, the more relevance and value Google assigned it.

Of course, enterprising marketers quickly found a way around this as well. Websites full of spoofed content sprang up overnight, providing hundreds (if not thousands) of fake backlinks to companies.

Today, Google is taking a new approach to SEO. Instead of relying solely on content to determine results, the search giant is also looking at user experience.

The logic behind this is fairly simple — a search engine’s primary function is to serve people the best results. If a page is slow to load, riddled with pop-up ads or hard to read on mobile devices, it negatively impacts the user experience. Google views these pages as “poor” results and penalizes them in its search algorithm.

Making sense of the latest trends

Right now, the prevailing thought among SEO experts is that the following issues negatively impact a website’s ranking:

  • Pages that are slow to load
  • Pages that are “top heavy” with too many advertisements above the fold
  • Pages that are not mobile friendly
  • Pages with duplicate content
  • Pages with outdated content
  • Pages with low-quality content, e.g., spun articles or pages with 1-2 paragraphs of text

As a content marketer or web designer, this presents a unique challenge. How do you optimize your website for the future if the rules are constantly shifting?

Fortunately, everyone has to play by the same rulebook. The brands that find success are the ones that:

  1. Pay attention to the latest SEO trends and best practices.
  2. Are willing (and able) to quickly implement content and design updates, based on the latest best practices.
  3. Understand the needs and motivations of their target audience.

That last bullet point is especially important. It doesn’t matter if you rank highly for keywords your audience is no longer searching for — you need to meet them where they are already located.

If you want to rank higher in search results, your website needs to be optimized for the current best practices. That means a responsive design that works on all devices. It means pages that load quickly and aren’t bogged down by too many ads. It means informative content that’s easy to access and gives people a reason to stay.

Why does my bounce rate matter?

Imagine opening a report on your website’s traffic and discovering that your home page has a bounce rate of 50 percent.

In simple terms, this means that every other person who visits your home page leaves without clicking anywhere else on the site.

Are alarm bells ringing in your head?

They really shouldn’t be. As a general rule of thumb, a bounce rate below 40 percent is considered excellent. Anything between 40 and 60 percent is considered average. It isn’t until you hit rates of 70 percent and higher that there is real cause for concern.

Of course, no marketer worth their salt is going to be happy losing half of their potential customers. If 40 percent is considered excellent, why not push for 30 percent?

Lowering your bounce rate is one of the most effective ways to improve your website’s ranking in search results. If your rate is too high, Google assumes that you were a poor result for that search query.

How do I lower my bounce rate?

There are three things you can tweak to lower your bounce rate — your content marketing, your demand generation strategy and your website’s design:

  • Content Marketing: Content marketing is great for driving traffic to your site and giving people a reason to stay. For SEO purposes, try to display recent content or updates near the top of your page. Not only will this give visitors something to click on, but it will make your site appear fresh to Google’s search crawlers.
  • Demand Generation: Are your paid ads and outreach efforts attracting the right audience? If the wrong people view your website, it doesn’t matter how strong your positioning is or how modern your site looks — your conversion rate will suffer. It’s also important to point people to the right place. If you are targeting a particular segment of your audience, you may want to create a dedicated landing page that addresses their unique needs and pain points. You can point your paid ads, marketing collateral and social links to this page, saving your visitors the effort of finding it themselves.
  • Design: The way your content is presented has a huge impact on its ability to capture attention. Make sure your positioning statements are prominently displayed and visible as soon as someone visits your page, on any device. Don’t ask your visitors to scroll too far down to see relevant information. Whenever possible, avoid nesting content on sub-pages — people have a hard time navigating multi-level menus on mobile devices.

If all three of these elements are working in lockstep, your brand should have a content marketing program that is targeted, easily accessible and front of mind for any website visitors.

At Karbo Communications, we specialize in content marketing programs that increase visibility and drives sales. Our team of marketers and search engine experts can help your brand cut through the confusion around SEO and deliver lasting results.