Having maximum online visibility for your business is no longer an ancillary marketing concern. To remain competitive your business MUST be easy to find on the Internet. If it is not, then you can bet that your business is gradually becoming unknown, and thus, obsolete.
One of the most essential ways to help your business get found easily online is through top placement within the search engines’ results pages; more specifically, within the first 5 organic rankings on Google, Yahoo and Bing. Over 85% of all transactions start online and the organic results receive 65% more clicks then the sponsored results, thus making search engine optimization a crucial part of your marketing plan. A strong SEO campaign will help your website get ranked organically over time, making it a necessity for any business website.
Think about it, when you need information, where is the first place you go? Most likely the search engines, more specifically Google.com. Now ask yourself, how often do you click on anything other than the organic results and how often do you click past the first page to see secondary or tertiary results? If you’re anything like most search engine users, then you are probably clicking on the first 5 organic results and very rarely going beyond the first page of results.
What Do Search Engines Look For When Ranking Sites Organically?
With millions of websites vying for first page results, the search engines have been forced to establish set guidelines and prerequisites in determining which websites will rank in the top 10 results for certain keywords and phrases. The search engines use the following four criteria, amongst many others, to determine which websites to rank in the top organic results:
Domain Authority – Simply put, the longer you have had a website, preferably an optimized website, on a specific domain name, the more likely it is that your website will have a chance to rank organically. The reason for this is because the search engines put quite a bit of weight on websites that have proven their legitimacy and credibility over the years. This prerequisite helps to keep spammers with multiple temporary websites from polluting the organic results.
Content – The organic search results are all about relevance and trust. Google wants its users to only get the most relevant results for what they queried. Anything less may lead to a bad experience and one less user. For this reason, the search engines put a lot of emphasis and weight on how good and how much content your website has. Your content (the actual text, images, links and videos) need to be extremely relevant, high quality, authoritative and unique to your website. Anything less will make it very difficult for your website to ever compete with well ranked websites already.
Link Popularity – Just as, if not more important than content in some cases, is link popularity. This is basically a gauge of how authoritative and relevant your website is as seen by other websites. The more links TO your website FROM other relevant, quality and authoritative websites, the higher your link popularity becomes and thus, the higher your organic rankings will climb. As the first pages of the search engines’ results continue to get more competitive, your website absolutely must have a solid link building plan to continuously build its link popularity.
Website Coding and Architecture – Construction companies building new homes or offices have to meet specific codes before they can even think about completing their work and getting paid for it. The same thing exists with websites as there are certain elements that must be in place for a website to even be considered as a candidate for top natural placement. Some of these elements include optimized title tags, meta tags, image tags, and much more.
FREE WEBSITE ANALYSIS: If you are ever unsure as to whether or not your website meets any or all of these 4 main criteria, then please leave us a comment or send us an email and we will be happy to perform a simple website analysis for you to lead you in the right direction.
If you would like more specific information on what the search engines look for and how to best meet those guidelines, then definitely check out Google’s SEO Starter Guide.
SEOMoz has also provided a fantastic pie chart that breaks down their findings of what Google’s Algorithm looks for when ranking a site organically. Rand and SEOMoz are set to release an updated chart soon to match any changes that have been to Google’s algorithm over the past year or so.
How to Get a Website Ranked #1
A common misconception with many search engine marketers and website owners alike is that On-Page Optimization is the most important thing to getting a website ranked in the top of the search engines. On-Page Optimization is absolutely crucial to the success of your website; however, on-page optimization must be combined with other elements to truly help your website get ranked #1.
Website Accessibility – Search engines must be able to see and read all of the content that you have hopefully placed on your website. Make sure that you are not hiding content, incorrectly using robots.txt files or “noindex” tags or implementing any other barriers that may be preventing the search engines from crawling your website.
Quality Content – As mentioned above, content must be relevant, unique and high quality. In addition, and more importantly, content must also be viral. Viral content leads to high link conversion rates and thus helps your website to attain as many valuable backlinks as possible.
Basic On-Page Optimization – As smart as the search engines continue to get, they still rely on proper on-page optimization of websites to determine how relevant certain web pages are to specific key terms and phrases. Using keywords correctly in the proper places (title tags, urls and anchor text links) continue to help web pages to perform well.
Usability – One of the most commonly overlooked elements of optimization is usability. The overall experience a user has on your website will determine how many links it will receive, how many positive mentions it will receive socially, and highly it converts visitors to leads and/or sales.
Effective Marketing – As much as we would like to say that “if you just create great content, people will naturally find it and link to it” this is not the case for many websites. Great content must be accompanied by great marketing to receive the maximum attention and exposure it needs to be effective. Take advantage of social media and other forms of marketing to expose your great content to as many targeted people as possible.
Putting It All to Use
The information provided will hopefully help you understand how the search engines work and what they look for when ranking websites organically. This information is NOT meant to provide you with ways to trick the search engines though. If you are going to spend the time and money to get your website ranked organically, where it needs to be, then do it with the right intentions and best practices in mind.
If you still do not understand how or why any of this works and need some personal attention, then please take advantage of our offer to review your website for you, for FREE.
If there are certain elements that we may have left off or that you would like more detailed explanation on, then please leave us a comment and we will be happy to expand.
UPDATE: SEOMoz has updated their biennial Search Ranking Factors per their extensive research of the search engines’ algorithms. Make sure to give it a look to see how the search engines’ algorithms are progressing.