One of the most important things that new search engine marketers need to understand is what factors Google uses to rank websites.
Search engines don’t reveal exactly how they rank websites but SEO experts estimate that search engines use between 90 to 200 different ranking signals!
Luckily, you don’t have to worry about all of these ranking signals – just a few make up the majority of the what produces results.
Want to know where to focus your efforts?
Here are the top search engine ranking factors that you should focus on to get more SEO traffic to your website.
In order to rank in the search engines, you must have a piece of content to rank that answers the query that someone typed into a search engine.
It sounds obvious, but actually creating the content is often missed! Many people just try to rank their homepage for every single one of their keywords.
Instead, you need to show search engines what your website is about by creating a page for each service you offer, each product you offer, etc.
Without these optimized pages, search engines don’t know what your website is about. That’s why having optimized content is one of the most important ranking factors.
After you create your content, you’ll want to make sure it’s optimized so that search engines understand what it’s about.
The first step is to make sure your keywords are in your title tag and meta description. A web page’s title tag is the text in the link that shows up on the search engine results page.
Including your target keywords in your meta description tag is also a good step to take. The meta description tag does not affect your website’s ability to rank, but a well-written description can convince searchers to click on your link from the search engine result pages (SERPs).
Including your target keywords in the content of the actual web page is also advisable. Publishers should just write naturally when creating content, but also make sure to include their keywords at least once.
Many marketers believe that content length can affect search engine performance.
A study from Backlinko shows that longer content (content above 1800 words) tends to rank higher than short content.
However, long content does not always rank better and isn’t necessarily better for SEO.
Some queries like searches for recipes and quotes might work better with short content as such individuals are likely looking for quick information. Also, some publications like Entrepreneur.com get tons of SEO traffic, even though they limit word counts to under 1200 words.
So how long should your content be to optimize search engine traffic?
Content should be as long as it needs to be to provide value to the reader.
When creating content, take a look at competing content that is already ranking. Ideally, your content should be at least as good as the articles that are currently ranking which usually means that your content will be at least around the same length.
Search intent is another important factor to consider. Even if you do everything right to optimize your web page, it still won’t rank if you are targeting the wrong keywords.
For instance, Google is now tending to rank more articles over product pages. If you search right now for “best headphones,” you might notice that Google is ranking articles about the best headphones, as opposed to a product page from one of the top brands.
Google thinks the intent of the search is not to buy a product immediately but to figure out what headphones are best through reviews.
In this case, it would be very difficult to rank your product page for “best headphones,” and if you wanted to rank for this term, you would want to match the content type that is ranking.
To evaluate search intent, see what types of web pages are currently ranking when you type in a search query.
Another important ranking factor is links, including links from other websites to your website as well as internal links within your own website.
Links are like votes for your website – If a lot of people are linking to your website, search engines see your website as popular and therefore can rank you higher.
Quantity Of Links
Getting a large number of links to your website can help you rank in the search engines if those links appear to grow at a natural pace. Generating awareness for your brand and publicity will result in other people linking to your site naturally.
You can also get more links to your site by doing email outreach and building relationships with other website owners or even asking for links.
Quality Of Links
Another important factor to consider is the quality of the links you receive. Your website can rank well with just a few high-quality links from high authority sites.
For example, a link from CNN.com would have much more value than a link from your friend’s personal blog. The reason is that CNN already has a ton of inbound links from other sites as is therefore considered an authority site.
The anchor text (also known as link text) can influence your rankings as well. “Anchor Text” is the text that is linked. Anchor text can let search engines know what your webpage is about.
Another ranking factor that websites should pay attention to is usability and user experience. Websites that are not user-friendly could cause users to get frustrated and even leave, even if the content is good.
Have you ever visited a website, realized it’s not what you were looking for and immediately closed the window?
That’s called a “bounce” and in analytics, you can watch your bounce rate to make sure that it’s not too high.
If a visitor comes to your website and immediately returns to the search results page to click on something else, then this behaviour could tell the search engines that your web page is not a result that people want to see.
With today’s fast internet speeds, consumers are impatient! If your website loads too slowly, visitors will leave before your site even has a chance to load – which is why having a fast website is increasingly important.
Search engines also like websites that load quickly, so be sure to optimize your website for speed. Slow loading pages frustrate users and cause them to leave.
You can use a tool like GTMetrix to check how quickly your site loads.
Mobile search traffic (people searching on their phones) is now outpacing the number of people who search from their desktops, so having websites that look good on mobile is very important. Be sure to test your website to make sure they are compatible with various devices and web browsers.
Another good step to take if you want to rank well is implementing good website security measures.
Studies show that websites that use SSL and implement HTTPs rank moderately better in the search engines. Secure browsing is particularly important for e-commerce sites that are collecting sensitive data like credit card details.
By focusing on these top ranking factors, you can start ranking and getting traffic from Google and other search engines. Focus on creating great content, getting links, and providing a great user experience and search engines will reward you with the traffic you deserve.