Search Engine Ranking

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It’s a rare occurrence if we go a day without typing at least one query into a search engine. Companies like Google and Bing play a huge part in our day-to-day lives, but they also play a big role in the fortunes of businesses.

Google receives 63,000 searches per second on any given day and that’s just one search engine. This means the possibilities for marketing are huge and the ability of companies to effectively reach the search engines’ audiences can make or break a business.

What are the key features of the search engines, and how can you use them to get your website ranking better though?

The SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages)

The SERPs are the way in which the search engines display their results. This is what all those algorithms work to bring together – a results page that is going to answer the user’s query. The most successful websites have learned how to dominate these results pages, while the majority are lost somewhere in the middle of them, or don’t feature at all.

So, what are some of the key features of the SERPs? Of course, there are lots of different search engines and each has its own slightly unique way of presenting its results, but for the most part, they’re very similar. To keep things simple, we’re going to talk about Google’s SERPs as they’re the biggest, but for most search engines there’s a lot of crossover.

Google’s SERPs are made up of three important main parts – organic results, ads, and SERP features.

Organic Results

Every SEOer wants to type a keyword into Google and see their website pop up as the first result, it’s part of what SEO is all about. The reason everyone loves to be listed in the organic results is because, well, it’s free.

Sure, you invest your time and money into your SEO strategy, but in terms of getting clicks from Google, you don’t have to pay any money per click. The difficulty is, everyone wants free traffic to their website, so the competition is tough

Whereas advertising on Google can bring immediate results, it takes time to rank organically on Google. New websites have to earn the search engines’ trust, and this takes hard work and patience in implementing an SEO strategy.

Getting your pages ranked in these organic results is an achievement, but the difficulty is, to get significant clicks, you have to be ranking on page one. According to studies:

  • Position 1 gets: 32.5% of organic clicks
  • Position 2 gets: 17.6% of organic clicks
  • Position 3 gets: 11.4% of organic clicks
  • Position 4 gets: 1% of organic clicks
  • Position 5 gets: 6.1% of organic clicks

The vast majority of clicks go to the first 5 results, and only around 8% of users even look at the second page of results. This highlights the ability of SEO in garnering increased traffic. The higher your site rises through the rankings, the more traffic you are going to get.

Because the stakes are so high, and small changes can make a big difference to the number of clicks a website gets, many companies use the services of an SEO management company.

Paid Advertising

Not everyone has the time or platform to wait for their website to rank at the top of the SERPs. The search engines have a solution to that though, and it’s very lucrative for Google and co – paid advertising.

When you type a query into Google, in many cases the first two results at the top of the page will have text just to the left of the website address saying “ad”. These paid adverts allow websites to bid to feature at the top of the results pages for a given keyword. Every time someone clicks on one of the adverts on the results pages, that website pays Google for the click.

This is a great way to immediately get your website featuring at the top of the results page, but there’s one obvious drawback. Whereas your organic clicks are free, paid advertising can be expensive. Some of the most competitive keywords can set you back the best part of $60 every single click. Of course, companies must see a return on their investment to keep paying those figures, but it once again serves to highlight the value of getting organic clicks through good SEO.

SERP Features

It used to be that the number one ranking on Google was like the “Holy Grail” for digital marketers. It’s still a highly sought after position, but in recent times, Google has introduced different SERP features that have caused people to reconsider.

The search engines are constantly trying to improve the way they present data, making it easier for people to find the answers they’re looking for. For example, if you type in “grocery shop,” Google knows that chances are you’re looking for somewhere local to do your shopping. To help you with this, Google will show some local grocers on a map, accompanied by important details about those businesses.

Features like the map, such as the featured snippet, reviews, image packs, and shopping results generally appear above the other organic results, and just behind the paid adverts. This has led people to call items like the featured snippet “position zero.” For the most part, these features show results from pages that already rank in the top 5 organically, so your focus on the google rankings is still valid. However, being visible in these SERP features can make a huge difference to your click through rate.

How to Boost Your SEO Rankings

There are around 200 ranking factors that Google and the other search engines take into account when deciding their SERP results. Good SEO is about a holistic approach where you make improvements in all areas of your website. There’s no one fix that’s magically going to take you to the top of the rankings.

However, there is one common theme the majority of these ranking factors can be traced back to, and that’s high quality, engaging content. The search engines’ main purpose is to link people with great content that addresses their query. The better you can do this, the more likely the search engines are to feature you. So, how can you go about doing this?

Address Keywords

In order to get the most from your SEO efforts, you need to have a focus, and the way you do that is by targeting keywords. There are thousands of keywords your website has the potential to rank for, but not all of them are worthwhile.

When you use a keyword rank checker, you can see every site that ranks for a certain keyword and the number of searches that keyword gets. If a keyword gets zero searches every month, then the chances are, it’s not worth you putting too much time into ranking for that keyword, but that doesn’t mean you should go after the most searched keywords either. You need to analyze your competition for each keyword and decide whether or not you have a realistic shot at competing for top spot. If you’re competing with massive brands who are putting hundreds of thousands of dollars into their SEO campaigns, then the answer might be no.

Selecting keywords is about balancing volume with your ability to rank for those keywords. Challenge yourself, but also be realistic.

Once you’ve got your keywords, craft content around them and remember the principle that the search engines want to send their users to the results that best answer their queries. If you create the best content on the internet, then you give yourself every chance of ranking.

Build a Link Profile

You might be producing great content about your chosen keyword, but how does Google know what you’re talking about? One of the key ways Google establishes your expertise is through the links that point to your website.

If you produce good content, Google believes other websites (preferably ones it already trusts) will link to your content. The way Google judges this is via your DA (Domain Authority). You can check your DA and the DA of other sites using the Moz DA checker.

The more links you can garner from high DA sites in the same niche as you, the more your DA is going to go up, and the better your chances are of ranking well in the SERPs. In order to achieve this though, we again return to the idea of quality content. In order to get people to link to you, you often need to offer something in return, and a great way to earn those links is to offer other websites high-quality content.

Other Methods

As we mentioned, there are lots of aspects that go into SEO. While creating exceptional content around targeted keywords, and building a strong link profile are great places to start, there are many considerations you need to be aware of. Make sure you’re keeping on top of the fundamental aspects of SEO, keep creating great content, and you’re going to give yourself a good chance of moving up the rankings.

Author: James Owen

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