How do Google and other search engines rank my website?

Google is often the ‘bar’ set for how well a website is doing. Top search results for a given search term are highly valued and sought after by website owners. Higher visibility means greater search traffic to your website, and in turn, more conversions and sales (if you are an ecommerce vendor.) And while most SEO experts know the right strategies to tailor a site with, search engine companies like Google keep their complex ranking algorithms in black boxes. But research and testing has proven that there are some very important content strategies you should not ignore if you are trying to climb the search engine ladder. Let’s explore some of the big ones you shouldn’t ignore on your WordPress site.

Keywords / key phrases

Smart keyword usage is a huge component of improving your search engine rank. Search engines take into account your keyword usage for a particular article, product, or blog post and compares it to competitor websites. The algorithm attempts to analyze the quality of your content compared to these other sites, and tries to determine which site has the best quality of informative content.

Gone are the days of spamming keywords on a page, however. That old trick no longer works, and actually reduces your chances of that page rising in the ranks. Search engines look at the page as a whole, and intelligently consider which page is the best for that keyword or set of keywords. So not only do you need to use keywords wisely, but your content should be well written and significant to boot!

Time on site

Search engines also use time on site as a way to determine content quality. This is easy to understand why – if a lot of users are searching for keywords that bring them to your site, and then decide to remain on your site longer than on a competitor’s site, then it is a pretty revealing indicator that your content is likely a more authoritative resource.

Inbound links

Inbound links are links to your site or links to pages on your sites from other sources on the web. Search engines analyze these links to determine not only how users are finding your site, but the quality of those external sites affects page rank as well. If your site or page is being linked to from a very well known blog, website, or other high ranking type of website, then that quality is rightly attributed to your own site content. Authority is king, and those links are highly sought after. There are SEO strategies that employ this style of cross-linking purely to enhance your own site authority in the eyes of search engines.

Site layout

Site layout is more than just giving your users a nice view when they visit your site or e-commerce store. Search engines look at your site layout as well, in order to determine how nicely you are treating your users when serving them content. It’s not simply related to how images and text look on the page, however. They also make sure to analyze how your site looks on mobile devices, if you have employed proper markup, and if you are properly annotating your images with alt tags, to name a few. All of these things are important to help a search engine properly crawl your content, and your rank will be rewarded accordingly.

Server speed

Server speed is another metric search engines can reward you for paying attention to. If your server is slower than pitch, you will be penalized for providing a poor user experience, even if your content is a clear winner compared to your competitors. Serving up quality content FAST is the current name of the game when it comes to delivering content on the web. Make sure you inspect your site speed regularly to determine if you can make improvements.

All told, there are many, many different kinds of metrics a search engine can use to determine rank. However, the bottom line is this: be an authority. If you need to spend extra money to ensure you have thoughtful, well designed, and well implemented page content, search engines will push you up in the listings, and your user base will continue to grow and grow. The keys to success are to not rush it – make quality content, and the search engines will notice.

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