With Google continually updating and changing their algorithms, it can be hard for an SEO to keep up!
Most of us will already know that pages which are optimised well can accumulate more organic traffic over time (which should also hopefully translate to more leads and sales!) but what does optimising a page really mean? And what are the most important SEO ranking factors you can use in your own content to ensure that your website is visible at the top of the Search Engine Results Page (SERP)?
This article aims to answer just that - so, let's get to work on earning you that sweet ranking spot of #1.
Let's kick off with the basics…
What are SEO ranking factors?
SEO ranking factors are what search engines such as Google will use in order to understand and evaluate the content of a webpage. After crawling the content, search engines are in a position to determine whether said webpage is useful for online users, can be trusted and if it shows authority, which in turn, also determines the webpage’s ranking position on the SERPs.
It is important to have a high ranking on the SERPs as this can seriously increase your click-through rate (CTR).
Put yourself in a user’s shoes for a moment...you’re searching for a new kettle, when you search ‘kettle’ in Google, pages upon pages of websites selling kettles flash up on the screen and they all appear very much the same...which do you click on?
The answer is, probably the first search result, or maybe even the second or third. In fact, research shows that over 25% of people click on the first Google search result.
The point is, if you’re not ranking high enough on the SERPs, nobody is going to even see your webpages, which means a lot less traffic and conversions. This is why we need to understand what factors are important for SEO so that we can optimise our webpages to the max and ensure that we are the ones receiving those all important clicks.
What goes on behind the scenes?
In case you’re wondering how search engines actually decide which webpages rank best, this is a brief summary of what you don’t see…
Search engines such as Google have ‘spiders’ which crawl the web
Arachnophobes reading this are probably cringing right now but spiders are actually parts of automated software and crawling simply means that they are visiting your webpages to understand its content. For reference, Google’s spiders are called ‘Googlebots’.
Optimised pages are added to the search engine’s index
Just like a librarian would catalog books, spiders will add the optimised and crawlable pages they find to a search engine’s index. By crawlable, we mean that the links provided to and on your website are able to both be discovered and followed by spiders. If they can’t access a page, how will they know what content is on it? Here are some reasons why your webpage may not be able to be crawled:
- You have an orphan page with no internal links / no sitemap presence - these cannot be crawled because there is no link to them. You need links for spiders to get from one of your pages to another.
- If your canonical tag has not been used correctly - canonical tags are used in HTML headers and they essentially tell spiders which is the preferred (canonical) page for users to access if there is any duplicated content. You just need to ensure that you have given Google the right canonical page. Find out more on how to do this here or here.
- The webpage is new or recently added and simply has not been crawled yet.
These are just some cases which would make crawling a webpage a challenge and you should aim to regularly conduct technical SEO checks to ensure that you don’t miss any unindexed pages. It is crucial that you do this when you have recently undergone a website migration as pages may need re-indexing.
When a user searches a keyword or query, search engines show the best results
Finally, when a user makes a search, search engines will show what they believe to be the most relevant for the user based on its algorithms.
What are the most important SEO ranking factors?
Quality and length of the content
The quality of webpage content is now more important than ever when it comes to ranking well. Using keywords with high search volumes is great...but throwing these together on a page is not enough and may even be penalised by Google if you go overboard- you need to think about the readers and make sure you're writing for people, not search engines.
We appreciate that balancing the needs of users and search engines isn’t always easy, which is why we have also put together information on how to make SEO friendly content so you know exactly what to do!
But essentially, your content needs to answer the user’s query and fulfill their needs. The more content you have (as long as it is considered useful) also helps with rankings as having more content allows you to answer a higher number of queries and in more depth.
Optimising a page really just means you are applying research and techniques to make it rank better in the SERPs. You might look at including more keywords (after researching which keywords are best depending on search volume and competition), including a FAQ section which allows you to include more content or even adjusting your meta titles and descriptions.
As previously mentioned, there is such a thing as too many keywords, so you need to place these within the content carefully. If you’re not entirely sure how to go about optimising your webpages, take a look at your competitors who are ranking well. What are they doing that you aren’t? Is there anything you can implement on your own site?
A website’s authority can seriously boost your visibility in the search rankings. Authority can be shown by the following: informative content, high quality links, positive reviews, popularity amongst users and the age of a site’s domain.
Building links to your site (with other reputable websites) is incredibly beneficial as this is another signal that tells search engines your webpage is relevant and trustworthy. Link building with domains which are considered spammy can actually have the opposite effect and you may experience a drop in the rankings.
You must ensure that your webpage is consistently relevant to the search term in question. You can do this by including the subject in the following areas:
- Meta title and description
- Title tag
- Throughout your content
- Image alt text
Having relevant content that will meet the expectations of users can decrease the bounce rate, keeping users on your site for longer. It is also essential if you want search engines to rank your pages well as they will be crawling your content to make sure it is as relevant as you say it is.
Page speed/load time
How quickly your webpage can load is also an important ranking factor which Google uses. In fact, Google recommends that you use a tool such as Lighthouse to monitor the speed of your pages so that you can make some improvements. If you think this is a bit harsh, just think, ‘would I wait a couple of minutes for a webpage to load or would I go back and click on a different website?’ Now that we have so much information at the tips of our fingers, we can grow a little impatient!
As mentioned earlier, your site needs to be able to be crawled if you stand a chance of ranking. Crawling=indexing=ranking. You can help search engine bots out by having a sitemap that lists all of your pages and a robots.txt.file which lets the search engines know where it can and can’t go to understand your content’s information.
How mobile friendly your site is
Mobile friendliness is also super important and you need to consider that many users will be accessing your webpages through a mobile device. Moreover, Google will use the mobile version of a site to determine its rankings! A mobile friendly website will:
- Load quickly and be responsive
- Be readable (no zooming in or out needed!)
- Have room for touch navigation (i.e. touching one tab on a website’s navigation menu doesn't tap three at once due to restricted space)
- Not have lots of pop-ups
- Continue to be tested to ensure its usability is up to scratch and free from any technical issues
How do I know how well I am ranking?
You can check and monitor how well your website is performing using a tool such as SEMrush which allows you to do the following:
- Research keywords and queries - allowing you to see what people are actually looking for online
- Monitor where your webpages rank for keywords
- Discover which sites have linked to your site and their domain authority
Plus so much more! It’s well worth investing in a tool that will help your overall SEO strategy.
Want your webpages to rank well in the SERPs?
If you’re hoping to drive more traffic to your site and increase both your leads and sales, we can help! Take a look at our SEO services page for more information or pop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org - our friendly team of SEO experts would love to help!