If you have to create a Periodic Table for a subject, it’s got to be complicated, right? At least it is to me since I didn’t do too well in Chemistry. But, while there are many factors(some say up to 200) that influence how your website ranks, these three are the top factors (according to Google) that determine how your site ranks on Google’s Search Engine Results Page (SERP.) They are:
What Are Links?
Links come from both internal to the site – internal links – and outside the site (wait for it…) – external links. All of these are referred to as backlinks, or just links. For example, if you have written a blog post about a certain topic, say a particularly interesting ALTA survey you completed, you might link somewhere in that post to your Services Page about ALTA Surveys or another site about ALTA Surveys. The link uses the HTML Anchor Tag and looks something like this:
- HTML Code: <a href=”URL” >Anchor Text</a>
- Example: <a href=”http://altalandsurvey.com/” >ALTA Survey</a>
- Looks Like: ALTA Survey in the post.
The HTML Code elements are: (***GEEK ALERT***)
The “<” symbol opens the HTML code
The “a” stands for the Anchor Tag
The “href” is an attribute of the Anchor Tag and stands for the Hypertext Reference, which consists of:
- URL – the Uniform Resource Locator of the page you’re referring TO (“http://altalandsurvey.com/”)
- Anchor Text – what will appear on this page as the highlighted LINK (“ALTA Survey”)
The “>” symbol closes that portion of the Anchor Tag and proceeds the Anchor Text
The “</a>” closes both the Anchor Text and the overall Anchor Tag
If you want to learn more about this and other HTML Tags, see W3Schools.com.
Why Are Links Important?
Links are similar to votes for a website; the more links you get, the better you look to Google. This is understandable. If your article is popular (being shared by people), then is should be ranked higher as it may be interesting to others searching for that same topic. So, having other people give a link “back” to your article lets Google know they liked it.
Where the links come from, the referring site, is also important. For example, a backlink from a Wikipedia article would be MUCH more valuable than one from an obscure website about title insurance. And, if the backlink is evaluated by Google as a PAID link or from a very Spammy site, then they may even penalize you for this backlink.
The relevance of the referring site is also important. So, a link from a website about the development of subdivisions by Civil Engineers linked to my Civil Engineering service page with the anchor text of “civil engineering consultants” would be a very relevant backlink. Whereas a backlink to that same page from a site about toys on a page about a toy train with the anchor text “engineer” would not be relevant.
For more information about Good & Bad Backlinks, see this article.
Why Does Content Matter?
“The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing” – Stephen Covey
Each page of your website (the content) should be relevant to the overall subject of your website. The words you use on each page describe that particular subject. You should pick one particular subject per page. There are similar words that could be used, but dissimilar words should be reserved for another page or subject.
For example, if I’m writing about ALTA surveys on my page, it shouldn’t be all about elevation surveys. And, the term “elevation survey” is not similar to the term “ALTA survey.” Of course, Google understands that both these terms are covered under the overall topic of your website about “Surveying” but these two different types of surveys should be on separate pages.
So, your page about ALTA surveys would use similar keywords like ALTA Survey, ALTA Surveying, Table A, ALTA Standards, ALTA/NSPS survey standards, land title survey, etc. while talking about the overall message you want to convey about your subject.
“Keywords are words or phrases describing your product or service that you choose to help search engines know what you’re talking about.”
Again, non-relevant content on the page, or the overall site will be seen as not contributing to your overall relevance, and may negatively impact your search engine ranking. Let’s call this diluting your message. So, try not to write too much about your favorite football team, or your coin collecting hobby on your site about land surveying. Create a personal blog to cover those non-relevant subjects. That’s not to say that on your “About Us” page that you don’t mention these two things – they help people to identify with you. But, your About Us page is understood to be “about you” and likely won’t get ranked for anything specific anyway.
One hint I usually give almost everyone when I evaluate their website is to divide up your services page into multiple pages. Don’t just have one page and mention all of your services on that page. Divide them up into ALTA Surveys, Elevation Surveys, Topographic Surveys, Construction Surveys, Lot Surveys, Boundary Surveys, etc. That way you can focus on one thing on each page. And, that page is more likely to be found on the search engines for that specific term.
What is RankBrain?
Having just learned about this term, “RankBrain is Google’s name for a machine-learning artificial intelligence system that’s used to help process its search results,” according to the SearchEngineLand.com article linked above. Machine learning is where a computer teaches itself how to do something. RankBrain is part of Google’s overall search “algorithm,” a computer program that’s used to sort through the billions of pages it knows about and find the ones most relevant for particular searches.
So, in my words, it’s the word used to describe this process of finding (learning) all of the related topics out there on the World Wide Web. This is then fed into the overall algorithm that Google uses to provide us the results on SERP. That algorithm is currently known as Hummingbird. The overall algorithm and how it’s all scored is a trade secret that Google keeps hidden very well. There are also frequent changes to the algorithm though links and content have been at the top for a very long time.
For more indepth information about SEO and the “periodic table” see this article.
As I mentioned at the beginning, there are a number of other factors influencing how your page and website ranks. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a very wide subject and has taken me into a rabbit hole that has lasted for over six years now. If you need help with this, I’ll be glad to talk to you about how I might can help you.
J. Keith Maxwell, is a Professional Land Surveyor and Professional Engineer in Alabama, who wandered off into SEO Marketing during the Great Recession and has established a niche business by helping other Surveyors & Engineer with online marketing.