Search Engine Optimisation is a constantly expanding and ever-changing field which can seem like a bit of a minefield if you don’t know where to start.
As a business owner it’s vital that you and your team understand the importance SEO plays to your online presence, and how best to stay ahead of the game.
Here is an overview of the white paper recently published by Searchmetrics – The 2014 Rank Correlation Analysis and SEO Ranking Factors for Google U.S.
Don’t be put off by the technical jargon in the title. This report is vital reading if you want to understand what differentiates high-ranking sites, and increase organic visits to your own site. It could be used as a basis for your SEO strategy and to help understand if you are doing the right things.
Searchmetrics provide an in-depth analysis, they look at ‘Ranking Factors’ – algorithms used by Google to evaluate websites by topic and relevance, explaining how we have moved on from the days of subject associated search terms (keywords) which could be ‘stuffed’ into pages to increase ranking. Ranking factors are now far more complex, taking into consideration multiple factors, both technical (such as backlinks) and non-technical.
For this reason, Searchmetrics now recommend: “From a business perspective, long-term success can be achieved by using a sustainable business strategy based on incorporating relevant quality factors to maintain strong search positions”.
Summary of the key findings
Below are summarised the key findings from the report. I have tried to pull out items which should form part of your SEO strategy.
1. High quality, relevant content will consistently rank well
It may sound obvious, but it’s surprising the number of businesses churning out content for the sake of it, without actually sitting back to consider the quality of what they are saying.
Google will take into consideration properties such as high word count, content that is written and structured well, as well as the inclusion of other media such as images and videos.
The key here is relevance.
2. Keywords are still important – but in a different way
Single subject keywords are no longer as apparent, with the trend towards entire topics. In fact, overuse of keywords can have a negative impact on your rankings.
Multi-word keywords are now far more likely to be considered. This is because people are searching for entire topics instead of single words.
Results are no longer dependent on the keywords in the domain name or URL either.
However, shorter URLs appear consistently at the top of rankings, and keywords should still be included in your page descriptions and Heading 1 tags.
The report states: “Titles and Descriptions that the user reads in the SERPs snippets also encourage clicking”.
It’s vital to think carefully about what you are writing in your meta descriptions, so that once you do show up in Google search results, your target audience will actually want to click the link.
3. Site architecture is vital
Searchmetrics suggest you include the following: well-balanced internal links; short loading times for pages; regularly maintaining and updating the site; use of relevant metas – such as Title & Description, throughout the site.
They also said although technology is important, backlinks are nothing without decent content.
The top ten ranking URLs were on average 36 characters in length, and all contained a meta-description.
They say: “The presence of certain on page technical factors is a basic requirement for a ranking on the first pages of SERPs” (Search Engine Ranking Positions).
Remember to also include internal links. The study found the top ranking sites had on average 120 – 140 internal links per URL, but a link should ALWAYS make sense in its context.
4. The importance of Brand
The study highlighted the importance of having a brand, and particularly inclusion on Wikipedia. Although big brands were consistently at the higher end of the SERPs, they were not always in position 1 – great news for small businesses.
In conclusion, one of the main points to come out of this white paper is as follows:
“If website editors want their content to rank better for specific keywords, the content should be created with the fulfilment of user search intent in mind”.
So, it is important to look at the architecture of your website, and to utilise relevant keywords, but ultimately if your content is not meaningful and relevant to the reader, your site won’t hold a high SERP. Including different media, with less advertising on your pages, will also help your site stand a chance of being up there at the top of Googles page ranking.
If you’re interested in finding out more about how to implement SEO, have a look at this basic guide to onsite SEO.