Search engines like Google are constantly implementing shifts and changes to their algorithms to deliver better results to their users. In order to decide which results will be most useful to the person conducting a search (and which websites will give the most user-friendly experience), they rely on hundreds of different ranking factors to come up with the order in which those results appear.
If you want your content to appear as close to the top as possible, you need to optimize your website to tick as many of those ranking factors boxes as you can. We take a look at the most important ranking factors of all – the ones you should address first before moving onto any other kind of SEO effort.
On-site technical SEO
First and foremost, search engines need to be able to access and index your website. If they can’t do this, nothing else you do will have any impact on your rankings. Before they rank your website, they have first to discover, ‘crawl’ and index it. The easier you make this process for them, the more chance you stand of ranking where you want to. This means addressing technical SEO – which, while admittedly not the easiest or most exciting part the SEO journey, is nonetheless crucial to your success. A good place to start is by finding and fixing crawl errors through the Google Search Console and optimizing your sitemap and robots.txt file.
Content quality and uniqueness
Once you’ve ticked all the technical boxes, so you know search engines are able to access and index your website, your primary focus must be on providing great content that answers search engines users’ questions related to your niche. Sites which offer lots of unique, relevant and in-depth information will always be rewarded in the rankings.
You may have heard about Google’s E-A-T addition to their quality guidelines, which stands for Expertise – Authority – Trustworthiness. What this basically means is that regardless of your industry, Google looks for signals that you know what you’re talking about. You can help boost your E-A-T score in several ways, including:
- Building up some good reviews on sites like Google My Business, Yelp, and Trustpilot
- Ensuring each page identifies its author with a link to their full biography
- Making sure you have a comprehensive ‘About’ and ‘Contact’ page
- If you are selling products on your website, ensure you have easily accessed and transparent privacy and returns policy pages, and that your website is secure (HTTPS)
Building up a good backlink profile and having your brand mentioned on high authority sites related to your industry can be massively beneficial – but it can also be time-consuming. If you don’t have the time to find and reach out to these kinds of sites on your own, SEO companies like Ruby Digital can do the hard work for you.
A secure, mobile-friendly design which loads quickly
Web pages that load slowly are frustrating to their users and search engines know this. A website that’s taking forever to load (and by forever, we mean more than three seconds) immediately loses appeal for today’s instant-gratification-accustomed web users and therefore is likely to have a higher bounce rate than its competitors. This is also bad for your rankings – and can be a great pity if you’ve actually got good content that you spent a great deal of time creating on the page. Use Google’s nifty PageSpeed Insights tool to see where you stand and get suggestions on how you can make your site load faster.
You’ve probably also heard that in 2016, the number of internet users accessing the web through mobile devices surpassed those accessing it through desktop devices for the first time, and that’s been the growing trend ever since. In addition to hosting your site securely and making sure it loads as quickly as possible, it’s crucial to optimize your website for mobile too.
You should always aim to structure your content in a way that is easy for both search engines and human readers to understand. A few good starting points include:
- Optimizing your page titles, so they accurately reflect what the content is about
- Using headings and subheadings to break your copy down into a logical, easily digestible flow
- Adding internal and external links inappropriate places
- Optimizing for non-text elements like videos, images, and podcasts or audio snippets
- Diversifying your keywords and avoiding ‘stuffing.’
- Making it easy to share your content on social media
Find out more about the on-page SEO techniques which search engines look at when ranking your website here.
While there’s always more to learn in the world of SEO, starting with the aspects discussed above will set you in the right direction, and ultimately help you improve your rankings and boost your organic traffic.