There is a saying that goes thus, “Greatness is deliberate, no one becomes great by mistake; a sacrifice was paid.” The same rules apply to page ranking, ranking in the top 10 of search engine result page, or SERP for a keyword is greatness, and it simply means you are the best of the best.
Ranking in the top 10 pages in SERP is nothing but a conscious effort from you. You need to make your website so perfect for the top spot that your absence would make the search results feel incomplete and broken. The truth is, the era where pages rank in SERP by luck is over, why? more than a hundred websites are optimizing their content for the same keyword you wish to rank for, so how does Google decide which page should come first and the one to come second?
Well, Google has over 200 different ranking factors it uses to determine which page should rank first in SERP for a keyword and has a secret algorithm to measure and prioritize these factors. Over 200 factors you say?
How do I optimize my webpage to meet these requirements? You asked.
Now, no one knows it all – it will be overwhelming, and not necessarily necessary to know them all. Nevertheless, experts have broken down these factors into three broad “ranking pillars”
- Relevance: a website’s relevance to the search query
- Popularity and authority: The reputation of the website across the internet
- Quality: The quality of the content and website as a whole.
The reason Google has dominated the search engine space is that its results are more relevant which makes web users keep coming back. Google so much care about relevance that it’s one of its requirement to run a successful ad campaign. Everyone using the search engine is looking for content that matches their intent and also solves their needs without clicking back and forth.
Google uses technologies like rankbrain and BERT to get a lot of attention in the world of SEO. Both technologies are owned by Google and are used to determine and rank websites or webpages according to the intent behind the search query. Rankbrain is a machine learning AI that helps Google understand our search intent (what we really mean when we search for things). When you search for kleptar are you searching for the real estate marketplace where you can list and sell your property or just looking for someone with the name? While BERT helps Google’s algorithm understand the context of words to pick up on nuances that can alter the meaning of sentences. The reason why Google rephrases your search query anytime it thinks you’re searching for something else. You must have seen something like “are you searching for; instead of?” Google does this because it is obsessed with understanding what people are searching for and giving them exactly what they need. Therefore anytime you want to rank a website or webpage you have to start by making it really useful and relevant for the search query you are targeting.
How does Google determine relevance?
- Google determines the relevance of a page by using its software called “robot” to crawl websites, taking notes each time a word appears. This process is called indexing.
Simply put when someone searches on Google, it runs through this index looking for instances of the words and coughs up the websites that they appear on. So this means Google has crawled a webpage and already determine its intent and relevance to a search query and ranked it even before a search was made.
- Users’ interaction: Another way Google determines the relevance of your page is through its user interaction with your page. This is measured by two factors Retention rate and Bounce rate.
Retention rate is the percentage of time users stay on your website, not only viewing a page but also clicking links that leads to other pages on your website, while bounce rate is the percentage of users that leaves your website within 5 – 10 seconds. These users bounce off your website searching for the same query that brought them to your website.
For instance, you want to sell a property. If you go to Google and type “Platform to List property for sale in Nigeria”, Google displays the SERP.
From here, imagine you interact with three different websites
- First, looking at the result page, you see one of the first listed sites has an ambiguous Meta description which looks like it’s not directly talking about listing properties. You left it without clicking it because there are lots of other relevant sites, so you clicked on the second one instead.
- When you land on this site, the content was a tip on how to list your property but directed you to an agent; kinda what you wanted but you don’t want an agent. So you hit the back button and return to the SERP.
- You clicked on the third website, then they gave you a top 10 list of websites you can list your property for free, then you find kleptar read the review, you then clicked on the link that lead to the website and go through to list your property.
The question is: if you are Google which of these three websites would you serve as the top result next time somebody searches for a “platform to list properties for sale in Nigeria”?
Of course, you will definitely favor the third website over the rest. That’s just how it is; the content of your website has to be relevant to the search query before Google can rank it on SERP.
Popularity and Authority
The reputation of a website is another method Google uses to decide where to rank any website. This is where linking comes in. Linking is the secret sauce that Google uses to measure the relative popularity and authority of all the pages on the internet. Google measures a website’s reputation by the link or votes it gets from other websites. To illustrate this better pardon me to use this analogy:
One of the ways companies recruit new staff is through referrals, a referral from who? Existing staffs of course. Most jobs, and political offices in the world today are filled with people referred by people of high reputation.
Thanks to distrust and ballooned unemployment rate referrals and recruiting have become rife that most job vacancies go on to be filled without being advertised at all. When there’s a vacancy in an organization the management will at times ask some of their staff if they have a candidate to fill the vacant role. Why? Because of their relevance, trust, and reputation, the staff has built over the years. Of course, the staff does have candidates most of the time. What next? The staff will link back to their candidate about the vacancy equipping them with all it takes to land the job. During the interview, if the interviewer is the boss or part of the management of the company, they (the interviewer) might not bother asking the applicant a question after verifying his/her credentials and the looking backing of whom they got if the applicant is the only candidate for the job. If he isn’t and the interviewer does ask a question and the applicant passed then the reputation of the referrer will also come into play. Then the interviewers will weigh their options according to the applicant’s curriculum vitae, or CV, and their respective backing. It is 99% sure that the best candidate according to the two factors will definitely get the job.
This is also what Google seeks to do.
In the above context
- Company = Google
- Job = top 10 of the SERP or PageRank
- Interviewers = Google ranking factors
- Staffs and referrers = sites with a high reputation. They have earned Google’s trust over time so Google trusts them and their affiliation to abide by the company’s culture and also work toward achieving its goals.
- Candidate/Applicants = websites bidding to rank for keywords
Google link juice algorithm measures not the word-of-mouth recommendations, but the virtual equivalent: the link to each website. Google’s measure of each website’s authority is called PageRank.
If lots of staff link to Mr. A, but no one in the company link to Mr. B, then Mr. A is more popular and would definitely get the job (PageRank). All those links mean that he is probably more competent and trustworthy, so if all else was equal with the other candidates then he will definitely get the job.
Nevertheless, it’s not just the number of links pointing at a website that determines its page value. It’s also the quality (i.e. the PageRank) of the websites that these links come from.
This will make total sense if we return to our job referral analogy.
You might want to invite and interview the candidates/Applicants of your most trusted and experienced staff Rather than inviting and interviewing all the candidates/Applicants including ones from your new staff… After all, they (old staff) know the company well, and helped your company scale to where it is today so it is safe to assume they will never recommend a loser, so therefore it is only right that their vote is taken seriously.
Taking the authority and ‘topical expertise’ of each vote into consideration, you could increase the likelihood of finding the best person for the job.
Let’s look at an equivalent website example:
Let’s say Peelar gets featured on the Forbes list as one of the best multicurrency banks that Africans can use to send and receive from overseas linking back to the site, whilst one of our competitors gets a link from a site that barely has visitors. Which link holds more weight? Which link do you think Google will recognize? Of course, the link coming from Forbes to peelar.
In summary, it is not about the number of links or votes it is the quality of the links that matter.
The overall quality of a website is one of the yardsticks Google uses to churn out valuable content for its users. In fact quality of a website is so important that Google explicitly revealed factors a site must possess to be considered a “high quality” website.
Let’s use this analogy to gain insight into what Quality means to Google
Your organization has two customer representatives that speak to customers anytime they have a complaint. Now, imagine you conducted a feedback survey in a bid to gain insight into the two representatives’ behavior. Now you get to know the following
- The first representative Opeyemi is calm, cool, and relates to and attends to customers with utmost care, she so all it takes to solve their problems outrightly. She treats them like the king they are, So she has a 4.5-star review from customers.
- The second rep Nike is also calm, cool, and relates with customers with utmost care but takes long to answer her call and never solve their problem but always referring them to another person. So she has a 3-star review from customers.
Now which of the two representatives will you commensurate and possibly raise her wages? Opeyemi right? Why? She works harder to retain your customers.
The same applies to Google, Google cares so much about Quality that it will do anything to rank websites that retain searchers. So the more you delight your customers/readers the more Google likes and rank you. It’s as simple as that.
Now let’s look at these key quality areas that increase the quality of your website and also help you rank on Google.
- Website content:
I have said times without numbers that the best way to get a quality backlink and also rank on SERP is to write good-quality content. Websites with thin content – meaning low word counts, poor quality writing, or pages with little to no text at all will always struggle to rank. Improving and increasing content is often the fastest way to boost a struggling site’s ranking.
Have you ever wondered why Wikipedia and Investopedia content always make SERP top 10? Wiki always ranks in the top 3 of SERP when it comes to biography or history content while Investopedia also ranks in the top 3 of any keyword that has to do with finance and investment. Why? They churn out quality content; they are deliberate about what they put out. Investopedia contents are TL;DR but always meet your needs whenever they have articles related to your search query and that’s precisely what Google wants. Google tries to meet the need of searchers with websites that meet their needs.
Your content must be well detailed and self-explanatory, visitors should be able to gain all the insight they need on their search intent anything less of this is a downvote on your site as they will go back to SERP to look for the exact same thing that brought them to your site/page.
- Errors and Broken links
How do you feel when you click a website that ranked top of your search query but discovered that the contents are full of technical errors and even the links are broken and don’t lead anywhere. Even the site took 20 seconds to load? Google particularly won’t rank these websites because they are way below the average of what Google considers a Good-quality website.
Your website must be clear of technical errors (Bugs), the internal and external links must lead somewhere and most importantly your site should be accessible in less than 2secs.
- User friendly
Your website must be accessible through mobile and desktop friendly. The importance of this cannot be overemphasized, and it doesn’t matter whether or not you think your target audience browses on their mobile, People should be able to access and use your website with any gadget they use. You must know this.
How to get to the top of Google by Tim Cameron-kitchen