Website traffic is the only type of traffic we’d all like to see more of. To achieve that, we know we need content from our website to feature as high up as possible on search engine results pages.
To rank #1 on the biggest search engine in the world is an SEO goal shared by companies small and large. According to studies cited by Small SEO Tools, #1 rankings in Google have an average click through rate (CTR) of 36.4%, while second page rankings get a meagre 1.5% CTR. And, 75% of search engine users never click past the first page of results (as the saying goes, the best place to hide a dead body is page two of Google).
The good thing is, regardless of your business’ size or industry, it’s entirely attainable to get your website to occupy a prime spot on Google’s first page of results – on the proviso your content is right.
But what do I mean by ‘right’? Google seems to continuously update its algorithms, while SEO best practice guidelines change like the weather. However, on closer inspection, we see that the very fundamentals of SEO remain the same. And who better to explain the basics than Martin Splitt, WebMaster trends analyst at the search giant?
Crawling and indexing – what are they?
In a discussion with web developer Juan Herrera, Martin talks about the process behind ranking web pages.
The first step is ‘crawling,’ where search engine bots crawl through the internet, following links, page by page. When these pages are found, the engine must understand the purpose they serve – which is indexing. The last step, so says Martin, is to look at the index and identify which pages serve the purpose best, and to feature them on results pages.
When asked, “What ranks you best?” Martin admits it’s a very complicated question to answer. Not just complicated, but long – there are over 200 so-called ‘signals’ that affect rankings. But, lo and behold, great content tops the list of the three most important ‘signals’ to focus on. It is king, after all.
If you’re looking for a checklist of those 200 signals, I’m sorry, you’re not going to get one. What I can do, though, is offer some useful insight into creating high-ranking content, inspired by Martin, SEO aficionado Neil Patel, and a smidgen of my own experience.
Bigger is (usually) better
Google’s Hummingbird update means that websites with heaps of content on just about everything won’t perform as well as sites which hone-in on niche topics and are extremely thorough. It’s the age-old quality over quantity debate.
To use Neil’s analogy, imagine you have a dating site. If you created an article on ways to land your dream date, and all it did was tell the reader to visit your website and sign up, it won’t perform that well. Far better is to break it down to a granular level – discuss every little detail involved in the process, like creating a profile, choosing the ideal picture, adding video, how to engage with people, other platforms to use, where to go for your first date, how to secure a second date. You get the picture. As a benchmark, Backlinko found the average Google first page result comes in at 1,890 words.
To quote Neil, you’ve a got to ‘poke holes in your content.’ When someone lands on your page and reads the article, you want them to feel like all their questions have been answered. You’re striving to be the ‘end all’ site.
It’s a theory we’ve been putting to practice at M2 Bespoke. We’re currently working on a major SEO update with a national insurance group, producing 80 pieces of long-form content per month – the equivalent of 30,000 words every week. The first batch of content pushed some of their domains to the top spot on Google, after occupying positions 3-8 for months.
The content we’re producing for the insurance group is niche and granular; each article addresses an element of a certain topic, rather than being a broad guide. That’s why we believe it’s yielded the sort of results it has.
Speaking your audience’s language
Now, producing content for content’s sake isn’t going to cut the mustard. Going back to the indexing process, it needs to serve a purpose. This feeds into the previous point about seeking to answer all of your audience’s questions, so they don’t feel compelled to look elsewhere – only quality content can accomplish this.
What helps (and actually, what’s essential) is speaking your audience’s language. This time, an ice cream analogy – as Martin puts it, you want to avoid super-specific phrases (like ‘smooth ice cream 500’) and instead, use terms people are likely to plug into search engines and therefore interact with. Though, as he points out, if smooth ice cream 500 is your trademark, it’s still good to mention it somewhere in your content.
Describing your content
Do a Google search and look at the results. Every result has a headline that appears at the top with a link, known as the title tag. And the little snippet of text below the tag and link is called the meta description.
Now, both your tag and description need to describe what’s included in your content. This helps people find out which page from the results is going to help them best. Back to the online dating reference: if you searched ‘online dating’ on Google, you wouldn’t click on a result that doesn’t include the phrase ‘online dating,’ would you? Point proven.
Your meta tag and descriptions need to be optimised by including the keyword, but they also need to be appealing. Meaning, they have to be easy to read and flow in a cohesive sentence to inspire the user to click through. And a final point on this: if you want to rank high, each page needs a separate tag and description. I’m sure you already know plagiarism is Google’s foe!
On the subject of keywords…
If you don’t know about Google Search Console, it’s about time you get to know it. Neil praises this free tool for effectively teaching companies how to rank top on search results.
After a few days of using Search Console, take a look at Search Analytics to see which pages on your site are generating traffic, and which articles are getting impressions. From there, you can take the keywords you’re getting impressions for and start incorporating them within your content.
But you need to work the keywords in naturally, making sure all sentences still flow and the content remains informative and engaging throughout. Otherwise, your readers won’t make it to the end of the article.
Making sure the content you produce serves a purpose, is keyword-conscious, and strives to answer all of your audience’s queries will put you in great stead for ranking high on Google. If you need help tackling that task, we’ve got proven expertise in creating high-quality content to support your SEO efforts. Get in touch today to find out more.Ben Hollom
May 22, 2019