[This article was written by Haseeb Najam.]
Most small businesses now understand the value of SEO and how it can benefit their business. Moreover, they also have an idea that just being visible in Google won’t do any good. Their website needs to appear, ideally, in the top 3 SERP positions or on the first page at least.
But what does it take for a website to appear on top position in Google SERPS? Is there a magic formula? Or a company that has control over Google SERPS?
The quick answer is No.
So how do we know what we have to do to rank a website on top position in Google?
Although Google itself offers lots of material in the form of blogs, videos, guides and communities to educate & help small businesses on what is needed to rank their website in the top position it’s not as that simple. There are a lot of other factors in play when it comes to ranking in Google.
But the good part is SEO community is humble enough to share their experience in the form of case studies. They do experiments and observe the results. They tweak their websites based on these results to confirm the outputs and then share their findings for other people to let them know, how or what is, working nowadays when it comes to SEO.
But to summarize it, there are external factors known as Off-Page SEO and the internal factors known as On-Page SEO that determines how good your site will perform in Google.
Let’s see what they are…
There are more than 200 positioning factors that, as its name implies, make a page appear on the number 1 position in Google.
Off-Page SEO (External Factors)
Anything you do to help improve your website ranking that is not done on the website itself can be termed as an external factor or Off-Page SEO.
Most of the time, SEO focuses on backlinks when it comes to off-page SEO, however, there are other things as well that can impact your website rankings like your brand reputation.
Backlinks are considered as votes for your website. They indicate to the search engines the authority that a website has, that is, if it is a trustworthy resource on a subject or not.
Since Google stopped showing toolbar PageRank, nobody knows exactly how Google calculates the authority of a website, although there are likely to be numerous factors that define it. Brand mentions, the quality of external links and social signals are some of the most important ones. We can understand the quality of external links with this example.
Suppose that tonight you have that long-awaited party with your friends and you were tasked to bring the best pizza in the town. Where would you go to buy it? To a small pizzeria that has very few user reviews & recommendations online or Dominoes which is one of the biggest pizza chains in the USA?
If you have decided on the second option then you have chosen the correct one. Well, the same happens to Google. It gives more importance to the authenticity of websites that links back to your website.
Google loves brands. They even have a specific algorithm update to make sure everyone knows that they love the brand.
As more people search for a brand name in Google, more the website authority, which is associated with that brand name, will increase. And as the authority increases, so does the rankings in Google.
Social signals can also influence Google rankings indirectly. If a website is being shared, liked or retweeted regularly, it might result in more visitors which can improve the site’s overall rankings.
OnPage SOE (Internal factors)
The internal SEO factors are those factors that we can directly do on a website.
Its main objective is to make sure that search engines understand what our website is about when they access the website. Content quality, Site architecture, Speed and User behavior are the most relevant on-page SEO factors of a website.
The content of our website is the most important factor to influence a website’s position in Google.
Content optimization is based on Keyword Research. It’s to make sure that we define what our website is about to Google crawlers. If we post articles on our website about cars then Google might classify our website in the automotive category. The content of our website basically directs Google to make our website appear on that relevant topic or industry.
So, for instance, if we are posting automotive-related content on our website, Google will never show our website if someone is searching for a health-related search in Google.
Remember that before writing content, it is important to carry out proper & detailed keyword research and choose which keywords to focus on. Include those keywords (naturally) throughout the content.
Once Google spiders or crawlers access a website, they send all the information about that site back to their servers. It includes the number of pages, content, non-accessible pages, etc. That is why a crawler friendly site structure is very important. A good user-friendly URL structure not only helps in this but also helps usability by making user navigation easier.
Site Loading Speed:
Website loading time is also essential. A slow-loading website not only worsens the user experience but also impacts the ability of search engine crawlers to crawl all pages of a website.
When a crawler access a website it mainly read the website’s HTML code. Clean & optimized code is essential for a website in making a crawler understand what that site is about. Search engines use certain HTML tags in website code to display information about that website in their SERPs. Some of these tags also influence a website’s ranking such as title tag, meta description tags, Heading tags, alt tags, etc.
Similarly, if you have an eCommerce or product reviews website then you need to implement structured data tags in your code as it is becoming increasingly important in search results.
User Experience – Is it Important for SEO?
Yes, the user experience (UX) plays a very important role, indirectly though, in a website ranking in search engines.
On more than one occasion, Google said that UX factors do not influence the website’s ranking but on the other hand they constantly mention it in their guides on evaluating the quality of a website based on user experience. Factors like CTR, Site Speed, Bounce Rate has always been considered as important ones as Google is showing them in their SERP performance evaluation tools such as Google Analytics or Search Console.
Although numerous factors can affect the SEO positioning of a website, having a well-optimized website will help search engines in determining its relevancy and quality in a better way as compared to a non-optimized website.
Having said that, times and again, content and backlinks are found to be key factors for SEO positioning. They are termed as the most important factors that will help in better Google rankings and search visibility.
Haseeb Najam is working in the search marketing field since 2006. His expertise includes SEO, SEM, Link Building, Product Development and critiquing local food. Currently, he is working as SEO Head at LinkBuildingHQ, the fastest-growing link building agency in the USA.