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 Welcome! This page should help you achieve lasting ranking results to increase site visitors. 

Updated by Ardan Michael Blum (CEO at A. Blum Localization Services Palo Alto) 08/01/18.

Find out about Palo Alto SEO Meetups: iterate.live

Search Engine Optimization Basics

1) Time as a SEO Ranking Factor

Ever since the web has become a central means of communication I have heard everyone and their gardener tell me how many “hits” they get per hour. Sure – traffic in high numbers is a means to generate revenue with things like Adsense and goes a long way in making someone seem like they have a serious website. But ask them “HOW LONG DO PEOPLE STAY?” and the “230 hits per hour” tune changes to a bashful (often surprised and bashful) look. “Time?” they will say. “Yes … How long does your site retain people?” I will ask. Well – there is actually no reason to torment people with such questions.  The answer is knownMedium and Upworthy are eschewing “pageviews” in favor of developing their own attention-focused metrics. And right they are.

Viewing conditions change the stats – time spent on a site from home or time spent on a new site from the office. Type of operating system used, etc … But the general “patience limit” is said to be a matter of seconds (up to 15 for some experts and 45 to 70 for others). TRUST and VALUE are the key factors that keep people on your pages.

The length of time that a visitor spends on your pages is vital. Everything that you do to improve your SEO should push towards LONGER average user visits. Aim for at least four minutes for a new user and do so by using good navigation, nice design and content created with LOVE. Of all the proposed steps the one that, in my view, really matters the most is increasing the amount of TIME SPENT by users on your site so that the search engines will view your site as an AUTHORITY on the given topic for which people have searched.

Jakob Nielsen writes

 “Users often leave Web pages in 10-20 seconds, but pages with a clear value proposition can hold people’s attention for much longer because visit-durations follow a negative Weibull distribution. (…) The first 10 seconds of the page visit are critical for users’ decision to stay or leave. The probability of leaving is very high during these first few seconds because users are extremely skeptical, having suffered countless poorly designed Web pages in the past. People know that most Web pages are useless, and they behave accordingly to avoid wasting more time than absolutely necessary on bad pages.

If the Web page survives this first — extremely harsh — 10-second judgment, users will look around a bit. However, they’re still highly likely to leave during the subsequent 20 seconds of their visit. Only after people have stayed on a page for about 30 seconds does the curve become relatively flat. People continue to leave every second, but at a much slower rate than during the first 30 seconds.

So, if you can convince users to stay on your page for half a minute, there’s a fair chance that they’ll stay much longer — often 2 minutes or more, which is an eternity on the Web.

So, roughly speaking, there are two cases here:

  • bad pages, which get the chop in a few seconds; and
  • good pages, which might be allocated a few minutes.

Note: “good” vs. “bad” is a decision that each individual user makes within those first few seconds of arriving. The design implications are clear: To gain several minutes of user attention, you must clearly communicate your value proposition within 10 seconds.”  

– Via: How Long Do Users Stay on Web Pages?


Terms Defined:

Sessions: Total number of Sessions within the date range. A session is the period time a user is actively engaged with your website, app, etc. All usage data (Screen Views, Events, Ecommerce, etc.) is associated with a session.

Users that have had at least one session within the selected date range. Includes both new and returning users.

Pageviews is the total number of pages viewed. Repeated views of a single page are counted.

Pages / Session  (Average Page Depth) is the average number of pages viewed during a session. Repeated views of a single page are counted.

Bounce Rate is the percentage of single-page visits (i.e. visits in which the person left your site from the entrance page without interacting with the page).

New Sessions: An estimate of the percentage of first time visits.

Note: Avg. Page Load Time is the average amount of time (in seconds) it takes for pages from the sample set to load, from initiation of the pageview (e.g. click on a page link) to load completion in the browser. If you see zero (0) as a value or a small increase in November 2011, read the About Site Speed article.

A bit of Technical Information:

Google says: “Average session duration is: total duration of all sessions (in seconds) / number of sessions. Individual session duration is calculated differently depending on whether there are engagement hits on the last page of a session.” – More: support.google.com/analytics/

Related Further Reading:

7 website analytics that matter most

11 Hacks to Increase Visitors’ Average Time Spent on Site

Statistics and Market Data on Online Demographics & Use

Mobile Marketing Statistics compilation


2) Authority as a Ranking Factor

Your site MUST provide ORIGINAL and quality content. The VOLUME of this content must EXPAND on a weekly basis and should be updated over the years. Make sure to have at least 800 words (per post or new page) with the aim of becoming an authority on the given topic and/or keywords that you are aiming to rank for. NOTE: This is not a “rule for all situations.” Rather, it is the standard way to rank well and HOLD your ranking over time. There are some cases where what is needed is NOT so much to expand your work but rather to UPDATE and IMPROVE your existing work. Examples include GOING BACK to a page and correcting typos, adding good PDF Google Scholar sourced links that validate what you are saying, and any other tweak that is useful for the overall quality of your content.

Remember that LINKS were first viewed by search engines as a means to RECOMMEND and/or VOTE for content.  And (in my view) if you include high quality outbound links from your new and original content you are saying to search engines: “Yes, I am aware of what came before and my work is researched well … To be a CONTINUATION of high quality information”. Links hence must, in my view, be either PDF files or DEEP within an external site to a given page or even to the anchor tag on a given page. (Jumping down to the content).

Being an “authority” implies that whatever you say and post online may itself be researched by others and in turn be linked to by others. This in and of itself will boost your ranking if the quality of the external page is high.

Being an “authority” also implies that after a certain amount of time (generally a year) you must start the research over again and see what is NEW online. Then add external links and UPDATE your own content.


3) Search Engine Optimization Basics: Image Optimization

Getting your images online (for good SEO) in a few important steps:

First of all NAME the file with “image-description-keyword-date.jpg”.

Next: add meta data to the image itself! (See tutorials for Adobe Photoshop File InfoAdobe BridgeCamera Bits Photo Mechanic and Microsoft Expression Media).

Now upload the image to your server. And make a short, clear, image description for the ALT (image) tag. This will help to explain to a blind user what image is displaying and it will provide text in the event that your image does not appear on your site.

Now you are ready for the TITLE (image) tag which is generally visible when one mouses over an image. Here you may wish to make a slightly shorter description and AVOID AT ALL TIMES stuffing keywords into this text.

An SEO practice that can be of use is to make a LINK on an image to FURTHER INFORMATION about the topic (instead of simply having the image, when clicked, appear larger). In this case, you might  INDICATE in your TITLE TAG that if one clicks on the image that you are taken to a PDF file or another source.

Note: It is wise to have at least one image per blog post to allow for social media sharing.

See: W3C’s Easy Checks for manual accessibility checking.

And do read: https://yoast.com/image-seo-alt-tag-and-title-tag-optimization/

A bit more from other sources:

A) Can I Duplicate Title and Alt Text? Via raventools.com

If you have a large page with a lot of images, what keywords you use in your image alt and title fields could make a small difference in your rankings.

But keyword stuffing is still keyword stuffing.

Rules of thumb:


B) Alternative text serves several functions – via webaim.org


4) Sitemap XML & Robot tags

Let us define the two topics we are to examine:

What is a robots.txt file?

A robots.txt file is a file at the root of your site that indicates those parts of your site you don’t want accessed by search engine crawlers. The file uses the Robots Exclusion Standard, which is a protocol with a small set of commands that can be used to indicate access to your site by section and by specific kinds of web crawlers (such as mobile crawlers vs desktop crawlers).
– More via: https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/6062608

What is a sitemap?

A sitemap is a file where you can list the web pages of your site to tell Google and other search engines about the organization of your site content. Search engine web crawlers like Googlebot read this file to more intelligently crawl your site.

Also, your sitemap can provide valuable metadata associated with the pages you list in that sitemap: Metadata is information about a webpage, such as when the page was last updated, how often the page is changed, and the importance of the page relative to other URLs in the site. More via: https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/156184

Now you are ready to create your sitemap.xml file. For this you may wish to use this search for “sitemap generator tool.

A good rule to follow is to set up a Webmaster Tools AKA Google Search Console. Here you set your preferred domain (www or non-www)

Submit to Google the location of your sitemap and (the content of your robots.txt as well).

Further reading:

Note: You can do similar steps for to be indexed well on Bing by signing up and using: www.bing.com/webmaster/home/mysites

Learn how Google discovers, crawls, and serves web pages

And do see: http://www.sitemaps.org/protocol.htm


Search Engine Optimization Basics - Some Other Essential Tips:

A) Set canonical URLs for your pages.

B) Work on your title and description (and, optionally, keyword meta tag). To do this well, STUDY what other quality, high ranking sites do. See WHICH keywords they target. Think of HOW their work compares to your goals and optimize your content for CLICKS by using good sentence structure and not stuffing keywords.

C) Disavow bad backlinks  (a lot of cowardly, low level, non-creative, bored humans spend time making link building from poor quality sites their lifelong routine. This CAN and COULD damage your ranking if not checked).

D) Seek out newspapers and university websites that might wish to speak about your projects or products. Get them to link to your home page using the name of the product, not the site name.

E) Check the page loading speed.

F) Structure your text to have one H1 tag (info: about tags) and make sure that H1 tag contains your keyword. Use anchor tags, comment tags, and most of all good sub-header (H2 and H3) tags. You should also use BOLD and write in bullet lists whenever possible.


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