This playbook details the process of leveraging SEO on a previous version of my portfolio. I will talk about the methods I took to improve it, the results of those actions, and how I continue to improve it moving forward.
For reference, excluding paying for the domain and hosting, every implementation I’ve made to improve that website was free. All tools I mention are online and free.
Finally, talking about website development can get quite jargon heavy. So, I provided a glossary at the bottom of the document for reference at your discretion.
Just to make sure there is no confusion. The portfolio you are currently viewing is not the same one I worked on for this project. The website that is the subject matter of this project was completely code and maintained by me. This website is using a template with many of the practices I learned from my SEO & Analytics class brought in.
My WebsiteBringing SEO to my Portfolio
I had never heard of Search Engine Optimization going into the SEO ∓ Analytics class. I was fresh out of my Front-End Development class the summer before and recently got comfortable working in HTML and CSS. That class was straight to the point. I learned to code and nothing much more in depth than that. I took away a basic portfolio and how to get it online.
The website was functional but lacked any aspect of findability, accessibility, or optimization in general. Looking back at that code now, amateur mistakes are obvious. Oversights such as: no ALT tags for images, no use of headers, images not compressed properly, and no use of meta tags. These were a few of the absolute necessities I would soon come to learn about.
First Portfolio iteration and snippets of its HTML code
Before talking more about my site, I want to make sure we’re on the same page defining SEO. As you may already know SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. Defined adequately: SEO is “The process of increasing the number of visitors to a website by achieving high rank in the search results returned by a search engine. The higher a website ranks in the results pages, the greater the chance is that users will visit the site.” 1
So now I know my goal, so how do I reach it? The “process” mentioned contains a lot of aspects but consist mostly of research, data collection, and implementations to a sites content. Some implementations are simple adjustments to my HTML while others need certain tools, but all require some degree of research or knowhow.
With some time and new knowledge, I vastly improved my websites structure and findability. My site now properly leverages SEO to a degree of success. This couldn’t happen without implementations that work with search engines and make them understand my page more clearly. Along with these implementations I used a myriad of tools to gauge my site on certain levels to further my sites competencies.
One of the first things I did when working with SEO is to make search engines crawl and index my site. This means the search engine has read (crawled) and will remember (indexed) my site. I did this by submitting an XML sitemap to the search engine, which I generated with tools found online. This allows search engine crawlers to find out what pages are present and to crawl my site accordingly. This will make all my pages seen by the search engine. This is important because if search engines can’t see me then I don’t exist to them.
A part of having search engines index my website means having my content judged and ranked. It’s important to organize content so the emphasis falls on the right information. So, I need to us the correct tags to organize information to convey what I want search engines to know. Two important tags are the Title tag and Meta tags.
The use of a Title tag and meta-description tag let search engines quickly know what my page is about; along with any user who found me on a search engine results page (SERP).
Title & Description Tags
It’s also important to use Header Tags Correctly so search engines understand the organization of my page. Not using the correct tags can mean search engines miss what my site is about and not display it in related SERPs. Organization is only a part of the work though. Another important part is the content itself. Always make sentence sound like a human could say it in a natural conversation even if it’s not facing text. Not only for the sake of users but because search engine may think unnatural text is trying to game the system.
Using Keywords is also a necessity; it’s another way search engine judge pages. For example, a keyword for me would be “UI/UX” because I want to be returned on a search for “UI/UX”. Keywords go in the meta-Keywords tag but it’s more useful to put them throughout the site because some search engines ignore that tag.
Search engines also judge by the company you keep. They will judge based on the credibility of the sites being link to. I include links on my about page out to KSUs website. I also make sure to link to my LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram accounts for the same reason but also to have SERPs display all my social media pages when someone searches for me.
Not all implementations are code based. It’s also important to keep track of how my site is preforming. Using tools like Google Analytics, Google Search Console, and Bing Webmaster Tool I can get insights into how my site is doing and what’s working and what’s not. This is a wonderful way to determine the success of my implantations over time.
Collecting DataReaping the benefits of SEO and future plans
At the time of writing my site has only been live for a little under four months. With three of those months spent learning and applying SEO practices. So, the data I’ve collected is still a bit shallow. Though, I can already see the benefits of what I’ve done thanks to Google Analytics and Google Search Console.
Google Analytics User Statistics
From this snippet I can tell in the past seven days my traffic has increased. Jumping from zero users on one day to five users on the next. This small spike came from a post I made on my LinkedIn account on November 13th. Thanks to Google Analytics, I can gauge the benefits I’ve reaped from that posting. With more time I can make more posting and interpret the new data to see what content gets me the most traffic.
I can also see how users landed on my page. Most people linked directly most likely through my posting. Though I did manage to get two users to land on my page through an organic search. This means they found me through a search engine. However, the bounce rate for those two is 100%, so they both left my site immediately after landing on it. I can make an educated guess and assume they’re just robots trying to crawl my page. Especially since I can see I’ve gotten hits from places outside of the US.
An overview of aquisition and location statistics.
Google Search Console also offers some good insights on organic searches. Figure 7 tells me that my page appeared in fifteen search results since September. Out of those fifteen, four users clicked my link (26.7%). Along with letting me know that my page usually lands around the 9th position in related SERPs.
My site is still far from complete. I need to finish adding previous projects and optimizing it for phones and smaller displays. I need to focus on making my site mobile-friendly not only based on people visiting via phone but also because mobile-friendliness is another ranking factor for Google. 2 Also need to change my domain and hosting service. Those are the last hold overs from my original site and aren’t the best options.
It may take some time to see substantial results of leveraging SEO. Moving past the work I still need to complete, SEO becomes a game of data collecting and interpretation. It may take some months before I collect a good amount of data that can spur larger changes to my site. Though until then, I can use the data I’ve collected through Google Analytics to gauge smaller tweaks.
In time, I hope Google Analytics will show a consistent pattern of visitors. With the majority being new and a few returning ones. I’d like to see an increase in Organic searches and hope to see people coming in from social pages more frequently. This will also hopefully lower my bounce rate meaning people are staying on my page longer.
This playbook details the process of leveraging SEO on my personal website. From knowing nothing about SEO, to doing research and making implementations that have increased my websites traffic in a few months. Using my new knowledge of SEO, I’ve been able to gather data showing my success and make plans moving forward.
SEO is a process. A process that requires time and knowledge but can bear substantial results. Though my data is small for now, it will continue to grow. Then, with those new insights I can continue to climb search engine rankings.
SEO is not just for small business. It has a home on every page of the internet. I talked about some of the actions I took on my own portfolio but everything I’ve done should be applied to any company trying to increase recognition, visibility, or even sales.
SEO is about increasing findability. Marketing to your target demographic is important but its equally as important for those seeking your services to be able to find you before your competitors. Because it doesn’t matter what you sell, provide, or advocate on your website. If you’re not seen, you don’t exist.
- Accessibility: The practice of making technology usable by those with a range of diverse capabilities.
- Crawl / Crawler: Another name for a search engine’s program for traversing the web by following hyperlinks. This program can also be referred to as a bot, robot, or spider.1
- Findability: The quality of being locatable. The degree to which a particular object is easy to discover or locate.3
- Indexed Pages: The page on a site that haven been incorporated into search engine’s database1
- Keywords: A word or phrase that a search engine user might use to find relevant web pages. If a keyword doesn’t appear anywhere in the text of your webpage, it’s less likely that your page will appear in the search results for that term.1
- Organic searches results: Search results that are not sponsored or paid for in any way.1
- Search Engines: The algorithms used by Google, Bing, and Yahoo to give users what they are looking for.
- Search Engine Results Page (SERP): A page of search results delivered by a search engine.1
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO): The process of increasing the number of visitors to a website by achieving high rank in the search results returned by a search engine. The higher a website ranks in the results pages, the greater the chance is that users will visit the site.1
- Tags: Referring to HTML tags.
- 1Engie E. (2015) The Art of SEO: 3rd Edition. Sebastopol, CA: O’Reilly Media, Inc.
- 2Makino, T. (2015, February 26). Finding more mobile-friendly search results. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/1rtlQhw
- 3Morville, P. (2005) Ambient Findability. Sebastopol, CA: O’Reilly Media, Inc.