We all know that Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is incredibly important. Without it, a website is almost invisible on search engines. Most of us also know that we need to include a few keywords in the title tag, meta description and on-page copy to tell search engines what the page is about. But did you know that in addition to those three elements, Google’s algorithm uses more than 200 factors to determine a website’s rankings?
Ideally, you would be able to optimize for each factor; but ain’t nobody got time for that. Not to mention you would reach a point of diminishing returns. Several factors carry more weight than others, and many of those happen to be more actionable elements you can start updating today.
- Let’s start with what we already know. Keywords are important. Keywords need to be included in title tags, preferably near the beginning. Google would see a page with the first title tag as more relevant to the topic “weight loss tips” than the second.
- Include keywords and keyword phrases in meta descriptions. Meta descriptions aren’t as big of factors as they used to be, but they still provide relevancy. This one’s also important because search engine results pages (SERPS) display this content below the page title. A well-written, keyword-rich description can help you get that click.
- It shouldn’t be hard to include a keyword or keyword phrase several times throughout page copy to build up keyword density, and make sure to include it in the first 100 words. Using it early helps prove relevancy. An important note: remember that you’re writing for the end user first, not search engines. If your copy doesn’t sound natural because you’re plugging in a keyword every few words, Google will probably figure it out. It’s Big Brother-ish like that, and this practice could hurt you.
- Other prominent keyword placements include the URL, H1 tags and PDFs. While often overlooked, PDFs perform very well on SERPs. Optimize the filename with a keyword or two and enter a title in the PDF’s document properties.
- Optimize images by including keywords in file names, titles, alt text and descriptions. Search engines can’t tell the difference between a beautiful Caribbean sunset and a bulldog on a skateboard unless you describe them as such.
- Page loading speed is a big ranking factor so make sure image sizes are appropriate for the web. If your website is image heavy, this could save you bytes and bytes of data.
- Longer content has been shown to rank higher (1500+ words), so expand on your most important topic(s) if you can. Again, you’re still writing for users first, so don’t add fluff just to add it.
- Consider reorganizing content into bullets and numbered lists, which are more user friendly (and subsequently Google friendly).
- Dwell time is how long a user spends on your webpage when visiting from a Google search. The more time they spend, the more Google sees the page as relevant to the targeted topic. To maximize dwell time, make sure space above the fold is compelling and well-organized. When users like what they find, they’ll be enticed to hang around.
- Plain and simple, Google ranks websites that offer stellar content. Most sites accumulate junk pages over the years that contain duplicate, out-of-date or irrelevant content, which could end up negatively affecting rankings. Do a site audit periodically and delete or no-index those pages.
Tackling elements mentioned here is just the tip of the SEO iceberg. Here’s a really helpful list of all the Google ranking factors from Backlinko. You can also download their checklist of important ranking factors. Happy optimizing!