Search engine optimization can only be a successful online marketing instrument if we know how search engines work and, most of all, how search results are generated. Many webmasters who are aiming to boost their visibility in search engines already know which searches they want to be found for – but they often don’t know what options are available when it comes to improving their rankings! In this article, we explain what action webmasters can take to boost the relevance of their content in relation to the most important searches for their business – and improve their search engine rankings in the long term.
When a user enters a search in a search engine, the search engine searches it’s index for the most relevant documents. The documents are then ranked according to their relevance and presented as search results. Webmasters who want their pages to rank highly for specific searches need to make sure that their sites’ content is relevant to the search query, so that the search engine rates the site as more important than the competition and accord them a higher ranking.
Now, let’s take a look at some of the different SEO factors which can have a significant influence on the relevance of your page in the eyes of the search engine.
Even experienced Webmasters make the mistake of paying too little attention to internal links – one of the most essential SEO factors in online marketing! Not only do internal links tell the search engine which documents within a website/online shop are more important than others (important sub-pages tend to be linked more than less important ones), they also divert that all-important link juice to key pages. Furthermore, webmasters can link internally to important sub-pages using a suitable anchor text (usually an important keyword), giving the search engine more signals that the linked document is relevant and should be displayed.
Nevertheless, it’s important that webmasters maintain a degree of “keyword focus” and only use 1-2 keywords for each sub-page. When other sub-pages, which perhaps aren’t as relevant, are also linked using these keywords, it makes it significantly more difficult for the search engine to determine which site is actually the most important – and both lose out!
Titles and descriptions
Titles and descriptions are well-known SEO factors, but their influence on search engine rankings should not be underestimated by webmasters who want to attract more relevant traffic from search engines. Relevant keywords should appear in titles and descriptions and should ideally be positioned as close to the start as possible, enabling the search engine to quickly and easily determine the thematic focus of a document.
WDF*IDF text analysis
If we compare the text content of websites which rank highly for a particular search query, we often find that certain relevant words and phrases appear in all. Clearly, there is a correlation between the regular use of certain terms and high rankings for particular keywords. A WDF*IDF text analysis (available in the XOVI Suite) can also help identify new phrases which can be included in text to boost the value of the content for the user.
Headings and structure
Suitable headings don’t just aid the user when reading a text – they are also helpful for search engines! Good headings give a text structure and therefore help search engines to interpret content better. For this reason, headings should also feature relevant search keywords. Remember though: H1 headings should only be used once! Further sub-headings should use H2, H3, H4, etc.
Good headings should
- Awaken the reader’s interest
- Summarize content
- Be short but descriptive
Detailed content – the more detail, the better
When a user enters a search in a search engine, the search engine attempts to identify the most relevant document in its index. Therefore, webmasters who want their website or online shop to be found for a particular search must ensure that their webpages and sub-pages really do offer the most helpful and relevant information on a topic – in other words, content which offers the user genuine value. Research suggests a strong correlation between good rankings and detailed, informative documents which feature different types of content (images, videos, diagrams).
Search engines find it easier to interpret documents and identify relevance when content is more detailed. Perhaps more importantly, well-researched, detailed and thorough content which answers all of a user’s questions logically boosts user satisfaction since the reader doesn’t then have to go looking elsewhere for answers. Webmasters are therefore advised to invest as much time and work as possible in genuinely good content – at the end of the day, it’s not just about satisfying the search engine, but the user!
URLs are also used by search engines to determine which documents should be ranked for which searches, so webmasters should try and use so-called “speaking URLs” – URLs which contain keywords!
Good URLs should also
- Be lower case
- Contain words separated by dashes
- Be as short as possible
- End with a trailing slash (/)
If a website features content on many different topics, it makes sense to create a logical contents index which makes it easier for search engines to identify relevant content. A well-constructed index can be combined with internal links to boost the relevance of particular pages for particular subject areas.
Backlinks from thematically relevant external sites
Backlinks are as important as ever when it comes to demonstrating to search engines which documents are relevant to particular searches. Therefore, webmasters could aim to produce content which is informative, valuable and unique enough to be recommended by other webmasters and other internet users. When other webmasters regularly link to content, the search engine is able to assume that this content is genuinely informative and relevant. However, it’s important to make sure that you only receive backlinks from websites and domains which are thematically relevant. This also has the advantage of boosting user satisfaction, since readers are directed to irrelevant websites against their will.
The purpose of a search engine is to satisfy the user’s needs. Webmasters who want their content to rank highly must therefore understand that search engines search for documents which are most relevant and useful for the user. Good search engine rankings can only be achieved when content is considered the most valuable in a search engine’s index and when the search engine can easily determine when it should be displayed for particular searches.
In conclusion therefore, it is vital that user-satisfaction forms the basis of your search engine optimization in order to boost the relevance of your content in search engines.