One of the hardest parts of great search engine optimisation (SEO) is that no one knows exactly how Google determines its search rankings. The company is notoriously secretive about the key factors that drive their unpaid search rankings, which is a major part of the challenge of doing SEO well.
If Google were to outline exactly how to rank better, scammers would find ways to use that to game the system and get their sites ranking higher than legitimate websites. That’s no good for Google because their business is reliant on providing the most relevant matches for every user query – if someone conducts a search and finds what they were after, they’ll use Google again. If they don’t, they won’t.
Because of this secrecy, it can be challenging to understand exactly what you need to do to ensure your business website appears high in response to relevant search queries.
But last year, a member of Google’s Search Quality team revealed the three key factors that determine how search results are ranked.
1. Links influence how ‘relevant’ your website is to Google.
Google has long used links as a key way in determining a website’s relevance and authority.
This means the more links you have coming to your website and the higher authority those links are, the more Google will see your page as relevant. It’s often affectionately known by those in the industry as link juice.
For example, a link from your friend’s WordPress blog won’t be as relevant to Google as a link from a major company’s page in your niche. Google can also determine the relevance of each link, so there’s no point getting linked to by non-relevant pages.
The more on-topic, authoritative backlinks you can get, the better.
2. Content is an effective SEO technique.
The second most important ranking factor is content – the blog posts, pages and updates you have on your site.
At its heart, Google’s system is a machine, and machines need data to understand what your page is about.
If you can write authoritative blog posts that other pages link to, you get the double boost of more relevant keywords on your site, and increased authority through links.
This doesn’t necessarily mean your business has to write a blog a day, but it does mean you need to ensure all your details are correct, that you integrate your target keywords (in context) on your site, and that you look to build your web page into a relevant resource which answers the most common customer search queries.
RELATED: Content ideas for every industry.
3. RankBrain helps determine what results are relevant to users.
This one is the most difficult to understand. In fact, very few people fully comprehend how RankBrain works.
RankBrain is Google’s machine learning system that uses thousands of signals to determine what search results are most relevant to each user – be that location, proximity, local language, past behaviour, etc.
RankBrain has fast become one of the most significant Google ranking elements, which makes it extremely hard for scammers to cheat the system. It also means search results are becoming increasingly customised to each user, so what you see when you conduct a search will be different to what someone else sees.
The best way to approach optimising for RankBrain is to not focus on it.
If you concentrate on backlinking and good content, RankBrain will sort out the rest itself. If your website has good, relevant content that provides the answers your customers are searching for, and people are linking to your pages, your site will show up for the right queries.
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