With 80% or more of all internet traffic starting with search engines these days it makes sense that search engine optimization is very important. In order for your website to be found by folks it must rank well for search terms (i.e. keywords) that are related to what your organization does and who you are.
Expert Search Engine Optimizers
It is so important that an entire industry has grown up to provide SEO service for websites. Many of those folks invest a ton of time and effort sleuthing out the intricacies of the search engines, and Google in particular so they can give their clients a leg up.
But the truth is the best they can do is make informed guesses on how the search engines work, especially when it comes to finer details, most often through trial and error. Or by reading what others in their field say they’ve seen through trial and error.
But at the end of the day the actual algorithm Google uses to determine their search rankings are locked up tighter than the secret formula for Coca-Cola. So pretty much the only people who really know how Google works are under some pretty rigid non-disclose agreements.
That doesn’t discount true SEO expertise in any way. I’m just pointing out that it isn’t as exact a science as some make it out to be.
4 Big SEO Factors
That said, most folks agree that there are 4 factors that seem to have the biggest impact on search engine rankings for any given search term. By focusing on these 4 things we can build great SEO for our sites.
Oh, and it gets better than that because one of the Big 4 we can’t really do anything about anyway. So in reality we can do 3 basic things to significantly improve our sites and give them better SEO.
Here they are in no particular order.
Age of the Domain
Every domain was created at a certain point in time. All else being equal, Google sees a domain that has been around longer as more of an authority on a certain topic.
As a result, older domains tend to rank higher for specific keywords than newer domains.
This is the one factor that is completely independent from the website content. Your website’s domain was created when it was created. Just know that this is a significant factor and focus on the other three.
Another big factor is what is called page depth, or how many web pages reside on a given domain. All else being equal, a website that has hundreds or thousands of pages will be seen as more of an authority than a website that only has a handful.
Take CNN.com for example. They have several million pages indexed in Google. So it makes sense that they will be seen as an extremely authoritative website, all else being equal.
Regular New Original Content
The search engines are continuously indexing new web content and they value new original content very highly. As a result a site that has new original content added to it frequently will tend to be seen as more of an authority on a given topic than one which is rarely if ever updated.
Inbound links arguably have the biggest impact of the big 4. By inbound links we’re talking about other websites linking “inbound” to yours. From the search engine’s point of view, if other sites are linking in to yours then yours is more likely to be an authority on the given topic.
Now there are a ton of variables within this one factor alone that are beyond the scope of this article. For example it’s not just the raw number of inbound links that matter. The authority of the sites linking in is a big factor, as is the anchor text used in the links.
Generally speaking, more inbound links is better for SEO.
Narrow Your Focus
Now that you understand how important these basic things are to the search engine of your website it gives you something simpler to focus on. Narrowing your focus to these few things basics can make your life easier.
Of course, there are a ton of other things you can do for improved SEO. In my experience, though, websites that start with a focus on these things get further ahead faster than websites that neglect these foundational areas.
Doing well in these few basic things will get you well on your way to SEO.