On average, there are 3.5 billion Google searches per day, but less than 1% of people searching for queries go to the second page. Most only click on the first three results.
SEO is a great way to grow your online presence, but getting to the top of search results is easier said than done. To get the most out of SEO, it’s essential to understand what works to improve your position in search engines.
Search engine positioning is the process of optimizing pages to rank higher in search engines for specific keywords. It’s a central part of search engine optimization (SEO). For example, if you search for “where to buy gold” on a search engine, the first page that shows has a higher search engine positioning than the second result.
Search engine positioning is important because the top results (mainly the top three) get the majority of clicks from users. The more clicks you get from users, the more traffic you get. The more traffic you get, the more leads, conversions, and sales you’ll get, and the more well-known your brand will become.
If your search engine positioning is low, or non-existent, you’re missing out on the opportunity to get the attention of people searching for queries related to your products or services.
Search engines use special algorithms to determine the specific position of pages for queries.
Search engines like Google are fully automated and use “web crawlers” that crawl the web and find sites to add to their index. Think of the index as an enormous library of sites and pages Google stores. The majority of sites in Google search results are automatically discovered and indexed by web crawlers.
When a user searches for a certain query, pages will appear as the top result after being searched for in the index.
To determine the positioning of pages for queries, Google’s proprietary algorithm will analyze the content of a website, its structure, and how it relates to other websites.
There are over 200 “ranking factors” that Google’s algorithm uses to determine a page’s value and where it’s positioned.
Some of these factors include keyword usage in title tags, external backlinks, the authority and trustworthiness of the domain, internal links, anchor text, and more.
Using these factors, search engines score a page and then display the page that currently holds the highest score first.
Here’s an overview of how Google search works.
An SEO content audit involves assessing content on your website and determining how to increase the positioning of each page.
SEO content audits aim to determine which pages to keep, which ones to optimize, and which to delete.
There are three main phases of a content audit.
Most websites have a lot of untapped potential with their current content. An audit provides the opportunity to find what can be changed to improve overall positioning in search engines.
The result of your audit may call for certain actions, such as optimizing meta tags on outdated posts, adding more comprehensive content to a blog post, or deleting irrelevant and underperforming pages.
Internal links are links between pages or posts on your website.
Internal links are important because they help users navigate your site, establish a hierarchy of information, and spread link ‘equity’.
If you write a post about how to write an ebook, it makes sense to internally link to a post about where to publish an ebook.
The more links you have pointing to a specific page on your website, the more “ranking power” you’re giving that page. It’s essentially a backlink from within your own site.
Internal linking is useful for service pages or product pages. These types of pages don’t naturally get as many backlinks as blog posts do. To improve the position of these pages, you can point more internal links to them (e.g from a blog post or your website footer).
“Anchor text” is also an important part of creating the best internal links possible.
For example, let’s say you have a page with an aim of ranking for “how to get rid of rats”. You may link back to this page from another post by hyperlinking the word “get rid of rats”. The word you hyperlink is called the ‘anchor text’.
It’s better to use a relevant keyword for your anchor text, rather than a phrase like “click here”. This helps users more easily navigate between your pages and search engine crawlers to better understand the structure of your website.
Meta tags are text snippets that help describe the content of a page.
The “meta title” is the title that appears in search engines.
The “meta description” is the description that appears under the title.
Both the meta title and meta description (especially the meta title) are important for SEO as they make it clear to search engines what your page is about and compel users to click on it.
An ideal meta title will contain your focus keyword (or a close variation of it), ideally near the start.
For example, if your focus keyword is “ketogenic diet”, a good meta title would be “The Ketogenic Diet: A Beginner’s Guide”.
It’s good practice to keep your meta titles 50-60 characters long and include your brand name at the end of it.
The primary purpose of a meta description is to entice a reader to click through to the page while giving them an accurate idea of what they’re going to find within it. Including keywords naturally in your meta description is also good practice.
To write a good meta description, simply describe the contents of the page, and write it in a way that focuses on what the user wants to find. Make it actionable using phrases like “read on to learn more”. Meta descriptions are best at around 80-160 characters.
Don’t underestimate the importance of meta tags like website titles. They are typically the first thing users see and help search engines understand your content.
Keyword research for your content helps you understand what people are searching for instead of writing content and hoping people are searching for those topics.
When researching keywords, some critical data points to look for include:
The ideal keyword is searched often, has a low keyword difficulty, and has a high CPC, meaning it’s valuable to businesses and likely drives revenue.
Here’s an example of a good one.
When choosing keywords, you want to aim for one focus keyword for each page or post, followed by a variety of secondary keywords related to that focus keyword.
Your focus keyword shouldn’t conflict with other focus keywords on other pages, or you’ll be at risk for a concept called “keyword cannibalism”.
When you have a clear focus keyword, it becomes easy to select a good meta title, meta description, and alt tags as you can center them around your focus keyword.
The focus keyword of this post is “search engine positioning”.
An example of a secondary keyword is “search engine position” and “search engine position analysis.”
Secondary keywords are keywords that mean a similar thing to the focus keyword. Naturally (and sparingly) including these in your content helps you rank for a variety of keywords, all of which share a similar search intent to your focus keyword.
Core Web Vitals are metrics from Google that help determine how a user experiences a page.
The “better” your Core Web Vitals, the better the user experience and the better your page will likely perform in search engines.
Core Web Vitals focus on metrics like page loading speed and performance, how easy it is to interact with a page, and the visual stability on a page from a user’s perspective.
It’s essential to measure your performance for Core Web Vitals.
You can check your website’s Core Web Vitals performance in Google Search Console.
Here you’ll see a time-based report for desktop and mobile.
You’ll be shown how many and which URLs are “poor,” “need improvement,” or are “good.”
Then you can select a specific URL that’s “poor” or “needs improvement” and click on PageSpeed Insights.
This will direct you to the PageSpeed Insights for the specific URL. Here you’ll be given a score out of 100 for desktop and mobile and a list of opportunities that exist to improve your page’s score and performance.
Improving these will help your overall search engine positioning and give you the best possible chance of ranking as high as possible.
When writing for SEO, the heading structure of your content is important to spend time on (i.e., headings).
HTML defines six levels of headings (H1, H2, H3, H4, H5, and H6). H1 is the most important heading, while H6 is the least important.
Every page that has content should be organized logically with headings. The most important heading should be at the top (the title), while the main headings (H2s) should be used throughout the content. H3 headings would fall under the H2 headings, and so on.
Headings present an excellent opportunity to rank for “featured snippets. Featured snippets are short snippets of text at the top of Google search that quickly provides people with information.
For example, if someone types in “best content writing services,” you’ll see a featured snippet result as a list.
An article may use headings for each content writing provider (e.g “Writing Studio”) which would then be included in the featured snippet.
Strategically using header tags for frequently searched terms related to the core topic you’re covering helps search engines understand what your content is about.
Headings are also crucial for user experience. They make content more skimmable and provide users an easier time of finding the specific information they’re looking for.
You may also consider adding a clickable table of contents, as you can see on the left side of this article on desktop. This helps users more quickly access specific headers they’re looking for.
Image SEO optimization is underrated in terms of improving search positioning. When done correctly, it can help drive more traffic to your posts.
One of the best ways to optimize your images for SEO is to write good alt tags.
An alt tag (or alt attribute) is an HTML attribute that provides an alternate text for search engines. The purpose of an alt tag is to describe what an image is representing. This is particularly helpful for visually impaired users who use screen readers.
A good approach for writing an alt tag is to write “this is an image of,” then describe the image, and delete “this is an image of.” If you can include your focus or secondary keywords in your alt tags, do so, but don’t stuff them in. This should happen naturally. Joshua Hardwick, head of content at Ahrefs discusses this concept and more in this article about image SEO.
Other aspects of image optimization include the filename of the image. We often just use the focus keyword of a page for the featured image. For the other images, use a short and descriptive title, without stuffing keywords in.
Another good idea is to optimize the size of your images. Smaller images load faster, so decrease image size as much as possible without compromising quality too much.
While Google doesn’t reveal every detail about the intricacies of their search algorithm, one thing we know for sure is that backlinks matter, a lot.
Backlinks are links from other websites pointing to yours.
The more backlinks you have and the higher their quality the more Google will trust your page.
If other site owners are linking to your content, then they clearly think it’s relevant and high-quality.
This tells Google the same thing. The more quality links you have to your domain and specific pages, the easier it will be to increase your position in search engines.
There are multiple ways you can “build” backlinks.
“Black hat” methods include ways of building backlinks that are against Google’s policies, such as purchasing backlinks, which is not recommended.
“White hat methods” involve something like broken link building, where you would analyze another person’s website, find a broken external link in a piece of content, and suggest that they could replace it with your piece of content.
Another method is resource link building. This is when you reach out to a site with a resource page and suggest one of your resources to be placed on their page.
There are many ways to ethically build backlinks that don’t break the rules.
The higher your position in search engines, the more organic traffic you’ll receive. The more targeted organic traffic you’ll receive, and the more leads, conversions, and sales you’re going to get.
Search engine positioning is an ongoing process. It takes time to rank high. Consistently posting content and keeping these best practices in mind (and tracking SEO KPIs) will give you the best chance possible of dominating SERPs for your target keywords.