The most basic search engine ranking factors are the quality of the content and incoming links. More so since the changes in Google’s Panda Update, released last year, which penalize (or adjusts) pages that have poor quality content.
Content is king and the basic starting point for any SEO strategy. Ask yourself, are you providing better information on the topic you are covering then the millions of other pages covering the same topic? If you’re selling something, do you go beyond giving the same product information as everyone else?
If you are covering a topic, did you post something that would give the user a reason to spend a few minutes reading the entire post or is it just marketing speak?
You should find a way to offer real value to your readers. Try to offer insight or information that the reader would find difficult to find or reproduce themselves.
Content Research / Keyword Research
Once you have created a well-researched and useful article the next step is keyword research.
Keywords are the words typed into the search engine that are used to find your page.
There are a number of free tools that allow you to easily determine the words and phrases people are using to search for your type of content.
You want to create content using those keywords, the search terms people are using. That effectively lets your content “answer” them.
For example lets say you are a law firm. You might have the phrase “law firm” throughout your site and rank well on those keywords but, if you had done a little keyword research, you would have found that most users looking for a law firm use the keyword “lawyer” instead of “law firm” when looking for that type of service.
Another example might be, you are a lawyer based in a suburb of Cleveland OH and you want to acquire clients from all over the Cleveland OH metro area. We already know from our keyword research that the term “lawyer” is better then “law firm”. We also know that preforming a Google search for lawyer returns results from major national law firms that are much higher ranked then your web site. Given this reality, you might want to consider focusing on the search phase “lawyer Cleveland” as a way to narrow the number of web sites you are competing with.
Content Words / Use Of Keywords
OK, you have your content and the keywords you want to be found by, it’s time to do some editing.
Basically if you want to be found by those keywords they have to be in your copy.
The next question is usually how many times should I use those keywords in my content? The answer is just use common sense.
Try to use them naturally. If you tend to switch up your phrases to keep from sounding repetitive like most authors do, don’t. Or at least don’t switch as often as you would naturally do. Remember a computer is ranking your content and all it can do is count words.
So now you have quality content that can be found under the keywords you researched. What other search engine optimization factors do the search engines use to rank you content against the content on other web sites. One of these SEO factors is content engagement.
Lets say that someone found your page but only stayed for a few seconds. Google can measure that as a “time on site” metric. They can then use that metric to try to determine the value of the content.
The reverse is also true. If people are spending a long time reading your content that could be a sign to the search engine that your content is better then similar content on other web sites.
Another type of engagement is “social”. Google and Bing both have access to different social networks and can analyze data about how often your content is shared on these networks as signal in their page rank.
Social is a little harder to get a handle on because none of the search engines can see all of the data on all the different networks. Bing has deal with Facebook for this type of access while Google was forced to create Google+ to get the same type of data. Both are pretty tight lipped when comes to how much this affects page rank.
Sometimes you will hear the theory that fresh content can boost your page rank. There is a little more to this theory then just posting content on random topics on a regular basis.
Google has something called “Query Deserved Freshness.” If a certain search query becomes popular, meaning Google is seeing a surge in the number of queries for a particular phrase, Google will try and find the freshest content on that topic and give it a boost in the search results. This boost is usually temporary.
Lets return to our law firm example. Say you have written an article detailing a change in state law that may affect some of your clients. All of a sudden this law is covered by the local news and people start to search for more information. The bump in search traffic may lead to a freshness boost that sends your page to the top of the results.