Ranking high for SEO keywords is a core objective of most content marketing programs, and rightly so. According to Eyetools Inc:

  • Organic search is responsible for 64% of all web traffic
  • 2% of users travel to the 2nd page of Google
  • 18% of users click on the first organic listing

Essentially, if your brand is not ranking as a top organic result, your prospects probably aren’t going to find you. 

What is SEO?

Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is the process of affecting the visibility of a website or a web page in a search engine’s unpaid results. In laymen’s terms, it is showing as the best answer on the Internet for a given search.

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There are two types of SEO: onsite and off-site. Onsite SEO is what ‘you’ say about yourself. This means what you publish on your site and what topics you think you have authority on. Offsite SEO, on the other hand, is what ‘they’ say about you. For example, if a reputable and established source like Forbes links to your site as an authority on finance, Google’s algorithm will give you credit in finance. Offsite SEO is the most heavily weighted variables in organic search, which makes perfect sense when you think about it. Reputable sources vouching for your authority on a subject means a lot more than you vouching for yourself.

How Often Does Google’s Algorithm Change?

Google usually updates its algorithm every year or so. Historically this has been in order to penalize marketers who have attempted to outsmart the formula with spammy, black-hat techniques, but more recent updates have been to simply return better results for quality content. For example, The Hummingbird update of 2013 began to recognize search queries using long-tailed keywords in order to decipher the context of the question, rather than chase the specific keywords within the question. The goal was to provide results that actually answered the question. The most recent update occurred in 2015, which began weighting value on mobile-friendly sites. While the update did not impact huge change, it was seen as a warning to brands get their sites mobile-ready for future updates.

What Other Factors Are Weighted Into SEO?

According to Moz:cat

  • Domain-level link authority features 20.9% 
  • Page-level link features 19.15%
  • Page level KQ + Content Features 14.94%
  • Page level keyword agnostic features 9.8%
  • Domain-level brand features 8.59%
  • User, Usage + Traffic/Query Data 8.06%
  • Social metrics 7.24%
  • Domain Level Keyword Usage 6.98%
  • Domain-Level, Keyword-Agnostic features 5.21%

User-related statistics are one of the most important aspects of the algorithm, as they indicate if you’re providing your audience with relevant, quality content.

What Can I Do To Improve My Ranking?

The rule of thumb for ranking for SEO is to do everything that will help and nothing that will hurt. I always like to compare the race to rank for SEO to a swimming competition. The race you swim can be 800 meters long, but the difference between first and high fivesecond place can be fractions of a second. Because of this, swimmers do everything they can to make themselves more aerodynamic with sophisticated suits and caps. The same can be said for SEO. The difference between ranking first or second can come down to a fraction of a percentage, so marketers should do anything they can to give themselves an extra boost. Not many people consume content on Google+, but do you think Google wants you to publish on that channel? Most likely, and it won’t penalize you, so you better publish to Google+.

Another best practice is to be targeted and focused on which topics you publish. It is better to be ranker higher for fewer keywords than lower for more. If you’re struggling to think of different ideas to write about for a certain keyword, related searches to your keyword are essentially Google telling you what to write about. For example, if you search “content marketing” in Google, related searches include:

  • Content marketing example
  • Content marketing strategy
  • B2B content marketing

This is Google telling me what my next three articles should be about.

How Do I Know Where I Stand?

If you have a handful of keywords you’re aiming to rank for, you can perform a simple content audit to calculate your ranking against your competitors. If you’re looking for a more comprehensive analysis, there are a few free tools that will help you calculate this:

  • Quick Sprout: Allows you to enter up to 3 competitor sites and get ranking on key scores for each
  • SEMrush: Offers free search analysis for your site and your competitors

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