The algorithm Google uses to rank its search results is incredibly complex. There are over 200 factors that impact what a searcher sees in the results. For most businesses, optimizing their websites for hundreds of unique factors isn’t a strategic use of digital marketing dollars. Identifying and prioritizing the search engine ranking factors with the most potential to increase relevant traffic to your website is important.
We generally focus on just a handful of SEO factors for our clients. Our priorities are based on years of research, web development, and SEO experience. Parkway Digital is lucky to have a team of developers, designers, writers and strategists that bring a variety of skills to our SEO work. This multi-discipline approach helps us address both on- and off-site SEO factors in our optimizations.
High-quality, informative and optimized content throughout your website helps Google determine what your website is about and which searchers will benefit from it most. Writing pages and posts to answer the specific questions searchers are asking about your business aligns your content with search intent. You can quickly determine the search intent of potentially relevant queries by Googling them yourself. The search results should give you a good idea of what type of results searchers (and Google) are looking for.
While users still type keywords into Google, and keywords do still have an effect on SEO, they are no longer the only content search engine ranking factor that matters. Instead of focusing on placing a single keyword into the text as many times as possible, we naturally use related terms to appeal to both search engines and readers. This strategy helps us write pages and posts that cover all aspects of a topic and completely answer a searcher’s question.
Up to Date Information
In the past, a marketer could make slight modifications to trick Google into believing a website was up to date. Now, the only way to convince Google that your content is “fresh” is to actually update it. Keeping your main web pages, product pages and blog posts current lets Google know you’re a great source for relevant information.
Descriptive Title and Meta Tags
The title of your page gives Google a quick summary of what your content is about. Placing your focus keyword in the title tag is an important part of optimizing your content. You also want your title to appeal to searchers because it draws them in, encouraging them to read your meta description and click through to your page.
Great content helps your business establish itself as an authority online. It’s important to build EAT (Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness) in the eyes of both Google and your potential customers. Content designed to show off what you’re best at can be paired with public relations and social media tactics to boost your brand’s profile across the internet.
Together, trustworthy content, unlinked mentions (when someone talks about your business by name but doesn’t add a link back to your website, like in a news article or Facebook post) and backlinks let Google know you’re a good source of quality information. While you’re showing Google how great you are, you’re doing the same for searchers! Over time, the volume of searches that include your brand name will grow. This is yet another signal to Google that people want to see your website in the search results.
Great User Experience
Your content should live in a user-friendly environment. No matter how well you answer a searcher’s question or how much people love your brand, if it’s impossible to interact with your content, you’re not going to rank well. User experience has long been a part of Google’s ranking factors. It’s only become more important over time, as more searchers use mobile devices and complete transactions online. In 2021, Google will implement a page experience update that incorporates even more user-focused factors into its rankings.
Google has stated that responsive design is its preferred configuration for mobile-friendly websites for years. Now, it’s more important than ever. Google currently uses a primarily mobile-first index, which means pages are ranked based on their smartphone version instead of their desktop version.
A Secure Site
If your website collects any personal information from visitors, Google expects you to use an SSL Certificate to ensure that information is safe. While transitioning from an HTTP to an HTTPS site will probably not directly affect your Google rankings very much, it will help reassure customers that their information is safe with your company. With Google’s continued efforts to deliver what people are looking for, it’s a good idea to do everything you can to appeal to users.
Core Web Vitals
Core Web Vitals, which include Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), First Input Delay (FID) and Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS), will be how Google measures page speed as part of its 2021 user experience update. Google prioritizes faster websites because they deliver a better user experience. Searchers get the information they’re looking for quickly, rather than immediately bouncing back to the search results page.
Organized Website Hierarchy
The position of pages within your website’s structure can affect how important search engines think they are. The top-level URLs in your XML sitemap are seen as more important than pages lower down in your hierarchy. When building your website, visualize a root system. The plant is the most important part, with the supporting content extending deep into the ground.