Before I begin and in case you’re new to SEO, there are a lot of business owners who tend to think that high keyword rankings are the goal of search marketing, but this just isn’t true. As search marketers, our goal is to produce a solid return on investment for our clients in ways that make sense. And so a high keyword rank for a given keyword term isn’t in itself a good measure of success for your business: what you really want is a website that ranks well for a spectrum of keywords that also produce visitor conversions. So what do high ranked websites have in common? Accessibility, content and trust. Let’s find out what that means!
A search engine’s job is to be the marketing vehicle for sites that are relevant to searchers. The only way a search engine can do it’s job is if it can actually find and index your pages. Most website accessibility problems are technical related so I’m going to mention several common issues to be wary of:
- Each page should link to each page – A search engine will crawl through your website and try to index as many pages as it can find. If an engine isn’t able to find certain pages on your site, then those pages will never appear in the search index and will thus never send any traffic to you – so it’s important to have a well linked site, where each page links to every other page, either directly or indirectly. Try to use a site map or an XML site map if your website is very large or you have many product pages that otherwise are not linked from anywhere else in your site.
- Focus your site’s topics – It’s usually a good bet to group your web pages together into topical sections to make it easier for search engines to determine which pages should appear for which queries, vs having a huge, chaotic site with no order. You can group web pages into directories or arrange them in such a way that groups are created by having pages link to each other.
- URL path format – best to keep your URL path’s clean, simple, descriptive and close to the web root.
- Use your title tags and use them well! – Your web page’s title tag is the very first thing a searcher sees before they click through to your website, it’s like a first impression. No matter how much weight a search engine places on title tags you will always want to at least optimize your titles to draw human interest – and never leave page title tags blank.
- Heading tags – Use H1, H2, H3, etc. tags to separate logical portions of your page copy; doing so will help search engines match your page content with a keyword search, in other words, heading tags help engines know how different pieces of your page fit into context with possible web searcher queries. It’s also a good idea to correlate your main heading tag, usually the H1, with your page title tag.
It’s important to have content on your site. It’s really not good to have a website with a bunch of pages that also contain next to no text, because a search engine wold have little to index and feed to users as they search for information. A recent Penn State study indicates that 80% of all web searches are informational in nature, that is, people looking for answers to questions or who perform organic searches like "flu symptoms and treatments".
- If your site doesn’t contain content to help search engines send that 80% of organic searches, chances are you’re missing out on a lot of search traffic and the opportunity to increase your site’s mindshare among your target audience.
- It’s ok to have people visit your site who don’t buy something right away – for example: Google sends people away from their site every single day, yet those same people keep coming back again and again for more – and a portion of those people eventually click on the paid advertisements, generating billions for the big G.
One good rule of thumb to keep in mind is the more page you have on your website, the more "tickets" in the search "lottery" you have, which means you have a greater chance of pulling in more traffic by simply growing your website. One way to grow your site is to higher a web development company and have them configure your site to use a content management system (CMS) like a wordpress blog or a drupal framework install. CMS’s are designed to make updating and expanding your website easy.
Good search engine rankings are also a factor of how much a search engine trust’s your website.
- If you’re site has many inbound links from other sites then your site begins to look more important to search engines – and in that case when a person does a search for your target keywords, chances are that you will appear closer to the top of the list. Not all inbound links are considered equal, however, which deserves a separate blog post all together, but usually more is better.
- Inbound anchor text links are the holly grail of search engine rankings – it means that people other than you, who link to you, are saying you are an expert on the subject matter (keywords) at hand. Also be aware that having too many links with the exact same anchor text becomes suspect to the search engines and looks fake, flagging your site and probably not good for your search engine visibility. If you’re gaining links naturally you shouldn’t worry about flagging issues because not everybody will link to you in the exact same way.
- Domain age plays a role in your site’s trust factor. Many web spammers will buy, abuse and throw away domains in a matter of weeks or even days, and search engines know this – so if you’re domain is aged beyond a search engine’s "sandbox" or filtered waiting period you begin to look more trustworthy. Google has a sandbox filter that appears to make many sites wait several months before they begin ranking well in the SERPS.
- If your website appears to be an information hub that links out to other, trusted and useful websites then search engines begin to reward that kind of behavior. Remember, linking out and sending a portion of your traffic away is not a bad thing – think back to my Google example mentioned earlier.
- Another sure fire way to generate trust is to reduce your site’s duplicate content. One easy way to get rid of duplicated content is to 301 redirect your non-www domain to the www versi
on, that way you don’t have two different versions of your site in a search engine index.
What to take away from all this SEO jargon
If anything, remember that web pages are ranked in the organic search based on how relevant that page is to the query of the searcher. There are many factors involved but to be relevant and to rank high you’ll need accessibility, content and trust associated with your website.