A majority of the traffic to most websites come from search engines. Studies have shown a high percentage of clicks through to sites happen on one of the top three results. With such importance focused on such few results, managing your site’s ranking in the search engine can be crucial for success.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the active process of managing internal and external factors which will affect your website’s ranking in search engines. Search engines don’t view web pages the same way humans do, so you have to work to make sure your site content is processed correctly to gain the results you desire. There are countless experts and consultants in this billion dollar industry who will charge you thousands of dollars for the potential for high search rankings. For some firms, there is a definite return on investment (ROI) when using an SEO consultant, but we will help you perform your own SEO as we are building a company on a shoestring budget.
The largest search engine is still Google, but Bing has been making a strong showing over the past twelve months. There are some differences, but for the most part, you will follow the same techniques to rank well in either search engine.
Why Is It Important to Rank Well for My Target Keywords?
When you search for someone, you often see Google return millions of results, but how many of those results actually get visited? In late 2006, AOL had an unfortunate data leak and revealed logged data of millions of search requests across almost half a million users. Unfortunate for them, but fortunate for us: we gathered insight into how users interact with search results that we do not normally have access to. Consider these interesting stats:
- 42% of the clicks are on the 1st result
- 12% of the clicks are on the 2nd result
- 8% of the clicks are on the 3rd result
- 6% of the clicks are on the 4th result
- 5% of the clicks are on the 5th result
73% of the clicks happened in the first 5 results.
Overall, 90% of all of the clicks occurred on the first page, with only 4% of clicks happening on page 2. If you aren’t on page 1, you aren’t getting much exposure.
Thought this data is almost 5 years old, there are no indications that the underlying behavior of users has changed much. The top three results in the search engine rankings are likely getting the most traffic and everyone else gets a much smaller percentage. If you’re not on the first page of results, a vast majority of your potential audience never sees your site.
How Search Engines See Your Website
Search engines read web pages (crawl in search engine terminology) differently than humans do. Search engines process the text on the page and some multimedia elements such as the text in Flash movies. When it crawls your website, it acquires the text on the page, drops some of the common html and formatting tags, and stores a copy of the page in its database. It determines the major keywords on the page and uses these when someone searches for certain keywords in the future.
When you open Google, type in your search term, and click Search, the system queries the large database for content related to the term you’re searching for. It uses a complex algorithm – containing over 200 variables! – to determine which content should be 1, 2, 3, and so on. The goal of optimizing your site and content for search engines is to maximize all of those variables, at least the most important ones, and get a high ranking.
Search Engine Ranking Variables
The actual formula for the search engine algorithm is a closely guarded secret and it changes frequently. Through trial and error, and collective knowledge, we’ve compiled what many SEO industry experts believe are the most important factors. Google has recently made changes with social media influence in mind and also to reduce content farms – sites with low quality content. Google is always making changes, so by the time you read this, the actual formulaic mix of the search engine ranking factors will likely have changed. However, the principles remain the same and as long as you are being ethical in how you approach search engine optimization, we believe you will be able to gain good traction in the rankings.
One principle to remember when exploring SEO is that each page on your site is ranked for these factors, not just the home page or domain. So, when we discuss these factors, it applies to each page on your site.
The top factors on this list will have the most impact for your site, so these are the ones we will focus on for maximum benefit. We’re going to focus on the top 10 search engine ranking factors and how to practically control these for your site:
- Anchor text of external links, the text used for incoming links
- Quantity and quality of external links, known as link popularity
- Trust worthiness of the root domain
- Links from many different root domains
- Keyword in title tag
- Keyword in the root domain
- Unique content on the page, keyword density in the content
- Freshness of content
- Ranking of page against other pages (aka PageRank)
- Internal linking keywords and structure
It’s important to understand that taking shortcuts to get high search engine rankings will likely do more damage than good for your site. J.C. Penney was recently penalized for spamming Google using what are considered black hat (unethical) search engine optimization techniques. Keep this in mind as we explore these ten ranking factors, we’re going to explain white hat techniques for getting results. It’s going to take time and effort to achieve the sort of rankings you will desire to make a good income online and we recommend staying away from anything that seems too good to be true.
As we explore these different ranking factors, we’ll provide you tips and hints on how to improve the factor for your site.