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Here we go over the basics of how SEO works, mainly focusing on Google.

What factors make websites rank highly in Search?

Here we go into the specific factors that make a site rank well in search results.

Inbound Links – Links from other websites to your website

The links that point to your website from other websites affect the rankings of your website in search.

However not all links are made equal, and because of certain Google updates, some links can actually make your website go down in position.

The qualities you should look for in a good link are:

  1. Relevancy – make it from a site that’s broadly about your industry or topic. The more specific the better.
  2. Trust and Authority – get links from sites that are an authority on the topic. An example of this would be the Financial Times for sites related to investment and loans.
  3. Traffic – get links from sites that have users engaging with the site, if they click your link you may also receive new customers from them.

Relevant, Optimised Website Pages – Start at the SERPs

You want the pages on your website to be targeting phrases that your customers search for.

To find these phrases, you can use keyword tools like Ahrefs to research main topics and related terms.

One important thing to note is that Google is ranking entities / clusters now and not individual pages. This means that variations of keywords will often see the same results showing up.

The key point here is to match the Google result pages, because they are showing you what they expect to see. If for example you search for “marketing consultant” and “marketing expert” and the same results show on page 1 for each, then you should probably optimise one page for both keywords instead of multiple pages.

This prevents what is known as keyword cannibalisation.

User Experience – Make sure they’re satisfied

Google monitors how well users interacted and were satisfied with your website pages, through certain metrics.

These include bounce rate, and click through rate.

In order to satisfy your users, your pages must be hyper relevant to the keywords you’re trying to rank for, so your customers stay on the site and fulfill the action they were trying to achieve (such as reading an article, buying a product, etc).

Extra for 2019 – Voice, Featured Snippets, Rich Media Results

Google search results have change massively, and there are now more than just a list of blue links in the results.

This represents a big shift in potential, and means that you have to cover lots of different bases in order to rank successfully and gain a lot of traffic.

Example 1: News Carousel (Top Stories)

If you use AMP pages, the correct markup, large images, and optionally are in Google News, you can feature in the Top Stories carousel at the top of certain results.

Example 2: Video Carousel

If you have a published and optimised video on Youtube related to the search query, you can rank in the Video carousel in Google results.

Example 3: Featured Snippets

If you have an appropriate style of structured data on your website (bulleted list, numbered list, tables, headings and sentences, images), you have the potential to rank in the featured snippet (position 0).

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