SEO is the pillar of online digital marketing. Ranking high on search engines automatically boosts your brand's visibility and is a direct path to growth. Search engines have become the first stop for getting basic information. As they are deeply woven into the way we approach knowledge and information, it is only natural that that ranking on Google be a priority for businesses as it can create life-changing exposure. Don’t know where to start or how to improve your ranking? We'll show you how ranking on Google works and 5 basic factors that contribute to a high ranking.
How does ranking on Google work?
Before getting into the heart of the subject, it’s best to understand the strategies and concepts that come into play when Google’s algorithms rank pages. Though Google does claim to use more than 100 factors in ranking pages, their strategy can be boiled down to a central pair: authority and quality.
Authority is an externally-motivated factor. It’s largely determined by how you fit in and mesh with the internet at large. Information, especially the way we search for it on search engines, is largely social, therefore factors like social media or links from other websites indicate that both your page and website hold a position of authority and can be trusted. As your authority improves, you will start noticing that your content starts showing up closer to the top of the search results. So, make sure to keep an eye out on how well you're doing with position tracking.
If authority is externally determined, then quality is internally determined. High quality or highly relevant pages are pages where the content matches with the keywords and presents highly relevant information about it.
External SEO is the authority-determining portion of your website. In other words: backlinks and social sharing.
Backlinks are the backbone of SEO. Though quality has its place in determining your rank on Google, visibility is still largely dependent on authority, of which backlinks are the main deciding factor. But what are they? A backlink is an external link to your website. It indexes that you are a reference point and reliable source for other players in your industry. Links from highly-ranked pages aka higher authority websites are naturally of higher value than ones with lower authority. A great way to build links is through PR campaigns, guest posting or affiliate marketing. SEMrush’s Backlink audit tool is a type of SEO audit allowing you to review your backlink profile so you can see what works and what doesn’t.
Social signals also contribute to authority but in a minor way. A popular and frequently visited website will naturally appear to be more authoritative on a given subject than one that isn’t. In that vein, you should try to build and maintain social media profiles that promote engagement with your community. The more your pages interact with and are interacted with the more authority they appear to have. This covers anything from a tweet about an article on your blog to the number of followers your respective accounts have. Quick tip: don’t create social media profiles for the sake of ranking on Google. Your profiles should be like your content: engaging and attractive.
Internal SEO is composed of the characteristics proper to your website that determine its ranking on Google.
Content is the backbone of the search engine. People are not attracted to those platforms not because of their intrinsic value, but rather because of the immediate access they have to content they’re searching for. Naturally, websites with the most visited and frequently updated content rank higher on Google as they’re seen as reliable purveyors of information. Keywords are what potential clients use to search for content, and that's why you need to do keyword research.
The first step in keyword research is to find the right keywords. A good keyword has a high organic search volume, is relevant to your company what it’s offering, and not too competitive (low volume of results). Most of the time, the more precise and therefore long your keyword phrase is, the easier it is to find that golden mean of competitivity and relevance. A great way to test a keyword’s competitivity and relevance is to use SEMrush’s keyword analysis tool. With SEMrush, you can even see what your competitors are ranking for using their Competitor Analysis tool.
Now that you’ve found the right keywords, you need to integrate them into your content. Though keyword density (KD) is a highly debated concept, you should aim for at least 0,6% of your content. In other words, your keywords should make up at least 0,6% of your content. Keep in mind that keyword density should not be sacrificed for legibility and readability. The time your readers spend on your page affects your ranking on Google much more than your KD.
Where else should they go?
Your meta-description and headlines act as signposts for both your potential readers and the search engine. If anything, they are the places where you are required to put your keywords. They are the easiest ways to establish the relevance of your text. Your keyword should also be included in the url of your page and the first 100 words of the page. All of these tactics fall under Page SEO.
Pro tip: Don’t limit yourself to an exact replica of your keyword or phrase throughout your content. The best way to build a strong network of relevance is to include semantically related keyphrases. This way you communicate your expertise on the given subject. Expertise or perceived expertise it yet another factor that goes into optimizing your ranking on Google.
The very structure of your website also greatly influences your ranking on Google. The first step is to create a sitemap. A sitemap is "a model of a website's content designed to help both users and search engines navigate the site." (Techopedia) Most of the time it’s just a list of all of the web pages and therefore URLs on your website. Your sitemap helps the search engines identify what pages they should crawl and therefore index on your website. You should additionally create a robot.txt file. This file provides the search engine with what pages they should and should not index. This helps with your crawl budget: the number of pages the search engine will crawl on your website. Your last step should be to upload your sitemap to Google (Google Search Console) and Bing (Bing Webmaster Tools)
You should also keep in mind the distance (measured in the number of clicks) between any given page and your homepage. The shorter it is, the better.
With these basics down, ranking on Google has no more secrets for you!