Today’s online marketing buzz may focus obsessively on social media, but savvy promoters know that there’s plenty of life in search engines yet. Good rankings provide streams of targeted traffic at relatively little cost, and that’s something no online business can afford to ignore.
However, quick and easy rankings on Google are a thing of the past. Hitting the top spots for a highly competitive term takes time, effort, and resources. But that doesn’t mean you should give up and accept whatever traffic the Google gods decide to send your way.
There are six basic elements of good rankings which any website can strive for. Pay attention to these and you’ll be in the game – and once you’ve got a solid foothold, you can start to play to win.
1) Quality Backlinks
The days when a site could power its way to the top of the rankings through backlinks alone are well and truly over. But that doesn’t mean links aren’t still an essential part of the ranking formula.
In many ways, they’re the raw power that can put your website in contention for ranking. A good mix of high-quality links from a variety of sites will provide the foundations to build on, even if it’s no longer enough to rank on its own.
2) Keyword Research
If links are the engine power for ranking, keyword research is the steering mechanism which decides where you go. It’s vital to choose the right keywords to optimize for if you want to put that power to good use.
Ranking for the wrong terms can be even worse than not ranking at all. Not only will the traffic you receive be worth little in commercial terms, but it can actively harm your ranking potential in other, more lucrative spaces.
When your site receives large amounts of untargeted visitors, their engagement levels will be very low. This lack of user satisfaction will ultimately feed back into the Google algorithm, depressing your rankings across the board.
All this means that you should make exhaustive keyword research the basis that underpins all your other SEO efforts.
3) On-Page Optimization
Once you’ve identified your relevant and commercially valuable keywords, they should be used naturally throughout your website’s content and coding. Place them in headlines, copy, image labels, and even page URLs wherever they’re appropriate. Also use a wide range of synonyms and related terms to reinforce the theme.
The individual effect of each placement is usually small, but together they’ll count powerfully toward your overall relevancy. But never be tempted to go overboard and force keywords where they don’t belong. Stay natural and unobtrusive if you want to receive your ranking rewards.
4) Attract the Clicks
A page’s title and meta description may not hold the direct ranking power of old, but they’re both still vitally important. Make sure they’re relevant to your page’s content, but just as importantly, that they’re also readable and compelling to encourage searchers to click through to your site.
Google sees pages with plenty of clicks as relevant to a search and will reward them with ranking. On the flip side, pages which are passed over by most searchers will slowly but surely drop out of sight.
5) Reduce Your Bounce Rate
For similar reasons, it’s essential to engage visitors from the moment they arrive on your page. If they back out after one look, that sends a clear and undeniable signal to Google that your site is wasting a valuable slot in their results.
Ensure you readers can see at a glance what your page is about, and make it clear why they should stay awhile and explore.
6) Focus On High-Quality Content
And of course, the best way of keeping your visitors engaged is to provide them with plenty of top-quality content to browse through. You should aim for every page you publish to be the best on the web for its topic. Of course, this is a lofty ambition, but if you want Google to recommend your page in their top ten results, the content needs to merit it.
No one pretends that hitting the heights in a lucrative search is easy. But following these steps will ensure that any site ranks well enough to receive respectable traffic volumes – and you can nudge and tweak your way to the top from there.