Thanks to the fact that Google has never released all the factors they base their algorithm rankings on, most of us simply speculate about the finer details. The better-known factors, such as keyword placement and URL, are both employed by most SEO experts, but did you know that there are actually over 200 signals being used by the search giant to index organic content? These range from domain and site level factors, to backlinks, on-page elements, backlinks, social signals and interaction by users.
Whether you want to improve your organic ranking to scale back on PPC spend, or simply to make sure you attract your ideal customer in the most effective way possible, you should be investing in organic SEO. Why? Well, according to Hubspot:
More than 1.1 billion people use Google search each month to make 114 billion searches. According to comScore, Google holds 67.6% of the U.S. search engine market share. This means that marketers looking to rank highly in organic search have to worry a great deal about what Google is looking for.
Let’s take a look at the most important factors used by Google when evaluating a website.
Factors Relating To The Domain
Domain age is important but here we’re talking about a ten-year old domain vs one that has just been reserved. If it’s a matter of a year old and a six month old website, there’s not much difference between them. What is slightly more important is the keyword appearing in your primary domain. And, what is an edge over that is when the keyword is the first word in the domain.
Conversely, if your domain is a known spammer it’s more likely that Google will penalize you.
On-Page SEO Elements
Your title tag is one of the most important classifiers on your website, so it is important for it to contain your keyword. The closer to the beginning you can insert your keyword, the more relevant it will appear to search engines. Doubling up and including it in your description (unique) is also important.
On the page, the H1 tag provides a second way of indexing for search engines, a trait that has been proven by research. You can extend the effectiveness of this by ensuring that the keyword is the phrase used most often in the piece of content you are optimizing. You need to be careful here though, as you do not want this to appear spammy and over-done.
Longer content is also known to be more effective at matching search engine criteria, as it is more comprehensive and offers readers more value, something that search engines want to make certain of.
Bing and Google have both been very explicit about the speed at which a page loads, as a ranking factor. The spiders used to index page content also read your website’s file sizes and codes, to see how quickly it will load, so it is not necessarily a real-time assessment, rather a best practice approach. It is also rumored that Google makes use of the Chrome browser to detect a page’s speed, so if you want to be really sure, run your tests using Chrome as your primary browser.
Frequency Of Updates
The frequency with which you update your website content, measured by Google’s Caffeine update, allows the search engines to index the time sensitivity of your information. This is more valuable for their readers, who want to see recent and relevant information.
Not only that, making significant changes is more effective than changing a word here or there. Bringing a new page or section (or removing one), will probably attract more search engine attention.
Quality Of Content
Well-written content that does not have lots of spelling and grammar mistakes will also achieve a better ranking for the pages you optimize. Similarly, pages with high quality outbound links (links to authoritative sites with lots of quality traffic) can also improve your ranking. Moz.com reminds us:
Currently, the major engines typically interpret importance as popularity – the more popular a site, page or document, the more valuable the information contained therein must be. This assumption has proven fairly successful in practice, as the engines have continued to increase users’ satisfaction by using metrics that interpret popularity.
Factors That Make A Difference At Site Level
So those are some of the micro elements a search engine is likely to use when ranking your site, but there are also higher level factors that will be based on to get a snapshot of how effectively your site works. For example, a contact page is essential for letting the search engines know there are real humans available to help users when they migrate from the online environment.
A site that has an intuitive architecture is also likely to be scored higher by the search engines. This allows them to index and organize your content a lot faster. The number of pages it has also tells them whether there is decent content available. A large site with lots of pages that are well organized is more likely to rank higher.
From a safety and security point of view it is imperative that ecommerce sites have an SSL certificate and that they feature privacy and terms of service pages.
Today, the SEO landscape also includes social media signals, as these are a good indicator of a brand’s popularity with online users. As this article from Search Engine Journals tell us:
YouTube is the second largest search engine, outstripping Bing, Ask, AOL, and Yahoo in sheer volume of searches. Twitter manages 2.1 billion queries every day. Facebook’s own search engine handles an estimated half billion on a daily basis. This. This is the new SEO. And it’s completely social.
If your CEO is still asking about the value of social interactions, this is one statistic you need to present. You might not be able to rank first for every keyword straightaway but you may be able to pick up the pace on your social channels of choice and this, in the long run, can only complement your organic SEO efforts.