It is reported that 75% of users never visit the second page on their search results. As search results become increasingly concise and filtered, it’s easy to forget how ruthless and saturated search engine rankings can be. Hence, it isn’t an understatement that the accessibility of your page on a search engine should be an integral precursor for your marketing value proposition. Accordingly, marketers are prioritising SEO as part of their inbound efforts. This post expands upon the theory, practice, and importance of SEO in an ever-growing digital marketplace.
SEO, or search engine optimization, refers to the process of increasing the likelihood of your website, content, product, etc. appearing close to the top of your SERP — search engine results page. The objective is to direct more traffic to your webpage by increasing its ranking on a user’s search engine index, either organically or with minimal monetary investment.
Search engine results page or SERP is a constantly evolving geography. Search results — especially those pertaining to inquiries now feature quick answers and knowledge panels that direct clicks away from low-ranked domains. For instance, if you were to google ‘marketing attribution’, you would be presented with a quick answer in the form of a short description directly below. Additionally, other relevant, consolidated information is presented on the right within knowledge panels. Note that Google and many other search engines prioritise having their users spend more time on their SERP without having them navigate away as much. This is why marketers need to capitalise on their rich results and SERP ranking.
Before we look at what your search engine prioritizes when ranking, it’s well worth understanding what crawlers are and how search engine indexing works:
Crawling is the process of your search engine sending out crawlers, which are bots that are used to discover new web pages. The crawlers start by following a certain number of web pages followed by then routinely navigating content and new links within these web pages. Thereby discovering a series of new web pages which it reports back to its respective server. A website’s crawlability thus refers to a crawler’s viability in a website or web page. More on increasing crawlability below.
All this information that the crawlers obtain is then stored in a database known as a search engine index. The data is then organised, analysed, and prepped for retrieval on a search engine results page — this process is known as search engine indexing.
Before indexed information is retrieved into a search engine results page, it is ranked by several factors in order to obtain the most relevant sources of information. While this piece will cover some critical success factors for your SEO, it is important to understand that Google ranks their websites based on relevancy and an algorithm. Understanding the algorithm is fairly complicated as it is continually evolving. That being said, PageRank is an algorithm that is still being used by Google to rank websites and will help provide an idea of how the ranking algorithm works.
PageRank uses an algorithm that helps rank web pages based on their relative importance. It does this by estimating how many times a web page is visited or linked from other web pages and also measures the quality of these links. For example, your web page is more likely to be ranked higher if it is linked by relatively important web pages — like Forbes or the NYT — than it is if it was linked by many less "relevant" web pages — like The Onion or ArticleIFY.
The importance of a web page is assessed using a random surfer model and a damping factor that estimates how many times a web page is visited by a random surfer and assigns a percentage to all web pages visited. All you need to know is that the model and damping factor helps eliminate any way in which people can artificially inflate their web page’s importance.
This segment will explain a few critical success factors for your SEO in the form of good keyword practices, indexing and crawlability, and more:
Keywords play a surprisingly significant role when it comes to SERP ranking. Certain niche keywords could be the reason your web page is ranked higher in a SERP. But what keywords should you use? Before you choose your keywords, you need to establish your search intent. Understanding your web traffic, and what they’re looking for is key when it comes to search intent. Ask yourself what people would specifically search for and what words or phrases they’d use — for instance, 8% of all search queries are in the form of questions.
Once you have an idea of some appropriate keywords, it would help to know what their search volume is. You could administer the help of a keyword research tool — like Jaaxy, GrowthBar, SEMrush, Google Keyword Planner, etc., which are tools that help gauge how popular/relevant certain keywords are. They could even compare and recommend other related keywords.
The largest barrier here is the competition of high volume and short-tail keywords — or search phrases consisting of only one or two words. Industry-leading brands are often ranked higher for short-tailed keywords due to their relative importance. However, there are some advantages in using long-tail keywords (i.e. search phrases that are longer with three to five words). The consensus is that, while high volume and short-tail keywords tend to involve highly-competitive broad search queries, long-tail keywords account for more convertible traffic as their search phrases are specific. Hence, you’re likely to garner more traffic with niche low volume, long-tail keywords than if you were to compete using high volume keywords. For example, you’re more likely to earn traffic from a search phrase like ‘Accounts receivable automation software’ than you do for ‘Accounting software’. Remember, if your keywords are too obscure, you risk losing your spot on a SERP.
LSI or latent semantic indexing keywords may also be useful. LSI is a tool used by Google to understand synonyms and can contextualize keywords by linking them with relevant ones. This means that a synonym does not necessarily have to be an LSI keyword, and can be anything relevant in the context of your content. For instance, Googling ‘demand generation’ would have related searches for strategies and comparisons with lead generations. LSI has helped Google in identifying and contextualizing content on web pages better, which is a win when it comes to SEO.
It is essential to know what affects your crawlability. The first is your site and internal link structure. It is imperative to make your search engine’s job of locating your site as easy as possible. For this, you must ensure that your site structure has an appealing UI and makes navigating across different pages intuitive. This way, crawlers will not find it difficult to get by. For the crawlers to do a comprehensive search on your website, ensure that a fair amount of internal link resources are prevalent for the crawlers to fully cover your website. It is also important to block crawlers’ access to irrelevant pages to avoid saturating the context of your content.
Besides your site and internal structure, making sure that other interferences such as slow site loading speeds are resolved as they add to the crawlability of your website. If you are unsure about your site’s visibility on a SERP, using tools like Google Search Console will help monitor your site’s presence on Google SERP.
Recalling the mechanics of Google’s PageRank algorithm, you will know that your web pages’ networking with other pages is of paramount importance. Having external links from other sites that link to your site — especially higher quality links that come from important sites — along with understanding your competitors’ backlinks and utilizing them will help improve your ranking.
Rich results is a feature that showcases information that is not only important in giving a brief description to a user but also helps crawlers identify your site and the purpose of the content because of its metadata. Rich results have a title, meta description, favicon — and depending on what the page is about it could even show pricing, specifications, and a rating. All of which aid in the crawlability and a user’s understanding of the web page.
Another simple but effective factor is the quality of the content on your page. The use of unique, engaging, and informational content with ample visual representations in the form of high-quality images and video. Google prefers sites with content, and good content at that. The better the quality of the content is, the more favourable you become in Google’s algorithm.
With these factors in place, you’re one step ahead in your SEO journey. When it comes to SEO, being consistent, putting out new content, and following good practices will be sure to help out in the long run. Just remember that SEO is always changing, and if you want to take the bull by the horns — keep updating your methods, and stay ahead of the status quo.
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