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Getting noticed on the web today is no easy feat considering there are over one billion websites battling for attention online. Your web pages might provide plenty of engaging and useful information about your product, service, or primary subject in an engrossing way for your audience, yet still fail to attract the number of visitors you’re hoping for in order to make a significant profit.
When it comes to gaining visibility online, SEO (Search Engine Optimization), can be a vital component to getting found and putting you in front of your ideal target audience. Unfortunately, while most people have a general understanding of what SEO is, they don’t fully recognize how SEO works.
To understand how SEO works, it’s important to understand what search engines look for when ranking a website.
Those without much experience in the SEO industry generally associate the term with one thing: keywords. Though keywords are still important in optimization, it’s worth noting that they’re not the only crucial aspect worth thinking about any more. The days when you used to be able to stuff your content with keywords and earn plenty of traffic are long gone. So what is relevance and authority?
Relevance refers to how relevant your website or web page is to the search query being conducted by a user. To establish relevance for the keywords you wish to rank at the top of Google and other search engines for, you need to constantly ask yourself, when you’re creating your content, tagging your pictures, and constructing a strategy for SEO success; does the content of the page match the terms you wish to rank for?
You’ll need to keep in mind the words and terms that your target audience are going to be searching for, then make sure that you create content around those queries. If you can’t make a clear connection between clear, relevant content, and the keywords you’re targeting, then you’ll have a difficult time ranking at the top of search engines. In other words, if you’re selling bikes, then you can’t afford to go off topic with blogs about skateboards. Keep it centered on bikes and build a theme by having content that talks about all aspects of bikes and link them together to build topical relevance.
Let’s say your website, and the website of a competing company are all the same when it comes to ranking for a specific query. Google will determine which website should rank higher on the search engine result page according to which site is the most popular and authoritative. Authority is about the company you keep in the form of links. Do other highly respected websites link to you? How many backlinks does your website have? Is your brand well known? Do people share your content? Does the site have a good reputation in the form of positive reviews?
Search engines go through literally hundreds of factors when determining the authority of a website, from considering how old the website page is, to its bounce rate, it’s popularity in regards to social media, and even the speed at which each page loads. In basic terms, Google will attempt to figure out the reaction that customers will have when they visit your web page for any given reason, and rank you higher if you give a better experience than your competitors.
When it comes to maximizing SEO, it’s important to remember that search engines want to provide their users with website results that they believe can be trusted. This means that if you’ve posted a number of blogs that have been shared by authoritative websites, earned fantastic testimonials, and have generally been able to keep your customers happy without the use of underhand tactics, you probably have a good level of online authority.
When ranking any website, search engine algorithms consider over two hundred different ranking factors. Since it’s impossible to ensure that each of these factors are absolutely perfect within your specific website, the best thing you can do when optimizing your website is to make your website the least imperfect amongst all of your competitors. The easiest way to do this is to follow Google’s guidelines on expertise, authority, and trust (EAT).
In March 2014, Google’s Quality Rater Manual 5.0 was developed, and by the summer of the same year it had been leaked on the worldwide web – telling everyone who wanted to know about how Google ranks websites based on how they E.A.T. The EAT acronym stands for Expertise, Authority, and Trust, and the manual stated that in order to be regarded as a top ranked website, all webmasters needed to focus on these basic principles for quality control. Confused? Here’s some information about each E.A.T category adapted from the leaked manual pages themselves.
For Google, Expertise is all about reviews, references and recommendations by experts, the presence of websites and brands in high-quality news articles, and your connection with credible sources from across the internet. In other words, Google judges you by who you’re connected with. In order to judge your “expertise” and where you should be ranked on search engine result pages, Google takes recommendations from expert sources and sees what people who are already ranking high have to say about your brand or content.
Most websites are eager to tell Google how fantastic they are, but blowing your own trumpet isn’t going to do much when you’re looking for better rankings. Instead, you need to prove your page quality rating by ensuring that reputable external sources agree with what you’re saying. In other words, you need to be a quality website.
Finally, customer service information, contact information, and testimonials are all very important for websites that customers are expected to trust. If you don’t supply your website with all the features it needs to build trust in customers, then you’ll struggle to rank any higher on search engine result pages. Google will be looking for your ability to respond to criticism, and your devotion to serving your customers through contact information, and policies on exchanges, returns, and payments.
There are a number of ranking factors to think about when optimizing any website for a better placement on the search result pages. Below, we’ll cover just a few of the most important ranking factors that help to get you noticed online, when used in conjunction with E.A.T, and a focus on relevance and authority.
The latest Hummingbird algorithm by Google has allowed the search engine to better understand content structure on web pages. This means that useful content in the form of articles, videos, whitepapers, etc. which add to your authority and provide value will be offered higher rankings, compared to websites that are publishing opinions and irrelevant copy.
It’s not just the quality of your content that’s important, but the length of your content. Many studies suggest that the longer your content is, the higher it will rank with Google. This doesn’t mean that you should fill your blogs full of fluff and useless information, but instead of putting out several shorter pieces of content on the same topic, try to condense it into longer form content that provides more value.
One of the best ways to prove your expertise is by earning natural backlinks from authoritative and relevant websites. The more websites link to you, the more Google will be tempted to rank you higher on the search engine result pages. Just make sure you don’t end up penalizing yourself by paying for low-quality backlinks.
All of the major search engines are more inclined to give credit to websites that load faster. After all, consumers will often abandon a web page if it fails to load within three seconds or less, and the quicker your audience members leave your page, the higher your bounce rate will be.
Meta-descriptions are one of the most important on-page elements for your SEO ranking. Each page needs to be optimized to contain a clear description of your content using main keywords. This will help you to properly use keywords, without abusing them, and enhance your relevancy.
Reviews and testimonials are a fantastic way to prove your online authority. Both good, and bad testimonials can help your SEO ranking if you’re willing to respond to them in a positive way, and show Google that you have options for your customers to get in touch with you if they have a problem.
Aside from the websites and authoritative companies that link to your site from outside, internal linking can also play a significant part in SEO ranking. Internal links have a lot of value when it comes to creating a more in-depth site map for Google, and enhancing the internal structure of your site for better user experience.
Google looks at the number of people who visit your webpage on a regular basis in an attempt to determine your level of popularity, and thus your authority. However, the amount of time visitors spend on your page is important too. If a user clicks out of your page as soon as they land on it, then this is a “bounce” and it reflects badly on the value and relevancy of your website.
It’s not just words that have a part to play in SEO. Image optimization should include captions, descriptions and titles to enhance the relevancy of your website in connection with your chosen keywords and phrases, so that you can rank in Google images as well as the standard search pages.
Finally, to further determine your popularity, and get an idea of how engaging your content is, Google will look at how often your website or brand is mentioned on social media, and how frequently people interact with you through comments on your blog pages.