How Do Search Engines Work?
Search engines use a complex process of algorithms to organize and rank content. There are many factors that go into determining how well a page will rank. All search engines’ goals are always to provide the most relevant information to users. Some of the factors that go into how well a website ranks includes keywords, website architecture, HTML headings, and valuable content.
High-quality content is what helps Google determine that your content is relevant to a search inquiry. Google scans the web to show you on page one, what the best results are. They want to provide a satisfying user experience and find you the content you’re looking for. The content you’re posting should be helpful or bring value to the reader in some way. If it doesn’t provide anything of use to the reader, they will leave your website quickly. This tells Google your content isn’t helpful since readers are leaving quickly.
Google also emphasizes the importance of intent within content. What a searcher types into the search suggests what their intent is. Maybe they have a question, are window shopping, or are ready to buy something right this minute. It is important to Google to know the intent, but it is also important for the writer so they know what keywords and intent to focus on. What does the reader want to accomplish when they land on your page?
Lastly, break up the text in your article. Readers are adjusted to getting their answers quickly, and writing giant text boxes isn’t always the right choice during certain circumstances. Break up your text with headers and images!
Keyword research is when you find valuable keywords based on keyword volume, difficulty, and what your competitors rank for. The keywords are relevant to your business, such as “digital marketing agency” or “web designers.” Think of keywords as what you would search to find a business. They help you determine what your target audience is searching for. Keyword research is helpful in a number of areas when building content for your website. Your keywords also help you rank on Google and are how you build link slugs.
Using a keyword research tool helps you find an estimated number of searches each month, where your competitors rank, and the difficulty associated with your keywords. It will be much harder to rank for a keyword that has a high keyword difficulty. The higher difficulty score represents relevant content that oftentimes has hundreds of backlinks. You would need to build backlinks and Google’s trust before ranking on page one, which can take years depending on your business area. A keyword research tool is also able to help you decide how often to use a keyword within your content, and how you should prioritize them.
This is the time to remind yourself of search intent, too. While choosing your keywords, you should be trying to identify what they’re searching for and their intent for what they’re searching. Learn the difference between what a buyer is searching for and a researcher is searching for as it is relevant to your business and keywords.
Don’t spam your content with keywords. For example, in our own content we wouldn’t want to insert “digital marketing agency” 20 times into a blog. It is no longer necessary to include several of the same variations of the same keyword. Google will pick up your content if it is good. Engagement is a signal to Google on whether the content you have is good or not. If you have a high bounce rate for your site, it can be an indication that what the user found wasn’t helpful or relevant to their issue. Bounce rate is determined by how long or short a user is on your website or page. If users stay on your site, this tells Google that the information found was helpful and caused the reader to stay engaged. Other signals may be sharing the article, commenting, or liking it.
Keep in mind that keyword research is not a once and done task. Using your keyword research tool, check your website every month or so to see how your rank is improving or declining. If your competitors are ranking higher, enter their website URL and see what they’re ranking for. Use the keyword gap tool to narrow down the differences between your keywords and theirs.
Parent categories (i.e. shoes) are often the most competitive keywords because they are head terms, so subcategory pages will be where you’ll probably get your first traction in terms of SEO wins. I will talk later about how the internal links play a role in site crawl and how they contribute to the siloed structure you can see the beginnings of in the menu (see the color differences in Figure 1).
However, for now I will say that the subcategories will provide the link equity support in and through the internal links that I will suggest should be placed in the subcategory pages and should point to the category pages. You will want your link equity pool where it is most needed, i.e. at the category page level.
On-Page SEO vs. Off-Page SEO
On-page SEO revolves around building and optimizing content on your website to improve your search engine ranking. This is where keywords, blog posts, and optimizing metatags and titles come into play. These are areas you can control, unlike off-page SEO.
Off-page SEO happens off your website. Off-page helps search engines and searchers to determine your site’s relevancy and if it’s trustworthy and authoritative. It is believed the most important of off-page SEO is link building. You can earn backlinks by networking within your industry and having others share your post. For example, you write a blog post on SEO tactics, if someone else references your article within their content, you now have a backlink. It is very important that when you build your off-page SEO, you follow search engine guidelines. If not, you risk your website being penalized and the possibility of ruining your search engine rankings. Unethical strategies are typically referred to as black-hat strategies.
Your site’s HTML is very important to optimize. It may sound scary, but for most websites you don’t need to understand code. The HTML areas revolve around proper tags, descriptions, and headers, usually as simple to change as copy and paste. Without optimizing this Google will have a difficult time deciphering why your content should rank and what it is about.
First, you want to optimize the title tag, not to be confused with the H1 tag. The title tag is the tag that displays on Google search results. Our’s is “Amity Digital – Web Design, SEO, and Digital Marketing.” This is a short description that includes some of your main keywords or services. It should interest people enough to click on your website.
The description below your title should also be optimized. This is your meta description. It should be no longer than 160 characters to ensure it fits on desktop and mobile screens. If it doesn’t you will see a “…” at the end to show it is too long. This is the space to tell searchers what your website or business is about. If you’re a local business, include your most popular or relevant area to optimize it for local searches. Ours is Berks County, PA.
Then you will move onto your subheadings. These are the titles that display on each webpage. The most prominent one is your H1 tag, the very first tag viewers will see, your web page heading. You can have H2, H3, and H4 tags as well. There are subheadings below your H1 heading, and make it easier to read through your page. It’s important to use your most important keyword here, but don’t keyword stuff the title! It should make the reader want to stay on your page and read your content, too.