When was the last time you clicked through Google’s second page of search results? If you’re like most internet users, you probably don’t remember. According to Moz, only 6% of organic searches led to a click on page two or three of Google search engine results pages (SERPs), as opposed to 71% on page one (in case you’re wondering where the other 23% of the clicks went, here are some possible scenarios: ad clicks, refined search queries, no clicks due to rich snippets).
The bottom line is this: If you’re not basking on the first page of search results, you’re missing out on huge swells of web traffic. To help you make waves in your industry and earn the clicks of people surfing the net, we’ve provided seven effective tips for boosting search ranking and authority.
But First, Let’s Define Some “Buzzwords”
To earn your place at the top of the ranks, experts at Moz agree that the most influential factors in garnering search authority are your site’s domain-level and page-level link metrics; these dimensions include the quantity and quality of your backlinks and linked sources, trustworthiness of your site, and anchor text distribution.
For those of you who feel like you just read a sentence in a foreign language, let’s break down what each of those metrics mean in the simplest of terms. To start, a backlink (or inbound link) is a link to a specific web resource (referent) from another webpage (referrer). A web resource could include a blog, eBook, whitepaper, video, social post, or any other resource with a URL.
The higher the domain and page authority of the referring website/page, the more valuable the backlink. Likewise, when you create content, search engines like to see contextually relevant, high-quality, authoritative external links (e.g., New York Times, The Atlantic, Harvard Business Review, JSTOR).
Additionally, the trustworthiness of a site revolves around two main metrics: search authority and spam score. Search authority is an algorithmically-determined measure of how well your website will compete in search engines and is largely based on the quality and quantity of content and backlinks. The higher your search authority, the closer to the top of SERPs your URL appears. Conversely, websites should have a low spam score.
While there are more than two dozen metrics that determine a site’s spam score, the most significant factors include: weak content, low-quality inbound links, a missing secure sockets layer (SSL) certificate, as well as keyword stuffed titles, meta descriptions, anchor text, and URLs.
Finally, let’s talk anchor text. Anchor text is the highlighted, clickable text that will open a webpage. Because search engines consider the contextual relevance of the words that have been links, many black hat and inexperienced SEOs over-optimize anchor text by keyword-stuffing the linked phrase. This often has a negative effect on anchor text distribution, or the over-building of backlinks with uniform attributes (e.g., all products names, brand names, or keyword text).
1. Think About Your Links
To improve these metrics and bode well with Google’s crawlers, utilize white-hat search engine optimization (SEO) strategies. First, consider the external domain links that are connecting to your site. Both the quantity and quality of these links can improve your site’s authority, and accordingly, your site’s trustworthiness. Simply put: the more high-quality sites that reference your business’s website, the better your site will rank.
However, the reverse is also true. Backlinks from spammy sites can drag down your search authority. If you notice an exorbitant number of URLs linking to your site that don’t follow search engine guidelines, Google offers a disavow link tool for webmasters. Please note that this is an advanced feature that should only be used by experienced SEOs. Should it be implemented incorrectly, you can severely damage your site’s search authority.
2. Check Your Text Before You Wreck Your Text
Beyond links, other major factors influencing search rank are on-page content elements. For example, Google determines the relevancy of a page based on keywords within the browser title, header 1 (H1) text, and the site’s meta description. However, intentionally stuffing a page full of keywords will actually harm your page’s rank, because Google’s crawlers also look at the length and quality of the page’s content. This does not mean that quality content from one page should be cut and pasted onto every page; in actuality, using duplicate content can decrease your site’s overall rank.
Furthermore, because Google prides itself on delivering a user-friendly experience, including for those with disabilities, there is a significant amount of research that points to ADA compliance as a significant factor in search algorithms. So, not only will these changes mean you’re doing something good for your fellow man (and avoiding the storm of ADA Title III Lawsuits that grows stronger every year), but you’ll also have a better chance at ranking higher on the SERPs.
Mainly, Google considers alternative (alt) text, which is the text associated with an image, video, or sound clip, when increasing positive SEO signals for accessibility. This description generally summarizes the purpose of the object and what the image or audio clip includes. Other ways to make a website more accessible include:
Avoiding hidden, small, or confusing font
Creating a consistent and user-friendly layout
Transcribing videos and audio files
Utilizing headlines, sub-headlines, and clear writing principles
Using visually contrasting text and background colors
3. Join The Conversation
Believe it or not, your business’s activity on social media indirectly impacts your site’s search ranking. According to Hootsuite, high social media engagement correlates with boosts in search ranking. However, because Google doesn't index many social posts and also tends to favor posts from pages with high follower counts, more posts on social media won’t always make for a higher spot on the SERPs.
When Google crawls a webpage, such as Facebook or Twitter, it generates results based on the page in its current form; this is why the latest news from top publishers tends to rank highly. But when Google’s indexers periodically “refresh,” the ever-changing content on social platforms can cause search results to rearrange, making for a short-lived stint at the top of the SERPs.
In the case of showing up at the top of search results, posting on Facebook or Twitter isn’t going to have the same profound effect on position as earning a backlink would. However, social media’s indirect signals can affect search rank if you’re giving your followers high-quality content. The better your content, the more likely you are to generate website traffic from your social accounts and low bounce rates, both of which are direct SEO metrics. Not only will people appreciate your posts because of the valuable, relevant information they offer, but your consistent content may eventually turn into conversions.
4. Maximize Your Value With High-Quality Content
Regardless of where you end up sharing the material from your website, your site will rank higher if that content is well-written, informative, and relevant. In fact, Google says that high-quality content is the single most important quality of a webpage. When adding material to your site, focus on creating helpful, relevant, clear, accurate, and interesting resources for your audience. In general, the more high-quality content on your site, such as blogs and eBooks, the higher the potential for web traffic and conversions. What’s more, if it's good material, you'll also be more apt to get a backlink from external sources.
In other words, when designing and populating a web page, create it with the user in mind, rather than just search engines. User-friendly, engaging, and consistently-updated webpages typically rank higher in Google’s SERPS, as evidenced by engagement metrics, linking patterns, and other quality identifiers (discussed below). Google’s style guide outlines several content quality standards, including:
Things to avoid
Techniques and approaches to consider
Politeness and use of “please”
Examples of optimal content
This is to say that Google does not use their style guide as a hard and fast rule for ranking web page content. However, because search engines focus their efforts on continually improving user experience (UX), they’ve defined a multitude of attributes that strongly correlate with what consumers consider to be engaging material. In fact, after their 2011 Panda update, Google first used real people to comb through content and create a metric of evaluation, thereupon introducing machine learning to predict the same results.
So what metrics does Google use to classify a web page as “high quality?” Several examples, as adapted from Moz, include:
Anchor text and anchor text distribution: When several pages link to one page based on several keywords, that page is likely to rank well if the page’s anchor text contains those same keywords. Additionally, it’s important to have variety in anchor text, because over-optimization can downrank your site.
Engagement metrics: A page’s quality level is evaluated effectively based on several user engagement metrics, including bounce rate and time spent on site. If users are not spending much time on a site, or if they immediately click the “back” button as soon as they reach the page, the page’s quality score will decline.
FreshRank: Formerly relevant and popular sites can sometimes become stale or irrelevant, especially if they are no longer earning new links. Sites that regularly garner new links will rank higher in search results.
Landing page load time: A part of positive UX includes the amount of time spent waiting for a web page’s content to load—this is true for both organic and paid search results. As long as the page’s load time is reasonable, that page is likely to rank better on Google’s SERPs compared to a slower counterpart.
Linking patterns: As previously mentioned, quality and quantity of inbound and outbound links affect quality scores and search rank. No website can build trust on its own. When producing content for your site, link to only reputable sites. Likewise, your site’s trust and authority level will increase with more trustworthy external sites linking back to you.
Social sharing: Even though social media activity has an indirect relationship with search authority, the correlation is there nonetheless. Social media links are treated differently than other external links, but it is clear that they are not ignored by Google.
TrustRank: Similar to linking patterns, TrustRank is a system of evaluating a site based on that page’s distance from a “trusted seed site,” or a site with high domain authority. The farther away a site is (how many internal link clicks it takes to get from the page to the seed site), the higher the likelihood for spammy content.
5. Guest Blog
Once you’ve established a conglomerate of blogs and high-quality content on your website, your next order of business is to create a holistic link-building strategy. In other words, you already have the content, so now you must take steps to get that content in front of potential clients.
As previously mentioned, backlinks offer a way to organically drive traffic to your website. One way to earn backlinks includes promoting your own content so that it begins to get shared and cited by others. Over time, your high-quality blogs could earn you the status of a thought leader in your field.
Additionally, finding websites that allow guest blogging is a strong opportunity for earning backlinks. Many affiliate websites, publications, and scholarly journals accept blog submissions from authoritative authors, so reaching out to one is not a bad idea.
As long as the site is credible and has a low spam score, the new hyperlink could help boost your site’s search authority. What’s more, experts at Moz report that domain-level link features, domain-level page rankings, and page-level link elements make up nearly half of Google’s ranking factors. This means that your site’s search position is affected almost 50% by backlinks.
6. Position Your Brand With Digital Business Profiles
Along with social media profiles on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram, you should consider listing your business on common business search platforms. Establishing a presence on these sites will help elevate your business’s visibility, as well as create a rich snippet with pertinent information when users search for you. Popular platforms include:
7. Follow Google’s Webmaster Guidelines
Google penalizes websites that intentionally deceive users or artificially manipulate search engine rankings. These black hat SEO practices can lead to manual action from Google, or worse, total removal of the website from the Google index. According to Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, examples of abusive behavior include:
Abusing rich snippets and structured data
Creating automatically generated content
Creating pages with malware
Creating doorway pages
Having landing pages with irrelevant content or high keyword density
Participating in affiliate programs without adding value
Sending automated queries to Google
Using hidden text and links
Using link schemes and sneaky redirects
Google also expects a webmaster to monitor their site for hacked content and remove it as soon as it appears. Preventing and removing spam is in the hands of the developer, and if it is not removed, Google’s bots may promptly respond.
Ask The Experts
If this seems like a lot to digest, that’s because it is. Fortunately, there are experts who are well-versed in search engine optimization (SEO) solutions, bespoke content strategy, and social media best practices. From meticulous planning to synergistic collaboration, you’ll want to find an agency that has the capacity to actively boost your search ranking and web traffic in a healthy time frame.
At Ethos, many of our clients see significant results in a matter of months. If you’re looking to elevate your digital marketing presence through unparalleled content creation and comprehensive SEO, contact Ethos Copywriting today.