Truth you need to know about SEO

Recently I was given a task from my department head. I was surprised when I got the details on what I had to accomplish for my organization's website. I am a hard core developer, not analyst or an SEO guy and I was told to increase website traffic. And that too by 4 times in three months!

Things started becoming clearer when I got into it. We formed a team. Myself and one more developer. Two guys with expert level knowledge in SEO and the HoD himself. The first step was to research. There were lots of topics to be researched on. Of course the SEO guys had lots of knowledge already. The research part was more geared towards me and the other developer.

We all met daily and shared progress and new information. This is when I realised that I had an important part to play in the whole exercise of getting more visitors organically.

There were lots of things coming up. I was on my computer day and night researching about stuff I had totally ignored before. Starting from ranking analysis to keyword research and all, terms like backlinks and link juice. When tasks were created from all the research, it was amazing how many of them couldn't have been done without coding.

We came to know that SEO actually has two types of tasks, technical and non technical. Technical tasks like adding proper canonical URLs to all pages of the site, proper and non repeating meta data, social integration and even marking up html with rdf attributes. And the non technical tasks were like keyword research, writing content, backlinking and using social platforms to drive more traffic in.

We started off by SEO guys running several crawlers on the website and finding out issues like duplicate content, missing title, meta description etc. It was a mess. The issues were fixed by technical guys. For all pages, we checked for a trailing slash in URL in our web app and redirected if required. We streamlined canonical urls where a subset of data was displayed from a larger set. We created a backend module for SEO guys where they could set title, h1tag on the page and meta data. They were able to mark some page with noindex,nofollow meta tag which had lot of duplicate pages. Then came the performance of the website. We concentrated a lot on the onload time of each page. In the end, we actually felt the quality of the site going up.

We were hoping to see some improvement, SEO wise, already but it would've taken another two weeks to figure out, so we continued with next task. At this time we had two tasks in mind. We can integrate more with social platforms and drive more traffic from there or we could mark up our html with proper rdf tags as specified in We selected RDF because we believed it would increase CTR (click through rate) from SERP (search engine result page) and that would drive considerable relevant traffic. We used Breadcrumb, Rating, Review, Event, Product, Organization and Video meta data to start with. Meanwhile we were already seeing some improvement in ranking because of the hygiene we had performed earlier. It was time to move on to next task.

Deeper social integration was still pending, but we decided to do a little experiment at this time. We were de-prioritizing social integration because we thought it may drive traffic, but the conversion rate for such traffic would be much lower. It is not relevant traffic. To bring in more relevant traffic we needed to cover more keywords, long tail keywords even and somehow indicate to the search engine that certain pages are product pages and are to be given more importance. So we created an RSS feed of all the products on the website and published it. We included lot of content from the blog in it. On all product pages, we added a rel=alternate pointing to the feed. We created the feed in such a way that everyday at 9am, fresh data is added to it. This was an experiment and we were not expecting earth shattering traffic from it.

Meanwhile, Google search engine started to show up rich snippets for breadcrumb, events and rating. We checked the CTR. It was going up. I was so excited to see measurable progress, I wanted more. 3 weeks had gone by and there was some visible progress. Me and the other developer now started with deeper social integration. Basic integration like sharing, like and login was already in place but we wanted to enhance it. We checked out how online marketing people were using our company's social pages. We went through the content they were posting and all and found out a couple of things we can do. For example, we should use more hashtags. Someone also suggested we should run weekly contests on social networks. Also, we decided to do something new with social platforms.

We saw all the available APIs provided by different platforms and decided to automatically create a new post on our page, whenever new products were added for a specific category or whenever new events of a specific type were scheduled. We used specific categories and types so that we could compare referral traffic for them with rest of the products and events. We also figured out some hashtags which we should always include. It took another week to implement this.

Within a month we had touched almost all the areas in SEO. With hygienic and high performance website, we had improved user experience. With RDF, we increased CTR considerably. We measured impressions for many long tail keywords going up and the RSS feed had improved that. We got considerably more social traffic by properly using hashtags in social posts and automating them. We started posting for all the products and events, but limited the overall posts we were creating. When we checked the stats, we had about 90% increase in organic search traffic from previous month and about 50% more social traffic.

But, it gets tougher from here. We have done a lot and still achieved about 35% of our target. We are back to researching phase.

What do you guys think, are we on right track?