SEO can seem intimidating, and unfortunately, this leads many people to focus on the wrong things in SEO or even avoid it altogether, which results in them losing potential business through traffic to their website. But I promise you SEO is simpler than it seems. Yes, it takes quite a bit of work to do well, but the strategies that make the most impact are simple ideas anyone can understand.
Think about this question for a moment: What is the single factor Google prioritizes in SEO more than anything else?
This is the key: User experience. Google wants its users to find the information they’re looking for, and it wants to encourage all of us to keep browsing. This makes sense when you think about how this massive search engine makes their money. Google wants users to keep using its search engine, and it wants them to keep browsing and viewing more ads, which are on web pages. The thing to understand is that Google prioritizes quality for the sake of user experience.
So how is that reflected in the algorithm? Google has created a three-pronged approach. Everything the algorithm takes in account falls into one of these three categories:
Relevancy measures how accurately a web page addresses a user’s search query. When search results don’t show you what you’re looking for, it can be quite frustrating. Sometimes it’s a simple matter of rephrasing your search query, but if nothing shows up on the first page or two, you most likely will just give up and stop browsing. Google doesn’t want that to happen. They want to help their users find answers to their questions and problems as quickly as possible. That’s why the most relevant information is usually right at the top of the first page, and sometimes you don’t even have to click on a link to find the answer you’re looking for immediately.
Google uses a large number of things to determine how relevant a web page is. Some of these things are keyword density (how many times a keyword appears on a page), the number of inbound links from other relevant sites, and how long users tend to spend on that page after their search.
Google uses popularity to help determine how authoritative, useful, and important a website is to a searcher and, ultimately, a consumer. If a website is popular, that’s a good indication that users like that website—it’s satisfying their wants or needs in some way.
Popularity is critical to your website’s ranking, which impacts the traffic your site will get and ultimately the number of people who connect with your business. But popularity is more than just the number of users or views a website has. It’s also determined by PageRank, a part of Google’s algorithm that analyzes links and assigns a value or “rank” to every page on the internet. Important websites are more likely to receive links from other websites, and links from more popular, respected, and important websites are weighted higher than links from, say, someone’s craft blog.
One of the most effective ways to grow popularity is by publishing content and getting mentioned on larger websites relevant to your business.
The third component Google takes into account is your website’s technical integrity. This is the nitty-gritty stuff you need to get right from the start—ensuring your website is secure, loads quickly, and doesn’t run into technical SEO problems such as broken links or unnecessary redirects. This is where things can get confusing for those not well-versed in SEO, and I recommend relying on a professional or team of professionals to ensure you’re not making any technical mistakes that could block your website from ranking as well as it should due to integrity issues.
Remember, Google prioritizes user experience, so they don’t want to send users to a website full of broken links or where they could encounter malicious software. Additionally, Google also needs your website to be set up correctly in order for it to be able to easily crawl and index it properly. If your website is put together poorly, Google may not be able read your site, so it can’t place it in search results where it belongs.
Three Is the Key
Relevancy, popularity, and integrity are all equally important to your search engine optimization. If you have integrity and relevancy but not popularity, your page will not rise to the top of the search results page. Similarly, you can have popularity and relevancy, but without integrity, Google won’t want to send people to your page. Top-ranking pages have all three elements. The combination of these three things together will have more effect on your SEO than focusing on any one of them.
Of course there are plenty of other ways to boost your SEO—I’m sure you’ve heard of various tricks to do so—but focusing on these three components will results in more success in the long run. Google wants the highest quality content for their users. That’s why it doesn’t simply rank pages based on popularity. There was a time when it did prioritize popularity, but because many people tried to take advantage of the system, it has had to change in order to continue to provide the best user experience. Popularity alone does not indicate how relevant and trustworthy a site may be for the user.
Google changes their algorithm frequently, and this helps keep people from gaming the system by using tricks or loopholes in the algorithm. Through these changes, the algorithm has grown more complex and sophisticated over time to outsmart malicious websites and to continue to produce better results for its users. Even though Google’s algorithm is constantly changing, relevancy, popularity, and integrity remain the foundation of good SEO.
The good news is you can be prepared for changes in the algorithm by focusing your SEO strategy on these three components. You don’t need to change your strategy with every update to the algorithm—that would be incredibly difficult, as it makes updates nearly every month. And even significant changes to the algorithm should only cause you to need small adjustments if you focus on relevancy, popularity, and integrity.