Search Engine Optimization Ranking Factors

Now that many businesses are growing their brand online, the desire to rank well organically for key search terms has been a major focus. As any marketer who has an overwhelming passion for his career, I constantly discuss initiatives and strategies involved in driving business success online. It’s difficult sometimes when speaking to friends to explain concepts of search engine optimization. It’s almost a concept that people are afraid to engage in because they do not understand it. “SEO” is spooky language to the laymen trying to wrap their head around how to get “buzzwords” on their page. Yes, I actually had a friend utilize the term “buzzwords” in a conversation recently regarding SEO, rendering our conversation futile for me at that point. But, SEO is not difficult. It’s not complicated. It just takes some research, implementation skills and time. There is no arbitrary decision in determining rankings. Google has a distinct algorithm that justifies placement for every web page in search results.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has two main components – On Site and Off Site

On  Site SEO –
There are many factors in determining placement and rank, but there are three main categories that Google factors in when determining placement for certain searches.

CONTENT -
In advertising we always hear “Content is King.” That is no different online. Websites must have solid, well written, substantial content. Google has to know that your page is sufficient enough to answer a searcher’s query. If you know what terms you want to rank for, include them in the page content. This will also help the visitor find what they are looking for. Keep the content fresh and current. Having solid, up to date content on all landing pages is paramount for any SEO strategy.

PAGE STRUCTURE -
It is important, especially for a webmaster to understand SEO and its potential impact to the business. “Googlebot” (Google’s spider robot) must be able to effectively and efficiently crawl your sites web pages for its index. Otherwise, how can it know what your site is about? Many factors play into this, but the main components are site speed, accessibility, site maps, page structure and URL structure. Keep URLs descriptive and concise. Design the site in CSS and eliminate tables and styles from loading of every page.

CODE –
The HTML is very important. This is your opportunity to speak directly to Google and let them know what your pages are about. Take a look at your title and meta data. Make sure the tags are descriptive and consistent with you page content. Make sure the keywords are relevant to your page. Make sure to use “rel” tags to indicate which pages and links on your site are valuable and which ones are not. Manipulation of the HTML on a site is the best way to plea your case to a search engine on the value of your website.

Off Site SEO -
Now you have designed and structured your page to rank well for certain search queries. That is the easy part. Google also uses elements off of your site to determine how valuable your site is.

LINKS
Links, Links, Links! Probably the biggest component to the Google algorithm is Page Rank, the numerical value assigned to each web page based primarily on other sites linking to it. Page rank is assessed a 0 to 10 value (10 being the highest). Google looks to see not only how many sites are linking to you, but what is the page rank of those inbound links? This is basically Google’s method for determining what other sites are vouching for your site and the value of those sites. Having solid links from high page rank domains with solid anchor text relating to you site is a big win.

DOMAIN AUTHORITY –
Having a strong domain authority is important for success on the web. The primary factor of this is age of domain or domain history. How long has your site been around? Has it been seeing steady traffic and visits? I understand that not all websites have been around 10 years, so you have some catching up to do. How do you drive it? Easy, go get traffic even if it is paid traffic. Web traffic creates domain authority. The more traffic you receive, the better you will rank, and the more traffic you will receive. It is a snowball effect.

SOCIAL -
Social Media and Social Networking has become a major factor in search engine rankings. Google relies heavily on social sharing, reviewing, rating, etc to determine the brand reputation and value through the social community. Facebook “likes” and Google “+1” are also ways Google determines the value of certain pages. It is also a reason to manage your business reputation online and create conversations about topics relevant to your business. Every business should have a presence on Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, Blog, etc.

GEOGRAPHY -
Location is a growing part for SEO. Searches are now geo-targeted based on your IP address. Google knows to serve you a local result first, specifically if a regional term like “Nashville” is included in the search query. Local SEO is continuing to grow as a major factor in search rankings as more local businesses engage in online marketing strategies.

There you have it. No real “secret sauce” or “spooky” concepts. This is a good general guideline on the basics of Search Engine Optimization and how you can get the most out of search rankings online. Once you dive into SEO, there are more components but as a general rule, these seven initiatives should point you in the right direction.

May the force be with you.

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One Response to Search Engine Optimization Ranking Factors

  1. Karl Winslow says:

    Good post Matt,

    I think it is important to note however that Facebook like and Google +1 counts are becoming ranking factors but at the same time are also becoming huge influencers of click thru rate. Google is attempting to show you people in your social circle that like or have tweeted or +1ed a specific page directly in the search results. That would make me want to click something more.

    Also, the social ranking factors aren’t as simple as counts, Google has come up with ways to give an authority value to different types of shares such as tweets. For example, Tweets from someone with 400 followers are going to carry more weight than tweets from people with less than 10 followers.