Getting high on SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) should be the aim of every website owner. Because, if you’re not getting good results organically, you’ll have no choice but to actually pay for them. This would be using services such as Google Ads, Facebook Ads, and others.
But since the “great Google search algorithms” are a great mystery and an ever-moving target, we’re left to do the things that are proven through past experience to contribute positively to high SERP rankings, helping us to get to as close to the top position as we can.
In this article, I’ll be referring to Google a lot. When I do that, know that I’m also referring to other search engines, such as Bing and Duck, Duck Go. While these other two aren’t nearly as big or influential as Google, if you succeed with Google you’ll generally get what you want from the other two as well.
The SEO (Search Engine Optimization) factors we can do something about are:
- content matching search intent
- page format
- page speed
- internal links
- EAT factors
I’m going to deal with each of these somewhat briefly in this blog post, with an aim to provide more details in a half dozen future posts, each dealing with these different subjects.
Content Matching Search Intent
What you need to understand here is that whatever content you have on your website, it has to align with what people are looking for. This “alignment” simply means that the words and phrases you use throughout your website have to mimic, to a great degree, what your target searchers are typing into the search box. But it’s not as simple as that because Google will try to assess the intent of the searcher. For example, are they looking to find out information about something or buy it? Are they looking for a specific website or want a comparison article or one that lists “The 5 Best?”
When you punch in some of the search terms you think your prospective customers are using, what kind of results are you getting? If they’re mostly informational, then you won’t be getting a lot of traction for your ecommerce product pages, for example.
In the end, you’re never going to rank high for the term “best pizza in Alberta” if those words don’t appear both frequently and along with other complementary words, such as tomato sauce, dough, mozzarella, hot, delivery, etc.
Google not only reads the words that are on your page, but also understands its format. If the page has been made correctly, most text is categorized as paragraphs. But HTML – the page language of the web – also allows for categorizing and formatting other things, such as headings and text that is bolded and italicized and such.
Next to the paragraph test, headings are probably next important because they naturally infer subjects of importance on the page and the underlying hierarchy of the sections. Headings can be categorized into about a half-dozen levels with H1 being the most important and H6 the least. However, each page should only have one H1 on it. If you have two or more, Google will think you’re trying to trick it and will penalize you for it! Logically, H2-level headings should follow H1s and H3s should appear between H2s. All of this helps the search engine sort out the structure of the page and the subject areas it contains.
Another formatting aspect that’s important is to potentiall use structured data on the page. You’ll have experience this if you were ever looking for instructions of how to do something or were trying to find a recipe. Content that’s identified this way often shows up at the top of SERPs if that’s what Google thinks you’re looking for, either because you’ve stated that in your search term or it’s inferred by the syntax of your search term.
We all know that people’s patience when it comes to slow-loading websites is pretty well non-existent and that most searchers will abandon a site if it hasn’t loaded sooner than they want. Well, Google actually tracks how well your website performs speed-wise – on both desktop and mobile devices – and that factor contributes to your ranking!
There are lots of things I do to my clients’ websites to increase page-loading speed, including compressing images and even serving different images when being viewed with a mobile device. There are many other tricks and strategies – far too many to get into in this short post.
Of course, one of the simplest methods of speeding up your website is to have it served by a premium hosting company. In short, when you pay less the hosting company has to increase the number of websites sharing the web server where your website lives. And the more websites there are occupying that space, the more slowly each is being served up to the online world.
A backlink is when another website links to your home page or a page on your website. At one time, online companies existed solely to accommodate this. Alternately, backlink exchanges were arranged: ‘If you link to me, I’ll link to you.’ Google has seen through these tricks and will often penalize a website for doing this.
The idea of backlinks is simply that the more domains that link back to your pages and content, the more Google thinks that your pages are the best to serve to online searchers. The trick is to make these backlinks authoritative; come from legitimate and related sources.
So, for example, backlinks to your pizzeria from online food and travel bloggers would be solid gold, as would reviews from newspapers and magazines.
Inevitably, the best way to build backlinks is to reach out and build relationships with related and complementary businesses – which is something you should be doing anyway. After making contact with another business, they link to you might be an easy ask. Often, these can be mutually beneficial, such as a wedding photographer and catering company with backlinks going both ways.
Internal Page Linking
The menu structure of your website already clues Google into its overall structure – and that is not what I’m referring to here.
If you begin to add content to your website — through blog posts or articles or case studies or whatever — you’re inevitably going to find that it might make sense to reference to them. That is to place hyperlinks within the blog copy, referring to related posts, or putting them at the end of the post. “If you liked this article, perhaps you’ll like these…”
Interestingly, if you find one or more of these pages performing significantly better, you can often spin-off some of their success by linking to other, less-popular pages on your website.
Unfortunately, actually doing internal page linking becomes a bit of an ardous and tedious job. If you’ve just created Blog Post H and it warrants a connection to Blog Posts A and C, you should probably go back into A and C and create links in them to H. In the long term, this will often provide a better SEO payoff, so it’s usually worth the effort.
That acronym stands for expertise, authority, and trustworthiness — and achieving such human character-based aspects in something as inanimate as a website can be a challenge! In short, you need to include things on your website that add to the legitimacy of the business, organization, and people behind it.
Ways you might do this are:
- Whenever you create a post, state the name, expertise, and credentials of the author behind it.
- Whenever you make claims in your website, cite the sources of those claims, and do your best to ensure that those sources are authoritative and legitimate.
- Include a contact section on the website that indicates a real person (or group) is behind the website and that it has methods of communicating with visitors (e.g. phone number, email address).
In the end, the best way to achieve the highest Google rankings possible is to anticipate what searchers want and to give it to them. In the long run, anyone tricked into coming to a website will immediately leave — and remember that Google is always “watching” that activity which, when repeated, downgrades your website. On the other hand, giving folks what they came for results in long, multi-page visits to your website — and Google is watching and noting that too!