For most businesses, dealing with search engine optimization (SEO) is not priority number 1. While the main focus lies in launching features and dealing with customer support, SEO tends to take the backseat, and let’s be honest– who wants to spend all day playing with title tags? The truth of the matter is that SEO is in fact very important to business, whether you’re a startup or a veteran, and a recent study actually ranked SEO as the third most important marketing priority a business should have. In short, while success with SEO can sometimes seem a bit elusive, it doesn’t have to be a shot in the dark.
Prioritize backlinks, content, and page speed!
A recent study took place between a variety of SEO software companies and Backlinko to analyze the main factors that influence SEO success presently. This undertaking involved the analysis of over a million google search results, and of the 20 potential factors that they looked at to determine rank, five of them were scored as being especially important. Let’s analyze each one of these five below.
- Backlinks Are King
The top ranking factor was determined to be the number of different websites that link to your page. Though there are rumored to be “black-hat SEOs” that can manipulate Google with phony links, this ranking factor is a huge part of what makes Google run smoothly. This shouldn’t be surprising either– Google’s reliance on backlinks is what took two guys in a garage to the multi-billion dollar company it is today. Presently, their worldwide search market share is stable (relatively), which makes it unlikely that they will completely remove backlinks from their algorithm anytime soon. Also important to note– although many SEO consultants preach the “quality over quantity” approach, this study suggests that backlinks trump all. Also, don’t be picky about which sites mention and link you. Though the main goal should be to be featured by a page with a high domain authority, like CNN.com, it shouldn’t dissuade you from collecting as many backlinks as possible. In fact, mentions from smaller sites can help with both your PR and your Google ranking.
- Slow Load = Dead In The Water
Another strong tie to site rank is the site speed. Using loading speed data taken from Alexa, it was discovered that fast-loading sites outperformed slow sites by a massive margin. This finding isn’t exactly shocking– Google has even said that they use site speed as “a signal in our search ranking algorithms.” At the end of the day, Google knows that users hate slow-loading sites, so they won’t show them as easily.
It’s pretty simple to take your site from 0-100 in terms of speed, especially if you are using WordPress. There are countless plug-ins that can be used to boost loading time, and even if you don’t use WordPress it’s still relatively easy.
- Upgrade your Hosting: cheap ($5/mo.) hosting sites like Bluehost aren’t bad, but their servers are not typically optimized in terms of speed.
- Cut Image File Sizes: in most cases, images are the number one reason that a page is slow to load. By compressing them or reducing their size, you should be able to fix this problem.
- Hire A Developer: if you don’t code, hiring someone to analyze your site’s code with speed in mind can make a huge difference. Most sites will have some form of a “code bloat” which can be cleaned up to keep things running smoothly.
- Content is Queen
When it comes to SEO, Backlinko found that long-form content ranked above shorter content in terms of word count. The average article on Google’s first page boasts 1,890 words! Whether Google has an explicit preference for long content, or this is simply a correlation, we may never know. It was hypothesized, however, that Google wants to show users a full answer to their question, which usually can be accommodated by long-form articles. Another factor that plays in is the article’s likeliness to be shared. BuzzSumo found that longer content tended to generate more social shares, and by relation, backlinks. Even if you feel that your audience may not have the attention span for long articles, we feel that this data makes giving it a shot more than worth it!
- Hone Your Focus
The study also found that the more focused the content was, the more it outperformed content that covered several topics. To determine this, they ran hundreds of articles through a software called MarketMuse, and each article was assigned a score for “topical authority”. It is important to note that in the last few years, Google has shifted from its usual technique of simply looking at words on your page to attempting to understand what the page itself is actually about. This is known as semantic search, and it directly affects this data. For instance, when you would search “who is the President of the United States” it would provide you with 10 links to pages that contained the exact term “who is the President of the United States”. Now, using semantic search, it provides you with the answer to your question clearly and concisely while linking the article. Providing in-depth content helps Google get a deeper understanding of your content, and the articles that rated highly in topical authority ranked above content that just skimmed the surface of the topic.
- Low Bounce Rate = Great Rankings
Parts of this study also (unsurprisingly) correlated a low bounce rate to a bad rank score. Bounce rate is the rate at which someone visits your page and leaves. If you have a high bounce rate, it can be assumed that your page is not a good fit for the keyword in question. This study, however, did not analyze the specific bounce rate for a specific keyword/page on Google. Instead, it looked at various website’s site-wide bounce rate, meaning that even though the entire site may not have a high bounce rate, there could most definitely be pages within the site with an astronomical bounce rate. Regardless of this inconclusivity, reducing your bounce rate certainly will not result in lower rankings, so it’s best to try to keep people on the page no matter what!