Site owners want their site to be at the top of search engine results for all queries applicable to their business. Google (as well as Bing, Yahoo, etc.) wants to provide the best results possible to user queries, so users continue to use their search engine over the competition. Users simply want the best answers to their questions they can find without having to scour the entire Internet.
Search engines work for their users, not for the sites they serve up on results pages. The best way to improve a site’s placement within search rankings is to better serve users and to provide better answers to common queries than the competition.
Tactics vs. Strategy
The algorithms behind search engines change constantly, with Google reported to change their algorithm more than 550 times a year. In the past, when search engines weren’t as “smart”, SEO firms and marketers developed an arsenal of tactics that made a site look more attractive to search engines, regardless of relevance or quality.
Search engines have adapted to these tactics. “Black hat” tactics (such as hiding keywords in a site’s background or invisible divs, or assigning dozens of meta keywords to all the pages of a site) can now get a site blacklisted from search engines.
Now, savvy marketers recommend a strategic approach to web content and SEO instead of a tactical one. Instead of focusing on keyword density or improving specific metrics, overall content strategy and positive user experience have become the most important factors to improving search-ranking results.
When users find a site useful, search engines recognize this through metrics like a low bounce rate, time spent per visit, high percentage of return visitors, and many other factors. They subsequently rank these useful sites higher than their competitors in a constant effort to match the right answers with the right questions.
Search Engines Rank Content, Not Companies
It is imperative that content is written for real users, not for search engines. Specific words and phrases from the title tag and meta description that match the user’s query will appear bolded on the results page. Excellent, specific titles and summaries are a great way to boost visibility on a search results page, even if a site is not the top result. Loading keywords into title tags and meta descriptions is a great way to reiterate the content’s focus to users and search algorithms, but it falls flat if the pages don’t actually answer the questions users are asking.
Besides providing the best, most useful content possible, integrating social media and other marketing channels with your main site shows search engines that you’re an active content producer. Other sites and blogs that link to your content indicate that your site serves as a “thought leader”. These indicators convince search engines your content is valuable, and that your site is worthy of a high ranking.
The current generation of search engines have no way to truly “understand” your content, but they take into account a number of factors that indicate a site’s usefulness. Convincing them that your content is valuable and serves as an excellent answer to a user’s query is the best way to improve search ranking and overall visibility.
For more information about specific actions you can take to improve a site’s search ranking, we recommend “The Ultimate On-Site SEO Guide” from Vudu Marketing, which overviews 21 of the most important factors impacting your search rankings.