That has got to be a question everyone with a website has asked themselves on multiple occasions. The problem is no one knows the definitive answer.
Google spend millions of dollars to try to stop marketers gaming the system and trying to find loop holes but the major problem is they never come out and say, OK guys this is what you need to do, follow these steps closely and your content will rank.
The fact is Google can’t really come out and tell us the entire algorithm because people would take advantage of it to rank poor quality sites simply by manipulating the ranking factors and focusing on nothing else.
We are all therefore somewhat in the dark as to the exact steps that need to be taken. Here is my take on the more important elements you can actually affect yourself and hopefully improve and rank above your competitors.
As I have just stated, it’s not an exact science and Google use over 200 separate factors in their algorhythm. We know they track certain data, we have to believe the data they track is what they think is relevant and reliable.
You should also understand that the metrics you start with are less than half of the overall picture.
Here is the result of a survey of SEO’s ideas of what makes up the ranking algorithm which shows that over half of the factors used by Google are not page or domain link metrics.
You can’t control how Google see other peoples sites and you will always get instances when a site with less ranking factors than yours appears to be ranking above you, the key is for how long, Google cannot allow low quality sites to out rank bigger sites so manual penalties will kick in at some stage to bring the lower quality site down.
Here is my take on what you can and should be working on other than building links to your page and domains.
It is important to build a site using closely related categories and sub categories. You need Google to fully understand exactly what your site is all about so it can send you the right sort of traffic. Trying to build a one size fits all solution is not going to work today.
On Page Factors
Putting your keyword in your title and body of your content unnaturally will get you penalised. The days are gone of stuffing your keyword in as many times as possible, your keyword has to be placed naturally and not to the determent of the quality of the content.. The title should explain exactly what the content is about to ensure the best possible search experience.
Linking out to authority sites in the same niche with keyword anchor text is also essential to create an authority feel to your site.
Pages per Visit
If a visitor clicks on the #1 ranking site for “travel insurance” and visits just 1 page and stays for 10 seconds before bouncing back to visit #2 ranked site and stays for 10 mins and visits 3-4 pages there is no danger of which site Google think should rank higher so it is essential to make sure your content is matched exactly to your title and tags and you have internal links to related content wherever possible. Also make sure all of your content can be found within 3 clicks from any page.
If your product or content doesn’t have other related content that can provide a internal link you must make sure the content you are providing to the search enquiry matches it perfectly and you use as many factors as possible to entertain the visitor, video, images, short paragraphs and lots of bullet points to get the reader’s attention will help you keep the visitor longer.
Avoid Algorithmic and Manual Penalties.
If you put that keyword fifty times on your page, as we discussed above, you will run into an algorithmic penalty. This means Google knows you have “stuffed” the page and will take a bit off your ranking. Do it repeatedly and you’ll get a much larger penalty. If a Google manual reviewer catches you doing this, or a competitor reports you for it, you may get a manual penalty. You will get a notification in your Webmasters Tools about this one and you do need to fix it or suffer a harsh penalty.
Social Share Metrics Matter more than ever.
Massively important now in 2016 to build up a following within your social circles. Creating authority by getting your content picked up and shared, liked or +1 is a sure sign to Google that your content should be ranked highly, this is the single most important area you should be working on.
Some people still don’t see the importance of building up this social following and therefore will miss out, it is all about scale however, get three retweets on your link and it won’t do anything for your ranking, on the other hand get your content shared 50 times on Google+ 250 retweets and liked 200 times on Facebook and you will see a massive boost.
This is a great opportunity to quickly establish your brand and it is something everyone can do providing you are publishing great content. In the bad old days of SEO link building was almost a dark science and most marketers had to pay to improve their rankings, today you can affect your own rankings by taking advantage of the massive opportunities social media offers and all for free.
Anchor text Variation
I think we have all got the message after penguin that varying your anchor text is essential. Use your keyword around 20% of the time and mix this up with branded keywords, generic keywords like “click here” and the full URL
If you are up against a competitor that appears to have a thin site with no real history or site structure they may well be using a 301 redirect from another high PR site which is passing them massive link juice benefits.
If this is the case there is not a lot you can do other than to continue to build relevant high PR links using social media. Building and ranking a website is not an overnight project despite what many so called “gurus” claim with their latest must have 1 click software.
The good news is there has never been a better time to see incredible results in half the time by applying the basics of engaging with your followers and publishing high quality content.