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Have you wondered how you get appropriate results when you search for something on the internet? Or what it is that decides which results would come where on your search results? You have probably heard or guessed that search engines like Google use complex algorithms to perform this function. These algorithms may be complex. But what they do is fairly simple. They recognize patterns and sort them according to your queries.
So sites which have patterns that match better with the search queries come right on top of the other results. The steps you take to ensure that the patterns on your webpages conform better with the requirement of the algorithms search engines use to rank them on their results page is called Search Engine Optimization or SEO.
In the early years of the search engines, the only thing that mattered was the number of pages that pointed to your page. In other words, how well connected you were to the other resources on the internet decided how trustworthy and authoritative your page was. As the number of websites grew over the years, it became challenging to maintain the relevance of the results. Consequently, new factors were introduced so that users got appropriate results for their search queries. Now it is estimated that there are over 200 factors that are used by Google to decide the relevancy of each of the pages for a particular search query. These factors have been assigned different weights and values which fluctuate almost on a daily basis with algorithm changes.
In this article, we're going to run you through ten of the most important signals that contribute to most to your relevancy score.
There is no better person than Eric Schmidt, the former Executive Chairman of Google to emphasize the importance of trust when he said," In a networked world, trust is the most important currency."
Even after 2 decades of their existence, search engines attribute the maximum weight to inbound links as a signal for relevancy.
However, today quality of the links is as important as the quantity of the links, if not more. The inbound links to your webpage must come from sites that have plenty of traffic and links themselves. They must be relevant to your page must be preferably linked to keywords as anchor text that are high on the page.
Many individuals use questionable methods to obtain these links. We urge parties to desist from such practices as it can result in severe penalization. After all, link building is done to generate authority. You cannot build authority by breaching trust.
Your site becomes more trustworthy with HTTPS. It tells the users and the search engine that you are serious about the privacy of your users. Google used to incentivise site owners to add an SSL certificate to their site by adding extra weight to it as a ranking signal. Web browsers these days expect all sites to move to HTTPS and display "not secure" against websites that haven't moved yet.
So, whether or not an SSL is a major ranking factor, not having it would put your site at a disadvantage as searchers might be apprehensive about visiting your site even if your pages appear on the search results.
A survey found that over 50% of the people visiting a website abandoned it if didn't load in less than 3 seconds. The faster a page loads, the easier it will be for crawlers to visit more pages. More importantly, people will be hooked to the website for longer periods as they can easily move from one page to another.
There are different stages for which the loading time is benchmarked. The response to the first request, the time taken to download all page elements and the time taken for the entire page to render are the most commonly measured attributes. Try different approaches to speed up your website. If the dynamic loading is slow, improve the coding efficiency. If the time taken to render the page is too high, consider removing some of the external resources on your page. If the static elements take too much time to load, use a Content Delivery Network and a more aggressive caching method.
How can you gain the trust of search engines when they don't understand what your site is all about? Search engines use programs called spiders to visit the resources on your website so that they can be catalogued and displayed to users who search for them. Websites have sitemaps that facilitate their crawling. XML sitemaps list all the URLs that can be indexed. A small file called the robots.txt specifies which pages can be crawled and which shouldn't. Alternatively, meta robots can be used to prevent Google from indexing pages of your site.
When you visit a website, your browser requests the server on which the website is for permission to access the website. The server communicates the 'status code' with the browser. A status code is an HTTP message which indicates if a request has been completed. Every page on a website sends a status code. 20x responses signify that the request was successful. A 40x response, on the other hand, signifies that the request was unsuccessful. Likewise, a 30x response is used for redirection. These and canonical tags are necessary to maintain page authority. Ensure that all the pages you want the search engines to rank send a 200 OK status code.
It is not sufficient that the spiders crawl your website and find that your pages are active. It is equally important that the content and the HTML codes on the pages are decipherable.
Content is one of the most weighted signals. Helping human users has to be the primary objective of every website. Relevant and useful content is the pillar of SEO today and will continue to be so.
Another heavily weighted factor is the title tag. It is what you see at top of the browser window and also the search results. Similarly, the slugs following the top level domain name for different pages must have the primary keyword. Use hyphens to separate phrases in the URL. Use appropriate header tags, image alt tags and the meta description to help improve on page optimization.
Structured data helps both users and search engines understand what the content means as opposed to knowing only what the pages say. Search engines today are smart enough to understand semantics. They understand the context of the query and come up with an appropriate response. When you inquire about prices, for example, you would have noticed a carousel of products and their prices on the search results. This is made possible by formatting the layout and style of the content using structured data markup syntaxes like JSON-LD, RDFa or Microdata.
Mobile often accounts for over 70% traffic in many cases. Some businesses have gone so far as to restrict their presence to mobile apps only. Optimising content for mobile is especially important to local SEO. Several successful websites have been created first for their mobile audience and have later been enhanced for desktop users. The primary difference between the mobile and the desktop version is the layout. They must have readable text in the available space and must incorporate simpler lead forms. Many websites even have a clickable phone number which is not available on the desktop version. Additionally, mobile data is often more expensive than a wireless connection. So, to speed up websites can use Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) which are compressed versions of their webpages. Needless to say, do not compromise on the quality or quantity of information on your mobile pages.
Seo can be done at different geographic levels. At the smallest scale, you can hyper localise your SEO efforts. Proximity is an important weighing factor for local SEO. A person looking to buy groceries would prefer to go to the closest store. There might be stores with much higher domain authority but it is the closest one that would be the most relevant.
It is relatively easy to perform local SEO. All you need to do is to build links from local websites and businesses. Even writing blogs about your local area can contribute significantly to your SEO efforts.
International SEO comes at the other end of the spectrum. You may have to use different language and location settings. Some countries have the same language but there will be different colloquialisms you will have to adjust for. Other factors such as currency and measurement metrics will also change. Some websites even use different ccTLDs. Others use Hreflang for their language or region-specific pages.
The first step you can take to audit a website is to inspect the elements on it. Most web browsers provide the tools to do this. With a little technical knowledge, you can understand from the source code how each element cumulatively adds structure to your website. Also, keep track of your domain and page authority. Googles PageSpeed Insights can help you with suggestions on the ways you can improve the speed of your mobile and desktop sights.
Equally important is to keep a close eye on your inbound and outbound links.
Nobody is ever done and dusted with SEO. It is for all practical purposes, an eternal process. Algorithms evolve as people change the way they interact with technology. Search results are increasingly becoming more personalised. Your content should too. So a business with a physical location listed with Google is likely to get more traffic than a one which isn't. It is easier than ever before to create and share content. And search engines are aware of this. They are not only considering how often your content is shared, but who shared it too. Factors such as click-through rate and brand search volume too influence your page's search ranking.
SEOs evolution is unfathomable. Nonetheless, at its core, it is about creating good content and exploring ways to share it as far and wide as possible. Establishing your website's authority on the website is not very different from establishing your authority in the real world. Creativity, trustworthiness and efficiency put you at great positions at which you can reap rich rewards.