Do you remember Brian Dean’s comprehensive list of well over 200 ranking factors for Google? It’s OK if you don’t. After all, the aforementioned list did come out way back in 2013.
Those who are in the know, however, can attest to the fact that the sheer amount of research and work that went into this list was mind-boggling. It was chock full of SEO gold. There were so many tips, in fact, it seemed impossible for one person to stay on top of all of them.
Thankfully, you don’t have to follow every single one of Brian’s tips to help your website rank higher on the search engines. It’s possible to get the most out of your efforts by simply placing your focus on certain ranking factors.
Curious to know what some of these are? Just keep reading for a few simple tips that will help you optimize your site.
— TIPS NUMBER ONE —
Put the mobile-first user experience well…. first
One of the biggest changes that we saw with Google recently was their transition toward mobile-first indexing. In other words, Google’s index places more importance on the mobile version of sites than their desktop counterparts.
In fact, every single one of the most visible domains on the internet has a mobile-friendly solution. Keeping that in mind, it’s more important than ever to make sure that your content is optimized for mobile use.
To do so, you must change your perception of mobile-friendly to mobile first. In other words, your content should not only be identical on both desktop and mobile devices, it must be responsive as well.
There is one caveat, however. Google strongly cautions against launching your mobile site before it’s finished. In fact, launching an incomplete or broken mobile version of your site might actually hurt your ranking. So, it’s best to keep your desktop friendly website in operation until the mobile version is completely ready.
Another important ranking factor that ties into a good user experience is page speed. Your desktop should load in a maximum of 3 seconds. The maximum for mobile websites is two seconds.
- Use PageSpeed Insights to test the page speed of your site. If you discover that your page is slow, use an auditing tool to find and repair page errors, uncompressed content, and other factors that are responsible for slowing down your website
- Use the txt testing tool to make sure that Googlebot can access your site.
- The Structured Data Testing Tool comes in handy if you want to make sure that both your desktop and mobile sites have the same structured markup.
- The Google Search Console will help you add and authenticate your site’s mobile version.
— TIPS NUMBER TWO —
Content is key
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you should know that content is a highly important ranking factor for the Google search engine. This has been true for quite some time but, recently, there’s been a shift from the acceptance of keyword-filled content towards relevant content that’s written naturally.
In fact, based on information from SearchMetrics, at least ten of the top 20 queries have keywords in their title tags. It’s 40% for landing pages that have keywords in their H1. Furthermore, the number drops every year. This means that Google is starting to evaluate content based on its relevance. Keywords are no longer as important as they used to be.
You’re probably wondering, “What exactly is considered to be relevant content?” The answer to this question is simple. Relevant content is comprehensive.
Consider the top results when you look up the term, “golden retriever,” on the Google search engine.
You are sure to find a number of sites that talk about this beautiful specimen of dog but, let’s take a look at the DogTime article in particular. It just happens to be on top of the Google search list. It even beat out Wikipedia. Isn’t that amazing?
The DogTime post contains an astonishing 3,500 words. In these 3,500 words, you will find information for a wide range of golden retriever-related topics like doggie care, health, personality, and history. It even discusses rescue groups.
But, that’s not all. The page is also filled with embedded videos, infographics, and a number of images. In short, you can say it provides you with everything you need to know about Golden Retrievers.
The DoggyTime article is important to our conversation because it backs up what the experts are saying. That is, semantic search isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Algorithm updates, like RankBrain and Hummingbird, value optimization and semantic relevance as well. In other words, an in-depth examination of a single topic (that’s written in the easy-to-understand language) will always beat out keyword dense and unnatural sounding posts.
Additionally, it may interest you to know that the researchers at Backlinko found that long-form content is better than its shorter counterpart. This is probably because long articles allow for more room to explore the subject matter.
It’s also important to note that, content on mobile devices is usually 2/3 the length of what is found on desktops. Furthermore, we are using mobile devices more than ever before.
Content has an effect on several ranking factors, like CTR and bounce rate. For best results, you must ensure that your content is both relevant to your audience and comprehensive. So, an article that provides an in-depth analysis of the latest Honda Accord probably won’t do much good on a website for a classical dance studio.
To take things to the next level, use content auditing software to:
- Improve your authority in your niche
- Explore fewer topics but in greater detail
- Find and repair thin content
— TIPS NUMBER THREE —
Backlinks are where it’s at
Backlinks, like content, are a tried and true Google ranking factor. The difference is, Google has started to differentiate the bad links from the good. In other words, the bad links are going bye-bye.
Furthermore, the more links in your posts, the better. BUT, they only count if you get them from authoritative websites. Plus, you can’t use just one domain, links from 3-5 of these sites are best.
To have a successful link building campaign, you must create content that people want to read. Then, you have to promote it every chance you get. When other sites in your industry link to your content, it ups your relevance in the eyes of both consumers and Google. In fact, when the Google bots look at the matching anchor text on your backlink, they will give your content more relevance.
When your content gets these high-quality backlinks, you have effectively hit the trifecta of ranking signals. That is:
- Link diversity
- Link authority
- Number of backlinks
One of the top goals of social signals is to help you get high-quality backlinks. In fact, researchers have found that your ranking position and social signals are highly connected with all the social media channels – Facebook in particular. But, this is to be expected, Facebook is still the go-to social media platform for most people.
There are a ton of pathways that can help you in your link building journey. But, the most successful ones use content marketing as their foundation.
So, how do you go about doing this for yourself? It’s quite simple:
- Create relevant and high-quality content
- Promote your posts relentlessly
A good place to start is the Skyscraper link building technique. In a nutshell, this quick and effective technique is all about building upon someone else’s work. The steps to do this are as follows:
- Do a search and find high-quality content that matches the subject matter you want to discuss in your next post
- Make sure it has lots of authoritative backlinks
- Add some more relevant and interesting information to this post but, don’t plagiarize
- Share your new post
Take things to another level by using link auditing software. It will help you get a better picture of what your link profile looks like. For instance, this software will allow you to:
- Remove low quality and spammy links
- Monitor the number and quality of the links in your articles
- Get in contact with partners that provide high-quality backlinks
— TIPS NUMBER FOUR —
There are a lot of other technical factors that might help your website rank better. Some of them include:
H1 and H2 Headings: More landing pages have H1 and H2 headings in their source code than ever before. Furthermore, recent studies have found a strong connection between a higher rank and the use of at least one H2 heading.
Encryption: Experts found that there’s still a strong correlation between first page rankings and HTTPS websites on the Google search engine. In fact, as many as 45% of the top websites use this type of encryption. Furthermore, Google said (way back in 2014) that they were going to start disregarding HTTP sites in favor of their HTTPS counterparts. They’ve kept their word – Google Chrome now considers HTTP sites to be unsafe.
Interstitials: Because of Google’s new focus on mobile-first optimization, they’re throwing the book at annoying interstitial popups. In other words, pages with CTAs (Call-To-Action) or ads that obscure the main content and take site visitors to a new page when clicked are now on Google’s hit list. There are a few exceptions to the rule, like easily dismissed (i.e. small) banners, login dialogs, and legally required interstitials, like the ones that verify the age of the site visitor.
Anchor text: Exact match anchor text still holds a very strong influence on your ranking. But, if your links appear spammy or unnatural, you risk getting a Penguin penalty. To get the best out of this feature and reduce your risk of penalty, make sure the anchor text for your backlink is organic and diverse.
- Make the change to HTTPS encryption
- Take advantage of H2 headings, especially if your competitors don’t
- Make sure that your anchor text is both relevant and diverse
- Remove all traces of annoying interstitials on your mobile site
The world of SEO is ever-changing. Just in the past couple of years, we’ve seen Google embrace the notion of quality links, rich content, and a seamless mobile experience. There are other factors that can influence your ranking but, if you use the above tips to improve your website, you’re sure to beat out the competition.