Search Engine Rankings
Search engine optimization — SEO — may seem like a pandora’s box to the uninitiated. But there is a science to it. Search engines reward pages with the right combination of ranking factors, or “signals.” SEO is about ensuring your content generates the right
type of signals.
You don’t buy a newspaper to read the adverts, likewise you don’t visit a web page to see how pretty it is. So more than anything else, you must ask “Am I producing quality content?” If you’re selling something, you are probably look beyond being a simple brochure with the same information that can be found on hundreds of other sites. You will have had a USP ( Unique Selling Point) when you started your business plan and you should be aiming to apply that where you can into pages. Do you offer real value, something of substance to visitors, that is unique, different, useful and that they won’t find elsewhere?
You want to create content using quality keywords, the actual search terms people are using to find your page, so you can produce content that effectively “answers” that web query.
For example, a page about “Avoiding Seasonal Flu” might use technical jargon to describe ways to prevent flu. But a search engine might skip or not rank that page highly if people are instead searching for “flu jab”. Your content needs to be written in the right ‘language’ – the language your customer or user is using when searching.
Imagine that you wrote 100 different ebooks but gave them all the same exact title. How would anyone understand that they are all about different topics? Imagine that you wrote 100 different ebooks, and while they did have different titles, they weren’t very descriptive — maybe just a single word or two. Again, how would anyone know, at a glance, what the books are about?
HTML titles have always been and remain the most important HTML signal that search engines use to understand what a page is about. Bad titles on your pages are like having bad book titles in the examples above. In fact, if your HTML titles are deemed bad, some seacrh engines will change them. See the headline up at the top of this page? Behind the scenes HTML code is used to make that a header tag. In this case, an H1 tag.
See the sub-headlines on the page? Those also use header tags. Each of them is the next “level” down, using H2 tags.
Header tags are a formal way to identify key sections of a web page. Search engines have long used them as clues to what a page is about. If the words you want to be found for are in header tags, you have a slightly increased chance of appearing in searches for those words.
Search engines “crawl” web sites, going from one page to another incredibly quickly, acting like hyperactive speed readers. They make copies of your pages that get stored in what’s called an “index,” which is like a massive book of the web.
When someone searches, the search engine flips through this big book, finds all the relevant pages and then picks out what it thinks are the very best ones to show first. To be found, you have to be in the book. To be in the book, you have to be crawled.
Each site is given a crawl budget, an approximate amount of time or pages a search engine will crawl each day, based on the relative trust and authority of a site. Larger sites may seek to improve their crawl efficiency to ensure that the ‘right’ pages are being crawled more often. The use of robots.txt, internal link structures and specifically telling search engines to not crawl pages with certain URL parameters can all improve crawl efficiency.
If you were sick, which would you trust more? The advice from five doctors or from fifty random people who offered their advice as you walked down the street.
Unless you’ve had a really bad experience with doctors, you’ll probably trust the advice from the doctors. Even though you’re getting fewer opinions, you’re getting those opinions from experts. The quality of their opinions carries more weight.
It works the same way with search engines. They’ll count all the links pointing at web sites, but they don’t count them all equally. They give more weight to the links that are considered to be of better quality.
What’s a quality link? It’s one of those “you’ll know it when you see it” types of things in many cases. But a link from any large, respectable site is going to be higher on the quality scale than a link you might get from commenting on a blog. In addition, links from those in your “neighborhood”, sites that are topically relevant to your site, may also count more.
Is your site an authority? Like the example above with the doctors, Is your site a widely recognized leader in its field, area, business or in some other way? That’s the goal.
No one knows exactly how search engines calculate authority and, in fact, there are probably multiple “authority” signals. The type of links your site receives (lots of quality or ‘neighborhood’ links?) or social references (from respected accounts?) and engagement metrics (long clicks?) may all play a role in site authority. Of course, negative sentiment and reviews may hurt site authority too.
Since search engines are constantly visiting your web site, they can get a sense of what’s “normal” or how you’ve behaved over time. Are you suddenly linking out to what the search engines euphemistically call “bad neighborhoods?” Are you publishing content about a topic you haven’t typically covered? Such things might raise alarm bells. Then again, sites do change just like people do, and often for the better. Changes aren’t taken in isolation. Other factors are also assessed to determine if something worrisome has happened.
Just as search engines don’t count all links equally, they don’t view all social accounts as being the same. This makes sense, since anyone can createa new social media account. What’s to prevent someone from making 100 different accounts in order to manufacture fake buzz?
Nothing, really, other than fake accounts like these can often be easy to spot. They may only have a handful of “quality” friends in their network and few might pass along material they share.
Ideally, you want to gain references from social accounts with good reputations. Having your own social presence that is well regarded is important. So participate on relevant social platforms in a real, authentic way, just as you would with your web site, or with customers in an offline setting.
One of the easiest personalization ranking factors to understand is that people are shown results relevant to the country they’re in. Someone in the US searching for “football” will get results about American football; someone in the UK will get results about the type of football that Americans would call soccer. If your site isn’t deemed relevant to a particular country, then you’ve got no chance of showing up when country personalization happens.