What Goes Into A Search Engine Ranking

search engine ranking on google

SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is incredibly vital to the success of any modern website. Unfortunately, the algorithms that ultimately determine your search engine ranking are continually changing, making it impossible to create an ideal site and then rest on your laurels.

In fact, SEO has become increasingly difficult since the internet was invented. At first, all you had to do was choose the right keyword and make sure it comprised 5-10 percent of your page’s content. You would get the highest possible ranking, even if the rest of your content was complete gibberish.

Try that today, and all three of the major search engines (Google, Yahoo!, and Bing) will bury you. Each engine has its own bot that scans your site for a variety of factors, and what they are and how they are weighted are always in flux.

Vancouver SEO experts like us spend nearly all of our time trying to figure out what the search engines are looking for so that we can ensure that our clients provide it. We believe that we have a pretty good handle on it, so we decided to share the most significant contributors to your search engine ranking below. Get them right, and you will be happy with your placement on search results pages.

Additional reading: SEO Services in Focus

For convenience, we’re breaking our tips into two sections: On-site search engine ranking factors and offsite search engine ranking factors. The former category details what you need your site to do, while the latter focuses on external considerations. Let’s get started!

On-Site Factors

on-site seo

Keyword stuffing used to be the order of the day, but now it’s much more critical for it to appear in specific strategic areas. First, it has to be in the title tag. The title tells search engines and human visitors alike what any given page is about, so it is essential for your core idea to appear there.

Next, you should repeat your most important keyword(s) in the meta-description. The meta-description is the text that appears underneath your link on the page of search results, making it an important consideration. However, there is some evidence to suggest that the search engines aren’t weighing this as heavily as they used to.

Finally, your principle keyword(s) should appear in an H1 tag. H1 stands for Heading 1, but you should use one even if your content doesn’t have headings just for the SEO benefits. It helps search engines exactly understand what you are talking about so that they can rank you accordingly.

Additional reading: The Benefits of Search Engine Optimization for Your Website

As for keyword frequency in the body of your content, the ideal percentages vary. You want to include your chosen keywords, but not to the point that it starts to feel unnatural. The best test is to try reading your content out loud. If it sounds like you went overboard, you probably did.

Off-Site Factors

Off-site seo

You might think that what’s actually on your site is the most critical determinant of your final ranking, but that’s not the case. Off-site factors matter just as much if not more.

The most important is backlinks or links to your site from other sites with different domain names. Search engines read backlinks as other sites quoting your authority, making you seem like a trustworthy source of information that deserves a high ranking.

That said, all backlinks are not created equal. While it can be beneficial to have one site provide as many links to your site as the webmaster will allow, it’s even more valuable to get your backlinks from entirely different domains. Likewise, links from your own website to a separate page on your site may help, but not as much as external sources.

Furthermore, search engines care about the quality of the site hosting your backlinks. For example, sites allowing website owners to purchase a backlink are quickly discovered and discredited by all of the major bots, undoing the value of the backlink. Some experts even believe that it can hurt your SEO performance! Sadly, each page’s rank factor is outside the public domain, so you’ll need to guess which sites are the best to host a backlink.

Additional reading: 5 Tips to Help Boost your Website’s SEO Ranking

Some experts also believe that the site hosting your link needs to be relevant to the content on your own site. It doesn’t need to match exactly as long as there is some similarity. For example, a pet-sitting service may benefit more from a link on a pet supplies retailer’s site than a site about baseball. The impact this has is up for debate, but it couldn’t hurt to think about it a little when planning your strategy.

If you want to improve your search engine ranking on Google, Yahoo!, or Bing, the guidelines above are an excellent first step. Please feel free to contact us for further information on how to maximize the results of your SEO campaign.