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The key to organic SEO success is conceptually simple – you have to please Google AND your intended audience.
Getting all the necessary ingredients in place to satisfy both can sometimes, oftentimes, be a real challenge.
Make Google Happy
First, why are we just focused on Google? There are other search engines out there.
Google dominates world search. 65-85% of the world searches using Google depending on who you ask and what they measure. If you want to have a significant presence on the Web, you have to please Google.
That’s not easy.
How Google works is a closely held secret. Some SEO’s devote their entire career to reverse-engineering the secrets to Google’s ranking algorithm. One thing we know for sure is that if Google doesn’t know about you, you won’t show up in search results.
Make Sure Google Knows About You
The place to start is by making sure Google knows about you.
When you enter a search phrase into Google’s search engine and click “submit”, Google doesn’t go out and search the entire Web. It would take too long, and people don’t have that much patience.
Google creates and maintains its own proprietary inventory or index of the web. It gathers information by continuously crawling interconnected Web pages using links and computer programs called spiders or bots. Findings are stored in massive databases and data centers, replicated in different parts of the world to enable high-speed Internet access and display.
What information is stored? Again, we don’t know for sure but suspect, as a minimum:
- the words on the page;
- where, how, how often, and for how long they’re accessed;
- when the content is bookmarked, linked to, or shared by others; and
- who does the bookmarking, linking, and/or sharing.
So one important key to organic SEO success is ensuring your site is crawlable and indexable by Google. If you’re not in Google’s index, searchers won’t find you.
Please Your Audience
The second most important criterion for success with organic SEO is ensuring you please your audience.
If your audience doesn’t like what they see when they land on a page of your website, they’ll “bounce”. If they think it’s irrelevant, poor quality, incomplete, or not helpful they will leave your website in well under a minute.
How can Google tell whether a visitor is satisfied or not? Google looks at click-thru rates, repeat visits, and time on page to gauge whether a visitor is satisfied. If visitors come back more than once, it’s a sign they found something to their liking. If they spent more than a few seconds on a page, it’s a sign that they actually read it, not just skimmed it and left again.
Google also looks at the number of incoming links to a page to determine whether its content is “popular”. When links come from highly respected / authoritative sources like government and educational institutions, news organizations, and respected industry publications, that’s an even better indication that your content is appreciated, credible, and valuable.
So the second key to organic SEO success is making sure you’re satisfying the information wants and needs of your audience so you can earn the signals that tell Google your site is popular and authoritative – signals like brand-name searches for your content, lots of page views per visit, a decent amount of time spent viewing pages, and repeat visits. You have to “earn” the right to rank well in search results. You do that by producing content that people want, need, and share via cross-website linking.
A well-architected (crawlable and indexable) website and content that satisfies the information wants and needs of your intended audience are the keys to organic SEO success. They’re not the only things Google and other search engines care about, but if you get those things right, you’ll have a rock-solid foundation to build upon and an excellent chance of ranking better than your peers and competition.