Understanding search ranking
How do we go about writing Search Engine Optimised content across all our platforms to ultimately drive organic traffic to our websites to enhance the impact of our message globally in a cost-effective way?
“It is important to first understand the technical aspect of search engines and how keywords work on the backend of websites,” said Marisa Louw, sought-after professional freelancer, integrated marketing strategist and web developer, who unpacked this topic in the first of a series of five Safrea webinars.
What is SEO?
“SEO enhances our websites for search engines. It is the things we do to make the right people find our content. Although there is a technical aspect to it, it is important that we write optimised content aimed at people, not only for search engines to find.”
Top five search engines
There are several search engines around, but we are mostly familiar with Google, Bing, Yahoo, Yandex and Baidu. Website backends have settings which you can optimise and link to the indexes of these search engines. Once it is on an index, the technical part kicks in. Search engine optimised content does not have any value if the website is not listed on a search engine. It is vital that you confirm this aspect with your webmaster.
What is search ranking?
Ranking in SEO refers to a website’s position on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). Website owners’ ultimate goal should be to rank in the top six if the relevant keyword is typed in. Ideally it should show on the first page as people don’t want to scroll down.
Why is ranking important?
The aim of a good ranking in the search results is to gain as much traffic as possible from the organic search channel. The higher a page ranks in the results for a search query, the higher the chance that the searcher will click on this result. This explains the direct connection between high rankings and increased traffic. The purpose is thus to get as much organic traffic to a website as possible.
|People access websites in different ways:
· Direct link – Someone clicks on your website link in your email signature or types the URL in a browser.
· Organic search – Search according to a keyword e.g. someone types “freelancer” in the browser.
· Social media – People access a website through social media – Google analytics indicates the access as via social media.
· Paid/Google ads – Your advert comes up if people search according to a keyword, depending on your Google ads bid.
You should aim to drive organic traffic to your website, instead of spending money on other platforms to drive it. Apply SEO across all platforms, not only on your website – make sure keywords are worked into the overall content plan for a project or campaign right from the start.
How does Google search work?
Once your website is listed on a search engine’s index, the search engine’s crawlers or spiders constantly search for helpful information through it and billions of other web pages to present as search results. Keywords and fresh content are important in this regard.
How does Google ranking work?
With the vast amount of information available, Google’s ranking systems are designed to sort through hundreds of billions of web pages and other content in the search index to present the most relevant, beneficial results in a fraction of a second.
Google’s ranking algorithms look at many factors to give you the most helpful information, including the words of your query, the relevance and usability of pages, the expertise of sources and your location and settings. The weight applied to each factor varies depending on the nature of your query. It is important to be on top of your game as these algorithms sometimes change.
|Ranking is not just about keywords
Keywords are a small part of what helps a page to rank well. Other elements that impact ranking include:
· Page traffic
· URL structure – More detail in the URL improves the ranking.
· Page load time – The faster your page loads, the better. More images, big files and codes slow down the loading. Generally South Africa’s internet speed is slower than first world countries.
· Time on website – How much time visitors spend on your website also impacts on how your site ranks.
· Backlinks and internal links – If your website contains a link to another website, it is a back link.
· Internal links – If one page links to another page within the same website, it is an internal link.
|What is Google’s ranking algorithm?
First Page Sage’s study of Google’s ranking algorithm confirmed the following priorities in order of importance:
· Consistent publication of high-quality content – This means that the content must be aligned with its target market and be of value to the reader.
· Keywords in Meta Title Tags
· Backlinks appear when there is good organic reach and engagement via social media, the sharing of blogs, content, etc.
· Niche expertise – Sound content and thought leadership articles are important to establish a voice of authority.
· User engagement
· Site security/SSL certificate – The https at the start of a URL indicates that the website has a security certificate loaded on its backend. If not, it means the website is insecure and will never rank on the first page.
It is important to understand these priorities. An SEO expert should not only provide quality content, but also the technical requirements for the backend to the web developer such as the keywords, the internal links, the optimised images, etc. It is important that the overall marketing strategy is an engaging one. Your strategy should guide your SEO efforts that is both organised and intentional.
Google’s spam policies
Google also has spam policies. Therefore, certain activities are regarded as spam and should be avoided. Examples include cloaking, doorways, hacked content, scraped content, keyword stuffing and link spam.
Rank tracking tools
It is important for website owners to know whether their SEO strategies are working and where and how to make adjustments for improvement. Ranking tools can help you to measure your results, by producing a proper competitor analysis. It will help you to determine where your website ranks and how to improve its organic ranking without spending money on Google ads. These tools show your progress over time, while giving you real-time information. There are several tools available such as Semrush, SEOquake, and Google Console.
|Writing for SEO
The series of five sessions will cover the following:
1. Search ranking
2. Keyword research
3. On-page SEO
4. Link building
5. Quality content