If you have a website and a product or brand, it’s probably safe to assume that you know what it means to rank on Google, and you want in. Just to make sure we’re all on the same page though, let’s clear up some terms.
- SEO (search engine optimization): we’ll spend more time on this, but, in a nutshell, SEO is making sure that your website has the key pieces that Google is searching for when it’s running its ranking algorithm
- PPC (pay-per-click): these are the search results that say “ad.” With PPC advertising, companies pay every time a user clicks on their ad. This can be a great way to appear on the first page of Google, but it isn’t the same thing as SEO, so we won’t be discussing it in this post.
- SERP: search engine results page – this refers to any search engine, but we’re focusing specifically on Google in this post
- Starting to rank: ranking anywhere for your chosen keyword – even if it means you’re #50, at least you’re showing up
- Top tier ranking: ranking on the first page of Google, as one of the top ten
Okay, now to jump in. We know that Google is popular and that top tier ranking is the goal and dream of practically everyone on the internet. We also know that Google’s ranking algorithm factors in around 200 ranking signals when determining page rankings. What we don’t know is exactly what those signals are and how they all work together.
But don’t despair, we know enough to understand why certain pages rank where they do. To use SEO to improve your ranking, focus on these 6 important factors.
1. Content Marketing is important
In the beginning, technical SEO was the bigger deal. Now that there are so many website building platforms that handle the technical side for you, that’s changed. These days, your content plays the more important role in where you rank on SERPs. Content, also known as onsite SEO, includes what’s on your page, your major headers, and your metadata. These factors are completely in your control so give them the time and energy that they deserve. Make sure your content is interesting, relevant, and well-written, and create headers that include keywords and accurately describe a page’s content.
Along with great content, make sure you have internal links linking back to your homepage and main pages. These internal links establish information hierarchy, and give Google the ability to find all the pages on your website. If Google can’t find a page, there’s no way for it to rank.
2. Use Metadata to Your Advantage
When we talk about metadata, we are talking about the meta title and meta description for every page on your site. Google looks to see what keywords are in your title and description, and if those keywords match the other keywords and overall topic of your individual pages. You want them all to work together. You also want your title and description to be clear and engaging – this can be what is displayed on SERPs, so it’s this information that is encouraging someone to click-through to your site or not.
3. Avoid Keyword Stuffing
Yes, you want to use your keyword on your page, but no, you don’t want to use it every five sentences, over and over again. This is what is known as keyword stuffing and Google will actually use it against you. Besides, it probably means that your content isn’t very well written, which means that even if someone does click-through to your page, they won’t stay long or think of you favorably.
If you want to rank well, choose a topic for your page and then use a variety of keywords that relate to that topic as you create content.
4. Offsite SEO is Out of Your Control, but Still Important
Offsite SEO is exactly what it sounds like – ranking factors that happen on websites other than your own. It’s not completely out of your control, but it’s more out of your control than onsite SEO. Mainly what we’re talking about here is backlinks or inbound links – websites that link back to your site. It’s ok to have inbound links that say “click here” or list out your domain name, but it’s also good to have inbound links that use your targeted keywords. For example, if your domain name is thebest.com and you sell the best books in the world, having inbound links that say “books” helps Google learn that your site should pop up when people search for books.
For ranking, it’s better to have 50 different sites linking back to you, than it is to have one site linking to you 50 times. Some sites’ votes count more than others, but you don’t only have to target the most popular sites in your bid for more inbound links. The more sites you can get linking back to you, the more your page authority will grow. Inbound links tell Google that you can be trusted and trust plays a large role in how Google determines your ranking.
It’s good to periodically check out all your current inbound links. It’s possible that some of them now link back to 404 pages. Correcting that by suggesting a new link will improve your SEO by varying degrees.
5. Google is onto Your Tricks
Rising in the rankings is a long game. It won’t happen overnight. Remember that any trick that you’ve heard of to try and game the system, Google has also heard of. So don’t try keyword stuffing, or writing your keyword as invisible text all over the page, or making a hundred websites that all link back to your main site. This isn’t going to work and you have better things to spend your time on.
6. Ranking Improvements Take Time
SEO is an ongoing, iterative process. Once you’ve started to rank, don’t slow down your work. Keep going. Even once you’ve reached first page status on Google, don’t stop. If you do nothing, your rankings will slowly degrade over time because you can be assured that your competitors are actively working on their SEO.
- choose your keywords,
- optimize your individual pages,
- build internal links to your homepage and main pages,
- check out how your ranking is improving over time,
- see what is working and what isn’t and make improvements,
- and then go through the entire process over and over and over again.
There you have it. 6 important factors to focus on if you want to improve your SEO and reach the coveted top tier ranking on Google.