SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is the practice of optimizing website content to rank in a search engine’s natural search results.
But how do you go about optimizing your content for SEO? What are the important “factors” that affect ranking?
To address this question, we must first understand how search engines function.
How Search Engines Work
Search engines are comparable to libraries in the digital age.
Instead of books, they store web pages.
When you submit a search query to a search engine, it searches through all of the pages in its index to return the most relevant results.
It employs a computer program known as an algorithm to accomplish this.
Although no one is quite certain how these algorithms function, Google at least has some hints.
Here’s what they say on their How Search Engines Work page:
To give you the most useful information, search algorithms take into account many factors, including the query terms, the relevance and availability of the page, the professionalism of the source, and your location and settings. The weight of each factor varies depending on the query terms – for example, the freshness of the content factor weighs more heavily in searching for current news topics than in dictionary definitions.
Speaking of Google, it’s the search engine most of us use — at least for web searches. That’s because it has the most reliable algorithm to date.
That said, there are tons of other search engines you can optimize for as well
How SEO Works
In short, SEO finds ways to prove to search engines that your content is the top result for the topic at hand.
This is because all search engines share a common goal: to present users with the best and most relevant results for their queries.
How you do this depends on which search engine you’re optimizing for.
If you want to get more organic traffic to your pages, you need to understand and cater to Google’s algorithm. If you want to get more video views, it’s all about YouTube’s algorithm.
Since every search engine has a different ranking algorithm, it’s impossible to cover them all in this guide.
So we’re going to focus on how to rank high on the biggest search engine: Google.
How To Do Search Engine Optimization For Google
Google is known for using over 200 ranking factors.
Even in 2010, there were even rumors that there might be as many as 10,000.
No one knows all of these ranking factors, but we do know some of them.
How about it? Because Google told us so, many people, including us, have studied the correlation between various factors and Google rankings.
We will discuss some of them shortly. But first, an important point:
Google ranks pages, not websites.
Just because your business makes stained glass windows, every page on your website should not rank for searches for the keyword “stained glass windows.”
You can use different keywords and topics on different web pages to optimize your rankings.
Now, let’s discuss some factors that affect rankings and search engine visibility.
Easy To Be Crawled By Google Crawlers
Before Google can consider ranking your content, it first needs to know it exists.
Google uses several methods to discover new content on the web, but the main method is ” scraping”. In short, the crawler follows external links on web pages that Google knows to crawl pages it has never seen before.
To do this, they make use of “spider” software, which is a computer program.
Let’s say your homepage has backlinks from sites in Google’s index.
The next time they crawl the site, they’ll use that link to find your site’s home page and potentially add it to their index.
In this manner, they can discover other pages on your website as they crawl your homepage.
In other words, some things will affect the crawling of Google crawlers:
• Bad Internal Links: Google relies on internal links to crawl all the pages on your website. Pages without internal links are generally not crawled.
• No followed internal links: Internal links with nofollow tags will not be crawled by Google.
• Non-indexed pages: You can exclude pages from Google’s index using the noindex meta tag or HTTP header. If other pages on your site only have internal links from non-indexed pages, there’s a good chance Google won’t be able to find them.
• What robots.txt does: Robots.txt is a text file that tells Google whether its crawlers can visit your site. If you use this file, Google will not crawl it.
Friendly Mobile Access
63% of Google searches come from mobile devices, and this number is growing every year.
Given this statistic, it’s no surprise that in 2016 Google announced a rise in rankings for mobile-friendly sites in its mobile search results.
Google also switched to mobile-first indexing in 2018, which means they now use the mobile version of pages for indexing and ranking.
In other words, when a desktop version of a website loads on a mobile device, most people are likely to press the “back” button.
This is important because Google wants to keep users happy. Pages that are not optimized for mobile devices lead to dissatisfied users. And even if you do rank and earn clicks, most people won’t be looking around for your content.
Page Load Speed
Pagespeed is how fast the page loads. This is a ranking factor on desktop and mobile.
Why? Because again, Google wants to keep users happy, and users won’t be happy if they click on a search result that takes a long time to load.
To check page load speed, use Google’s Pagespeed Insights.
Finding one or more keywords to rank for is easy. Just paste your topic into a keyword research tool like Ahrefs Keyword Explorer and look up relevant keyword ideas by search.
Google is explaining the motivation behind the query and shows the results the user wants to see.
This is actual search intent.
How do you optimize for this?
Check out its top-ranking pages and ask yourself some questions to identify the “3Cs of search intent.”
- Content type: What type of page do most of their search results belong to, is it a blog post, product page, catalog page, landing page, or something else?
- Content structure: Is Google’s priority ranking mainly how-to, or list-style articles, tutorials, product comparisons, opinions, or other completely different content? (Note: This article is mainly applicable to information consultation searches.)
- Content angle: Do the top-ranking pages have a common theme or unique selling point? If so, it can give you insight into what content might be important to searchers
Google’s ranking algorithm is based on a concept known as PageRank.
In simple terms, it treats backlinks as votes, roughly that pages with higher votes tend to rank higher. The problem is that building backlinks can be difficult, especially with specific content like product pages.
There are tons of link-building strategies out there, but if you’re new to it, strive to build links to your most valuable content pages (eg, blog posts or free tools.
Backlinks are not all created equal; some are more significant than others.
This is also a core fact of how PageRank works.
In general, backlinks from high-authority pages carry more weight than backlinks from low-authority pages.
Unfortunately, Google stopped making PageRank scores public in 2016. This means that there is no longer any way to check how “authoritative” a webpage is in Google’s eyes.
Fortunately, there are similar metrics around, one of which is Ahrefs URL Rating.
URL ratings range from 0–100 and take into account both the quantity and quality of backlinks pointing to the web page.
Therefore, when building backlinks to your content, you should prioritize building links from pages with high authority to pages with low authority.
Google always wants to rank the most reliable and useful web page results.
To do this, they look at content-related signals such as professionalism, authority, and trustworthiness.
Other actions you can take to boost the quality of your content include:
• Adhere to the reading level of grades 7-8. Most Americans read at this level.
• Use short sentences and paragraphs. This is web content, not papers.
• Links to useful resources where appropriate. Don’t do”link hoarding”. The goal is to make your content as valuable as possible to your visitors.
• Avoid long texts. Break up the content with images, quotes, etc. Designed to make your content easy to browse.
In general, the more visits to your content by the majority of searchers, the better.
The freshness of the content is another important factor affecting some search results
When you want to create top-ranking content, it’s crucial to first understand how search engines work and what factors they play in ranking that content.
There is no assurance that the information that is significant today will still be significant in a year because search engine algorithms are always changing.
You don’t have to panic either. In general, the important things will remain consistent over time.
Factors like backlinks, “authority” and matching search intent have been key factors over the years, and there’s no sign of that changing anytime soon