Want Higher Search Rankings? Four Things to Consider
Search rankings matter a lot!
I am not just saying that to join the chorus of the blogosphere. It truly is one of the most important things for a company or organization. The appearance of a keyword in Search Engine Results Pages (SERP’s) is at the top of every marketing managers’ to-do list. The ideas of search ranking are floated along in an endless parade of buzzwords like Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Search Engine Marketing (SEM), Analytics, Metrics, Big Data, keyword targeting, and on, and on. The problem is, what does it all mean? Now is not the time to shrug this off as just another marketing scheme that will have its day in the sun and fizzle out. It’s not! Saying that would be as ridiculous as saying that the “internet is a flash in the pan.” If this is your thinking, then you will be left in the dust. For those that believe that Internet search is here to stay, come along on a journey with me through the land of optimization. The core elements that constitute Search Optimization are, putting it simply:
- Social – Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.
- Backlinks – Companies or other sites that are linked to your site as partners, or in content sharing.
- Onpage (Technical) or Coding – This is the behind the scenes work. Making sure that the titles of your pages, the URL, the titles, the Headings (H1, H2), and of course, the speed at which your site loads in a browser are all things that effect your rankings.
- Onpage (Content) – The voice of your brand is important, but it is also important to know that the layout, the targeting of keywords, and even the title of your content is involved in where your site ranks in SERP’s (even more so now).
Google has been tweaking its metrics and algorithms in the recent months. They do this to root out fakers and abusers of the system. In the distant past of eight years ago, it was possible to “keyword stack” or “keyword stuff.” This meant that you would embed a certain keyword that helped your site rank higher in search engines, in your code or in the header and footer. I have said all of this to emphasize that the algorithms for search rankings have been changed a lot in the last ten years, and it is for the better for legitimate websites. Searchmetrics
has published a report
on search ranking factors and it has a wealth of information that shows the new direction of SEO. In this figure Searchmetrics ranks the “correlation between Google's search results and the various influencing factors."
It is simple to see that Social has increased in importance, as you may already know, but this graph shows just how important. As you might have suspected, Google has weighted its social platform Google+ the most. Any marketer would expect that you’d want to promote your own product, why should Google be any different? Second on the list is Facebook Shares. Since Facebook is the preeminent social platform (especially in terms of data), it only seems fair that Google would weight the number of shares a link to your website attained. The social ecosystem flows through each one of these other topics. The way that your website displays on a Facebook post is directly influenced by the way it is coded and whether it has images included in it. The better a post looks, the more likely it is to be clicked, shared and liked. Also the links that are made through social media can directly influence who is involved in your content creation and in your link building strategy. A Twitter follow, can lead to an RT, that connects your business or organization to its next client, donor, or patron. Each building block is necessary for the next to be possible.
The concept of backlinks, also known as inbound links, seems simple, but alas it isn’t. Creating content that others want to link to is the core of this metric. The problem is that you only want “quality” backlinks. This is to say that you want backlinks from other companies or organizations that are looked upon highly by Google as well. Monitoring the “digital reputation” of your brand is an emerging marketing manager’s responsibility. Here are four ways to begin your link building strategy:
- Link Building has always involved a certain amount of “snooping” because it is integral to see where sites that are ranking better than your site are linked. Majestic SEO allows you to see the linkbacks of sites.
- It is also easy to look at the footers or headers of pages to see what types of “emblem” links they have positioned on their site.
- Contacting the local chamber of commerce is usually an easy way to attach a reputable .gov link to your site, or to partner with a university or nonprofit in your area or field is also a nice way to coexist in the ecosystem of SEO.
- It is important to have current information and content with links to referenced pages, because very often a piece can be reblogged or, even better, a guest blog can connect your page to a page that is viewed to have reputable and trusted information.
This part may seem the most daunting to the novice SEO practitioner, but it really can be boiled down to a few easy steps.
- Make sure the Length of your URL’s is not too long
- Assure that the keyword that you are targeting to be searched is included in the title and ultimately in the URL
- h1 and h2 tags are increasingly important to Google. These are header tags; in reality it is the HTML code that makes titles and subsection titles bold and stand out. These show the search engine that your site is well laid out and that it is easy to read. If you are unsure if you are using h1 and h2 tags, check the “View Page Source” by right-clicking on the page you wish to check and find (control+f) the h1 or h2 tags. If you don’t see them on your blog, check the CMS or content delivery system for your site and play with the different settings (in Wordpress there is a drop down menu at the top of the text block, where you enter content, that allows you to set text as “Heading 1” or “Heading 2.”
- Last, by certainly not least important, make sure that your site loads quickly. If your site is bogged down it may take too long to open and you will lose traffic because of this. Convert images to .png files that take up less memory.
Searchmetrics shows the top 30 search ranked sites site speed in this figure:
How does your site load time compare? These are the top ranked sites in Google SERPs with load times of 1.14 to 1.29 seconds. If your site loads in under three to four seconds, you should be pleased, but use these times as a goal.
These factors refer to the visible elements of a website; outward facing, if you will. This section may seem less frightful than the technical section, but it is no less intricate. Here are a few elements to focus your attention on:
- Word Count – this factor has climbed to the forefront of SEO checklists. While months ago Google ranked this as a non factor, it now has doubled its importance. This is to say that a website is ranked higher if it has more content, which is Google’s response to every business starting a blog. Simply, if you are not blogging on your website, start now.
- Image Count – Google also doubled the importance of images on a website. This metric is directly correlated to the technical side because these images should be named for what they are and should be keyword rich. Lots of images are good. Lots of images with keyword rich alt attributes are even better. Images are also “sticky,” to use a marketing buzzword; images grab attention and can make the difference between a person clicking and not clicking.
- Internal Links – These links refer to another blog post, or another page contained within your own domain. For example, when a blogger refers to a previous post in order to further explain a point, or when a website says “For more information” and this link leads them to the “Contact Us” page.
- External Links – This is important because it goes hand in hand with the link building framework. Within a blog post or on a content page of a website, a link can be inserted to the source material for the information or it can give credit to another site for lending ideas or inspiration to a post. These links can build a community and an ecosystem that is especially important in the nonprofit environment.
Tell us how your organization is ranking in SERPs; did these tips help? ~Josef