Search Engine Ranking
In the pioneering days of the internet search engine ranking was fairly easy. All you had to do for powerful search engine optimisation was stuff a few keywords into your content, repeat them at an unnatural rate of perhaps 5% to 10% density and hey presto, Google would probably give you a number 1 ranking no matter how appalling the content might be. You could have bought a cheap article from a writer in the third world who could barely speak English. It really wouldn’t matter that much from a ranking perspective – of course it wouldn’t help you much from the point of view of your reputation and your ability to convert, but that’s another question altogether.
Google et al were giving away number one rankings for total and utter rubbish. Well my friends, those days are long, long gone by.
Those of us who are in the game of ranking our websites highly in the search engines all have our stories of how strange and fickle Google can sometimes be. We still see some nonsensical search results from time to time, but inexorably as time goes by Google gets increasingly clever and sophisticated (though paradoxically there are occasions where it pays to treat it as though it was an 8 year old child).
But there is a paradox at play here. For whilst it is true to say that it is getting more difficult to rank highly in the search engines, the opposite is to some extent also true. If you follow good practice, and understand what Google needs, and provide it, your rewards are there for the taking since the overwhelming majority of so-called SEO Experts do not have a profound understanding of what is involved and many attempt to manipulate the system (and will usually get caught out relatively quickly).
On a personal note I have come to a powerful realisation that telling the truth is always ultimately far better and whilst this might be difficult at times, it does make for a far simpler and richer life. Why is this relevant? Well being “truthful” (or perhaps it would be better to say, treating Google with respect and integrity), and doing SEO properly is 99% of the battle. If you get that 99% right, then you will be absolutely fine.
Google now has incredibly strict criteria that they apply to search engine ranking. Their bots have a veritable shopping list of things built into their algorithm of things that they look for when they are out there crawling the internet.
Nobody will ever know exactly what the exact formula is for Google to determine where a particular webpage (or website) should rank in the SERPs for a particular keyword (or set of keyword phrases) – well not unless you are a high level security cleared Google engineer!
But those of us who immerse ourselves in Google trends, reading their patents and who scientifically observe what is happening can have a pretty good educated guess. Those of us who live and breathe this, and talk to each other, we are the ones who understand this game, and the best thing of all, is to play by the rules. It takes a committed person to strive to obtain mastery of this and consistently to be able to achieve high rankings for ourselves and for our clients.
No list in an article such as this can possibly be anywhere near exhaustive. But just to wet your appetite, here is a short list of some powerful search engine ranking factors. Pay attention to these and you will be off to the races when it comes to ranking your website or page in the search engines for a particular keyword phrase.
On-Page Search Engine Ranking Factors
How you write your page is extremely important.
The title meta-tag is a very powerful relevancy signal. Its whole function is to tell the search engines succinctly and accurately what the webpage content is all about. This main title tag is used by the search engines as a display in the search results. So obviously it’s really important and you want to give it a nudge in the correct direction by including your desired keyword.
The meta-description tag is also important today for on-page search engine optimisation. It’s actually quite a bit less important than it was just a few short years ago, but nevertheless it is still of value. So you may want to include a keyword or two here.
The H1 tag is another title tag that the search engines look for. So it is good practice to add at least one H1 tag to your content which is a specific keyword phrase you are looking to rank for. This can make quite a difference. In this way you are giving strong signals to the search engines telling them what your page is all about.
Using keywords in the content. Obviously if you say an article is about a particular subject, then you would expect the subject in that short form phrase to be in the article. But of course this was one of the ways that people have been attempting to manipulate and fool Google. So you won’t be surprised to discover that if you stuff this phrase in the article over and over and over again, that Google, Yahoo and Bing will assume that you are just trying to manipulate it, so you will inevitable be penalised.
Off-page Search Engine Ranking Factors
It’s not just how you write your page that counts. There are lots of off-page search engine ranking factors that are just as important to the search engines. In fact, some of them are more important.
The number and quality of other domains linking to your website is one of the most powerful and critical factors.
More specifically websites are comprised of individual pages and they can individually link to your website. Webmasters can include several links on individual pages depending of course on what they are about. These links are powerful ranking factors, and understanding this is one of the fundamental competencies that any SEO Expert needs to learn.
Domain authority, page rank…..there are various metrics to measure the authority of different webpages throughout the world wide web. If you are an e-commerce store selling blue widgets, then you’d prefer a link from a specialist blog which writes about widgets all day long than a link from your nephew’s university blog which mainly blogs about music. It’s both common sense, and at the same time rather an exacting science.
There are lots of debates that us SEO experts can have about relevancy and related domains, but suffice it to say: backlinks are not all equal.
This is just a very short summary of some of the on-page and off-page ranking methods using positive search engine optimisation. It’s sufficient to give you a glimpse of the art and science of achieving high rankings. But these factors are just the beginning of the journey towards high rankings.