Keeping up with Google's search ranking criteria is no easy feat. Algorithm complexities can be hard to grasp, making the task of search engine optimization a major one for marketers. Google measures a significant amount of criteria, and a recent report from Searchmetrics, a marketing research provider, shed light on certain qualities high-ranking websites share.
The report compiled the findings of a study of 300,000 top-ranking URLs in the United States and found certain factors correlated with their placement in search engine results lists. While having these characteristics may not necessarily guarantee a website will rank highly, it's important for businesses to take note of what the top site owners are doing to achieve SEO success.
- They're social media pros: The power of social networks like Twitter and Facebook cannot be underestimated. The Searchmetrics study found a strong relationship between sites that were heavily active on social sites and their search engine query ranking. Specifically, and unsurprisingly, websites had healthy Google Plus followings. Additionally, they had a strong history of Facebook shares, comments and likes, as well as tweets.
- Their on-page coding and keyword use are flawless: The report found that top-ranking sites followed commonly shared best practices in online marketing. Keyword placement early in page titles, descriptions, H1 and H2 tags and URLs was among the golden SEO rules these properties abided by. Additionally, the report found that fast-loading speeds often correlated to higher rankings.
- Backlinks and other off-page metrics are spot-on: When it comes to to backlinks, or links to external content, quantity has become increasingly important, but quality is by far the most important factor. Businesses should strive for legitimacy, reputability and diversity sources when composing content and developing a backlinking strategy. Additionally, Searchmetrics found the websites it studies had high numbers of "nofollow" links and backlinks with a stop word, while fewer sites had backlinks containing keywords than last year.
- They optimize content: Sites that ranked among the first in search engine queries consistently featured content that shared certain traits, according to Searchmetrics. Shorter page titles and a greater in-text word count and higher internal links number are among such factors. Top-performing sites also used rich media, like images and video.
3 more ways to boost SEO
The findings from Searchmetrics's report suggest that while certain elements may relate to search engine ranking placement slightly more than others, following the golden rules of SEO should remain a priority for businesses. In addition to following the example set by the websites analyzed in the report, there are several other ways brands can improve their Web rankings:
- Consistent website analytics monitoring is key: SEO is not a one-time task. It requires vigilant monitoring and constant oversight and evaluation. Providing leads with a positive digital experience is essential to hooking their attention and keeping them interested in the brand. This is possible if marketers are consistently working to improve content marketing, social media and lead nurturing strategies by keeping an eye on website performance data.
- Keep content fresh: Establishing a multichannel content calendar allows brands to plan effective marketing campaigns. As Search Engine Journal points out, maintaining relevancy is among the tasks content marketing must accomplish. Staying abreast of industry trends and changes in audience behavior allows marketers to create and share content that helps, intrigues or otherwise speaks to leads.
- Maintain news pages: In addition to blogging and interacting on social channels, sharing information via a website's company news page is an effective way to disseminate new content, Forbes pointed out. Additionally, this allows businesses to display any media attention they've received.