Ranking high on Google for competitive keywords isn’t easy. With over 200 ranking factors to consider, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the details and miss out on the things that really impact rankings in a major way.
At SearchWorks.PH, we know this and we keep it in mind when we teach SEO to junior team members or discuss it with clients. Instead of making SEO sound opaque and mystical, we educate people about it in a way that’s logical, contextual and using words that most people can understand.
Instead of drowning people in SEO details, we break the optimization process down into five main pillars. Each pilar represents a broad area of optimization that can further be broken down into individual techniques that contribute to ranking improvements. When we’re asked how to rank on Google in this day and age, we respond by discussing the following:
I. Technical SEO
Technical SEO pertains to the process of optimizing a website’s server, code and architecture to improve its visibility on search engines. When we do technical SEO, every activity has the goal of optimizing the following qualities of a website:
A. Indexability. This aspect of technical SEO is concerned with encouraging crawls and indexation on a website’s public-facing pages while discouraging indexation on pages that are either unsuitable for public consumption or may be considered irrelevant or spammy by search engines.
To optimize a website’s indexability, we apply the following techniques whenever appropriate:
- txt validation
- Meta robots tag audit
- XML sitemap audit
- Search Console setup
- Internal linking audit
- Site architecture audit
- Crawl error audit
- Broken link audit
- Redirect audit
B. Performance. Your website’s uptime, page load times, and mobile friendliness all significantly affect how it performs on Google’s SERPs. This facet of optimization is concerned with making sure your website is up to par on all these departments.
Activities under performance technical SEO include:
- Site speed test
- Site speed optimization
- Mobile friendly test
- Mobile friendly design and development
- Uptime diagnostics
- Code cleanup
C. Security. Making sure that your website can be trusted to maintain data integrity as it passes information to a user’s browser is important in helping Google decide whether to feature your webpages prominently in its search results or not. Likewise, your website needs to demonstrate the basic capability to safeguard user information entrusted to it by using encryption and other web safety precautions.
Activities under security technical SEO include:
- SSL usage test
- SSL application
- Malware check
Tip: When undertaking technical SEO operations, it’s usually best done in cooperation with the website’s developer. He or she will know how to apply the optimizations safely and correctly. Keep in mind that different websites are built on different CMS platforms which may have their own custom architectures and configurations. Enlisting the help of someone who knows its ins and outs is often a good idea unless you possess those skills yourself.
II. On-Page SEO
This pillar of SEO is concerned with the application of optimizations directly to a website’s pages, but are not part of technical SEO. On-page SEO is more concerned with helping search engines better understand the relevance, context and meanings of a webpage’s content and their relationships with search queries.
Activities under on-page SEO include, but are not limited to:
- Keyword prioritization
- Title tag optimization
- Meta description optimization
- Header tag optimization
- URL structure optimization
- Content body optimization
- Image optimization
- Internal linking optimization
- Thin content audit
- Duplicate content audit
Tip: Unless the CMS is a familiar one with a friendly SEO interface for non-coders, we recommend working with the website’s developer on this phase as well. You may also want to enlist the help of a content writer in the production of elements such as title tags, meta descriptions and H1 text.
III. Content Creation.
A compelling, sustainable and unique content strategy should always be at the center of every SEO campaign. This has been true since day one and it’s the essence of all the algorithmic refinements that Google has been doing over the past 20 years. Content gives your website its identity, It helps Google understand what terms your website is relevant to, and it’s the reason why your pages would earn positive off-page ranking signals as well as user engagement signals.
We build different types of content assets for different types of websites, but these are the most common ones that our content team works on:
- Comprehensive content copywriting (big resource pages)
- Category copywriting
- Product detail page copywriting
- Location page copywriting
- Blog article writing
- Infographic creation
- Press release writing
Tip: for highly competitive keywords, we usually use skyscraper content that exhaustively discusses one core topic and several other related subtopics to establish a strong degree of relevance between the webpage and the keyword. If this isn’t enough to take us to page 1 of Google, we take the next step of promoting the content to try and gain backlinks that increase its ranking power.
IV. Popularity Signals
Google’s central PageRank algorithm gauges a website’s popularity and authoritativeness by using backlinks from external pages as votes of confidence. Basically, the more backlinks from better sources that you have pointing to your webpages, the more your ranking power grows.
There are dozens of ways to encourage other websites to link back to your pages, but the most commonly used ones include:
- Linkable asset creation and promotion
- Free Outreach for guest posts
- Outreach for link exchanges
- Broken link building
Of course, not all backlink sources are built equal. Some websites push greater link equity than others. For our part, we use these qualifiers to make sure the websites that link to us will help our rankings:
- Domain authority of 25 or better
- From contextually relevant sites
- Screened for Penalties and PBNs
- Dofollow link
- Safe anchor text usage
Tip: Love them or hate them, backlinks continue to be the most influential ranking factor on Google to this day. When competing for highly commercial keywords, a combination of comprehensive content, consistently good link building and strategic internal linking is still your best bet.
V. User Engagement Signals
User engagement signals are metrics that indicate whether or not a user’s intent is satisfied on a website. Statistics such as bounce rates, average times on pages, conversion rates, shares and likes are just some examples of these signals. While they remain an unconfirmed ranking factor, there’s growing evidence that these numbers are starting to influence the performance of webpages on Google’s SERPS.
To maximize our chances of earning decent to good user engagement signals, we often perform the following analyses and measures:
- Keyword mapping
- Heatmap analysis
- Reverse goal path analysis
- Conversion rate optimization
Tip: When performing the activities above, we usually enlist the help of certified web analytics specialists, user experience specialists and web designers to make sure we can interpret the figures properly and bring the necessary adjustments to life.
We found from experience that placing ranking factors into these 5 buckets helps clients and newbie SEOs better understand how search engines work and how to earn better placement on the SERPs. In future posts, we’ll be discussing each pillar in greater detail and we’ll be focusing on individual techniques to help you better understand them and apply them yourself.