Getting your site ranking higher in Google, or any search engine for that matter, is a more complex process than most perceive. There is a general notion that getting more clicks to your website through Google will boost its ranking. Although this may be a small ranking factor now (which Google themselves have indicated), there are several other more important considerations to factor into the SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) process. We’ll look at the main areas that affect a site’s SEO performance:
This is the most important ranking factor as the purpose of a search engine is to show the most relevant and engaging content to a user for their given search phrase. As we know, there are many pages all serving the same content for various search terms however they all vary in quality. Google’s aim is to put the best of the lot at the top. So focusing on producing engaging and meaningful content is the #1 SEO ranking factor. There’s also been some research done that shows lengthier pieces of content generally rank higher than shorter ones.
Having quality links from high-authority sites is another strong factor Google looks at when determining ranking in its search engine results pages (SERPs). It wasn’t too long ago that one could get an abundant amount of spammy links from ‘dodgy’ sites and see a boost in their SEO performance. However, there have been several algorithm updates named after birds starting with P (Penguin, Panda, Pigeon) in the last few years that penalise sites with a spammy link profile. Going back to the first point, creating great content makes others want to link to it, so this by far is the best approach.
In addition, serving others in the community is a great way to attract inbound links. This can be done by offering to write guest blog posts, sponsoring events and charities and building relationships with key industry people. The act of kindness is usually reciprocated and can be in the form of a quality link. It should be noted that the anchor text of links should be a mix of branded and non-branded keywords – having only non-branded targeted keywords may come across as spammy and unnatural.
Keyword-Optimising OnPage Elements
Googlebot uses various elements to determine what a site and its pages are about and what terms to rank it for. This includes the page title, meta description, h1 tag, image alt text, keywords within page content, keywords in a URL and the anchor text of internal links. Hence, it is important to undergo a thorough keyword-research process at the beginning to determine what keywords to include in the Onpage elements.
User Experience (UX)
Google’s main mission is to ensure users are finding sites that provide excellent, in-depth information that are user friendly. Part of a site being user friendly is its ability to load quickly as having a slow-loading site is a very bad user experience. Page speed forms part of the ranking algorithm and thus it is important to ensure that your site loads as quickly as possible. Ways to improve the site speed include:
- Optimising images
- Minimising HTTP requests
- Minifying HTML/CSS/JS code
- Reducing server response time to less than 200ms
- Enabling compression using Gzip
- Reducing the number of plugins
There are many other factors that can be addressed to improve a site’s performance in Google. Some of these include:
- Creating an XML sitemap showing Google all the URLs on your site and their relationship
- Finding broken links on your site that 404 using a site crawler such as Screaming Frog and fixing them by updating/redirecting them to a working URL or removing them completely.
- Ensuring the SEO value of duplicate pages is retained to a single page by ‘canonicalising’ all duplicate URL pages on your site using the rel=”canonical” tag. This avoids duplicate content issues.
- Blocking internal pages you don’t want indexed using the meta robots noindex tag.
Incorporating the above recommendations will allow for the improvement of your site in Google’s SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages). It is important that work to your site is done on a consistent basis as opposed to having a lot of work done in a short period time (which can be seen as spammy).
Google likes to see consistency. Initial results usually take at least 6 months to occur from the time SEO work initially starts so being patient is the key!