Search engine optimisation has shifted from being discoverable across different portals to being seen by Google. Google’s dominance as a search engine has meant we content creators have to appease this omnipotent and omnipresent platform’s rules by understanding the SEO factors that affect Google search results.

Case in point, ‘Google’ has developed into the verb for searching for information online – despite whatever search engine you may prefer or use. ‘Just Google it’ became the solution to any gaps in our knowledge and, subsequently, being discoverable on Google is the only way to affirm our online existence and relevance. So understanding what the search engine is looking in SEO factors for can help your brand get onto that coveted Page One of Google’s search results.

Google’s Favourite SEO Factors

When trying to understand how to optimise your content for SEO, it’s important first know the key SEO factors that affect Google results. Granted, there are more than 200 different SEO factors that influence search results, but here are a few major ones:

  1. The question: search engines understand what is being asked and immediately determines whether the best response would be a definition, a list, a map, or a specific website.
  2. The location: Google can tailor responses according to where the person making the query is located. For example, searching for ‘design agency’ will prioritise local listings for this service over a dictionary definition or the term or a Wikipedia page about the history of design agencies.
  3. The creator: Google favours real people (rather than bots) that create good content. To help boost content discoverability, Google Authorship gives special designation to creators who’ve been verified through Google+.
  4. Social network: Search engines like Google are placing more importance on searchers’ social network connections. Google Social Search is a specialised service that allows users to easily find content from their social network, so its critical brands build social media presence to support any content created.
  5. Social engagement: Social actions such as likes and shares also boost SEO discoverability and ranking.

Contents’ SEO Factors for Success

The key elements to building SEO and search ranking are on-the-page and off-the-page SEO factors.

On-the-page factors are those that are almost entirely within the content creator’s control, particularly the website’s elements that affect ranking. The three most important elements here are the content, the site’s architecture, and HTML, which all affect SEO.

Off-the-page factors are those outside the content creator’s control, which allows Google to verify a website’s authenticity and authority through other users. This includes important factors such as trust, links, personalisation, and socials. Plus there are on-the-page and off-the-page violations that adversely affect SEO ranking.

Let’s look at these two SEO factor types in further detail.

SEO On-the-Page Factor 1: Content

To boost the SEO of pages and blogs, the content needs to be of the highest quality, offering value to readers as informative, entertaining, relevant, and unique. The quality of content is the cornerstone of all SEO factors.

Great content should really be created for the audience and not actually aimed at Google. This is where keywords come in. Keyword research will help content creators understand what their audience is regularly searching for, the language they’re using, and the dominant players for those search results.

For pages to be found through use of particular words, it’s a good idea to consistently use those words in content copy. A good keyword density is 2.45 percent, which will help establish the content’s authority and relevance for those keywords.

Google also has Query Deserved Freshness (QDF), so if there’s a search suddenly surges in popularity, Google applies QDF to that term and discover any fresh content on that topic. For example, if there’s no active virus, then search results for ‘virus’ will likely contain listings to government and reference sites. However, if there’s a pandemic occurring, this will affect search results and likely prioritise news stories and current information about the active virus.

Brands should take advantage of this freshness boost by producing relevant content that is aligned to industry trends in real time.

SEO On-the-Page Factor 2: Architecture

Google crawls through website quickly and stores copies of those pages in its index. To get content into that index, sites need to be crawlable. While most sites won’t have crawling issues, JavaScript or Flash can potentially hide links or content from search engines. Each site is given a crawl budget – an approximate amount of time or pages a search engine will crawl each day, which based on the site’s relative trust and authority.

Search engines also reward sites that are mobile-friendly with a chance of better rankings on mobile searches. This important as people are increasingly moving away from desktop computers and toward mobile devices.

Canonicalisation is the process of tagging pages to let search engines know specific URLs are master copies of that page, this boosts the trust and authority of links even if they have duplicate versions. Proper implementation of 301 redirects, the use of rel=canonical tags, managing URL parameters and effective pagination strategies can all help prevent inadvertent URL bloat.

Google gives faster sites a small ranking advantage over slower sites. Site speed can also reinforce some factors and improve others, so it’s important to ensure site speed has been optimised, not only for SEO sake, but the benefit of your audience’s patience.

Your URLs need to be descriptive, using the keywords you want to be found for in your domain name and page URLs.

Google also rewards sites that use HTTPS with a small ranking boost as secure sites are more highly favoured by users and search engines.

SEO On-the-Page Factor 3: HTML

HTML titles come from conducting thorough keyword research and then creating unique and descriptive titles for every page on your website. HTML titles are so important that if Google deems them bad or not descriptive, then the search engine will change them.

Header tags are a formal and structure way to identify key sections of a web page. Google uses these tags as a way of determining what the page’s content is about. If the words you want to be found for are in header tags (such as H1 and H2), you have a slightly increased chance of appearing in searches for those words.

Meta descriptions are the description that accompany search results and give a brief overview of the webpage. SEO experts argue that a meta description isn’t a ‘ranking factor’ but a ‘display factor’, which determines how pages look when they appear in the search results rather than when they appear in the results.

Meta descriptions contain the keywords searched for in bold to help grab users’ attention, so a well-written meta description can help you distinguish your page from other search results.

Sites can also use specific markup/code to help search engines understand the details of page content and structure. The result of this structured data often translates into a ‘rich snippet,’ a search listing that has extra features, such as reviews and ratings with star ratings, which makes the result more attractive and useful to users.

Next time, we’ll look at the off-the-page SEO factors and violations that can affect your page’s search result ranking.

Boost your SEO with a clear understanding of content writing across different platforms and audiences. Download our free Ultimate Guide to Content Writing.

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