Search Engine Optimization

Intro to Search Engine Optimization

I am not a web designer but I do maintain our website here at Alaska Computer Guy.  I have no interest in offering web design as a service to customers because I think that it is more important to stay focused on computer repair rather than trying to do a little bit of everything.  My joy comes from repairing computers and solving problems. Building websites is not a lot of fun for me.  With that in mind, I built the first site for our company in 2005 and have re-launched it three times since then, once in about 2009 again in 2015, and most recently in 2023.  In this article I intend to share a few things I have learned about search engine optimization.

Search engine optimization is computer-speak for making your website look good to search engines.  The objective of making your site look good to search engines is higher placement in search results on Google, Bing, or DuckDuckGo.

Be Intentional

I realize the value of having a secure and informative web site and do my best to make it so.  You don’t have to be a professional web designer to make your site look good to search engines.  It has been about 5 years since I most recently re-launched this site (it’s presently early 2020), and I decided that I want to be even more deliberate about making updates and improvements to site’s content.  This will make the site even more useful to our visitors and better showcase our offerings.  In this article it is my goal to briefly identify some steps I performed which should make the site more friendly to users and also hopefully improve our placement in search results which should lead to more visitors.

Use a CMS (Content Management System)

Up until very recently, this site was built using the Joomla Open-Source Content Management System (CMS) because that’s what I found easiest to use when I first built it in 2005.  New to starting a business, I also liked it because it was a free solution.  Joomla doesn’t cost anything to download which makes it easy to get started once you have a domain and a web host (or place to park your website).  Joomla has been updated many times over the years and I have kept the site upgraded and secure as Joomla and PHP have evolved.  Joomla and WordPress are two very popular CMS systems. I stuck with Joomla for a long time to avoid having to learn a new system of web design and with how modular Joomla was, I had usually been able to find a plugin or module which helps me accomplish what I set out to.  Both Joomla and WordPress have active development communities and a rich array of plugins and modules which add functionality to them.

joomla logo

Sometime in 2022 I began having issues with my Joomla website because the plugins were getting outdated and the template I had been using wasn’t compatible with Joomla version 4. I ignored this for as long as I could, and even made a few attempts to make the site compatible with version 4, but I just wasn’t able to do it and I decided that upgrading my site would take a lot of work. Having recently performed some work helping Asgard Alaska launch their website in WordPress, I decided to take the time to migrate our entire website from Joomla to WordPress which seemed daunting at first but wasn’t as challenging as I thought it would be once I really got into it. There are lots of good guides online that describe how to do this, but the one that helped me the most is located here:

wordpress logo

Like all improvement projects, I began by reading several good articles about search engine optimization.  Several themes stood out which I took note of, so I prioritized how I wanted to best go about it.  The thing I decided to work on first was to make search engine friendly URLs instead of the ugly ones that Joomla had created by default.  Joomla has several plugins which make this possible and there are also some settings in Global Configuration that need to be adjusted for it all to work and look nice.  I knew that I was going to take a hit for awhile as a result of changing all my URLs but it needed to be done so I made those changes in January and February and then stepped back for a few weeks to let the dust settle.  It wasn’t deliberate, things just came up which demanded my time so I stopped after reorganizing the URLs and then came back to it again as soon as I could.

Write Good Content

The best way to generate traffic to your site is to share your expertise with visitors.  If you know a lot about your field, whether photography, gardening, or construction– share what you know with others.  Consider adding a blog to your site or a series of articles that describe in detail how to do something.  This is your chance to demonstrate what you know and present it in a clear and concise manner.  You aren’t usually rewarded by the word, so do your best to summarize important concepts and explain them as quickly as possible so your users and quickly obtain the information without hearing a bunch of useless information.

Collect Online Reviews

Building an online presence is a great way to boost your rank online. Customers are much more likely to do business with a company that has a good reputation online than with one that has a bad reputation.  Companies with no online reputation are scored somewhat higher than businesses with bad reputations, but considerably lower than companies with lots of positive customer reviews posted in different online platforms (such as Google, Facebook, Yelp, etc).  Soliciting false reviews or paying for reviews is unethical, but there is nothing wrong with asking your consumers to write an honest review about their experiences with your company.  When customers ask me where they should leave a review I almost always suggest that they leave the review on whichever platform helped them my business.

Structured Data

Over the years this site has grown organically as I published new articles and added new services as needed.  I had a general understanding that search engines rewarded good content with higher rankings, and paid attention to make appropriate use of keywords where possible since that helped the site to rank better and get us to show up in the searches that we wanted to.  In 2019 I first became aware of “structured data” and decided that I wanted to start using it in my site.  With that in mind, I went to work adding appropriate tags to the HTML code of my web site in order to make products or articles easier to read for the web-crawling robots which index the internet and determine page ranks. Manually adding structured data to your page takes time and requires a lot of focus but you can sometimes speed it up if you are willing to shell out some coin for a CMS plugin which does this for you automatically. I recommend reading more specifically about this topic if this is something that interests you.  Usually taking care of the above recommendations will be enough to generate some positive attention for your website and bring about some improvements in your page rank.

Search Engine Optimization Online Resources

There are a lot of brilliant sites on the web that help you identify what the biggest problems with your web site are and offer suggestions on how to resolve them. These are some that I have used and continue to use.

This site scans your web page and generates a free report on its findings.  Where GTMetrix excels is in helping you identify reasons that your web page loads slowly or has problems and deficiencies in its coding along with offering detailed information on how to improve them. Your site will perform better if you review these recommendations and do your best to implement some of the changes they recommend.

This page presents a simple scorecard of several different components on your web page design. It is similar to GTMetrix above, but does not offer as much useful information about how to improve your site.

PageSpeed Insights is another free tool which Google provides to web designers and site owners which provides metrics on how well your page performs on different devices.  The tool can be run on any page on your web site and provides detailed information on how quickly elements load, what is and is not working, and makes recommendations on how to improve some of the scores.

Woorank provides an incredibly detailed review of your website and presents a wealth of information about what your page does well along with what could be improved.  Don’t get overwhelmed with trying to incorporate all of the changes at once, but instead, focus on a particular area and make small improvements to that area until you see the outcomes you are looking for.  Like some of the other sites above, Woorank offers paid-for services to help you improve your page but they are not required for you to benefit from the scorecard.

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