The growth of the Internet took us from dial-up modems on huge, ancient desktops to powerful computers that can fit in our pockets. As it happens, much of this growth is due to advertising revenue and SEO. Also known as search engine optimization, SEO is when a website's design and content are optimized so that search engines can easily find them. While there are a lot of different factors that can improve a website's SEO, user experience is one of the most important.

The Importance of SEO

Google made news when they changed their search algorithmsto favor websites that are friendly to mobile users. However, the move made sense, since mobile users are quickly becoming the largest group of Internet users. As the most-used search engine in the world, Google's bold move in favor of mobile users caused many site owners to panic and scramble with this huge change to SEO. Since SEO is one of the biggest drivers to website traffic (and therefore profit), this change required hundreds of thousands of website owners to re-format their sites in order to be more mobile-friendly.

For any serious website owner, good SEO is a must. Here's what you need to know.

Search Engine Optimization

For good SEO, you need to do the following with your website:

  • Increase Traffic. You want a flow of consistent, highly-engaging content that encourages users to share what they've read via social media or word-of-mouth. There's different ways to go about this for different kinds of sites. News websites, for instance, will try to focus on quick, attention-grabbing headlines, since Internet users generally prefer quick reads.
  • Reduce bounce time and increase dwell time. If Google sees that people are coming to your website and quickly leaving, they will take that as a bad sign and you will drop in search rankings. Instead, Google favors popular, time-consuming sites,. It is not only important to attract visitors, you must keep them there, too.

Website Design

To accomplish these goals, you need a website with good design. Good website design engages the user and closely ties into the user experience, so here is what that entails.\

  • Engagement. Once someone clicks a link, you have a small amount of time to grab their attention. A good way of doing this is including a high-resolution photo or graphic that will immediately seize the attention of the user when they arrive.
  • Interaction. You don't need to turn your website into a Flash game, but you want the user to remain engaged when using the site's interface. This will be hard to do with static links. A good alternative technique is something as simple as roll-over animations, or as complex as parallax scrolling. Roll-over animations play whenever your mouse hovers over an element on a webpage, while parallax scrolling is a technique that changes a page's images and layout as you scroll through it.
  • Optimization. Google is very against Flash because it bogs down load times and is entirely useless on mobile platforms. Build your website around HTML, instead of plugin integration like Flash. Consider also paying close attention to your code; there are many ways to increase loading speed with just a few tweaks, like placing style sheets before their corresponding scripts.
  • (Preventing) Irritation. Many people hate it when video or audio automatically starts playing, especially when they can't locate it. Another common online irritation are pop-up advertisements that take up the entire screen. Be sure that, when using advertisements, you don't include something that's too intrusive to the user's experience. While ads can make you money in the long run, a particularly intrusive ad will cause the user to either leave your website or enable an adblocker, which will make it much more difficult for you to make any money at all.

If you want your website to be popular, you need to abide by proper search engine optimization tactics in order to draw in the audience you want and to keep them there. You also want to make sure your website leaves an impression on the user. A well-designed website will result in repeat visits, shares and word-of-mouth, which are all invaluable. In short, if you give them a good user experience, they will come.

In addition, you should account for SEM (search engine marketing). Search engine marketing deals with advertising within search engines (like Google), which helps direct traffic to your website.

In conclusion, your strategy for a popular website should include the best in SEO and SEM, as well as a superior user experience laid out in the bullets above.