Search engine optimization, more commonly referred to as SEO, is the backbone of most websites. It’s a process by which webmasters groom their sites to conform to exactly what search engines are looking for. It’s kind of like digitally getting ready for a date, except instead of picking out a nice outfit and putting on some cologne or perfume, you’re choosing keywords, content tags, and making other important considerations.
It seems logical that websites with the best SEO should be the most highly ranked by Google. That isn’t always the case, though. The reason for that is while you can put on masterful lipstick and rouge, so to speak, there are some qualities Google just cares about more according to this source.
Reason #1: Relevance and Competition
One of the big things Google looks for when it’s playing match-maker with your search request is how relevant the results are. If you type in “Nissan Pathfinder” for instance, it isn’t going to give you a bunch of pages about movies or video games with “Pathfinder” in the title; it’s going to give you results about the car. That’s one half of the equation. Put simply, websites that talk about the things people are searching for will rank more highly just because people are looking for the right subject matter.
The other half of the equation is competition. If you’re talking about something like “how to make money working from home” then you’ve got a lot of competitors all trying to get into the limelight. If your website is dedicated to how to run an obscure tabletop roleplaying game, though, you’ll have a lot less competition on your hands. The result is you’re running a race against a much smaller group, and you’re a lot more likely to come in first, or at least in the top single digits, with fewer people to compete against.
Reason #2: Click-Through and Bounce Rate
This one is a bit technical, but Google loves it when website owners get technical. Your click-through rate is how often people click on your website from search results. If 50 percent of the people who are searching for “celebrity trivia” all scroll until they hit your website, and then click it, Google is going to see how popular you are and start moving you closer to the front of the line.
The other half of this is your bounce rate. If someone clicks on your page by accident, or they click it and find that it really wasn’t what they were looking for, the first thing they’re going to do is hit the back button. When that happens you have a bounce back rate, and Google also looks at that. So if you have a high click-through coupled with a low bounce back you can get more highly ranked, even without going over your content with an SEO comb.
Reason #3: Age, Content, and Growth Rate
The best way to get ranked well without SEO is to create good content that will be popular. That’s easier said than done, of course, but if you keep at it you’ll trigger another of the things Google likes; natural rate of growth.
Websites grow at a natural rate, and if you’ve been around for a few years and Google sees that you’re acting like a real website (one run by human beings instead of spam-producing robots) it’s more likely to rank you over upstart sites that are growing suspiciously fast.
Is That All?
Google has a huge number of factors which go into its ranking system according to this list. So while getting the perfect anchors, using just the right number of keywords, and getting a huge number of backlinks to your site is good, it’s far from the only way to wind up on Google’s front page of results.
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