Search Engines determine website rank based upon a number of factors that make up their search algorithm. These SEO basics, which include various offsite and onsite considerations, are measured by the search engines on the basis of the data they collect via scripts known as crawlers or spiders. These web crawlers run through website data like text, image etc on a frequent basis and analyse the contents as per the set of rules that make up their ranking. The rules that affect the ranking are collectively referred to as search engine algorithms. Search engines seldom divulge all the rules that make up their algorithm and they are updated frequently. However, based on citations by the search engines on various places and also by inference, most of the factors that determine the rankings can be deduced. It has been estimated that over 200 factors go on to make the Google search algorithm.
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is the process of making your site rank better with search engines by aligning your web practices as per these algorithms. Not all the factors that make up an algorithm carry equal weight. Some factors are more important and cause immediate surge or fall in ranking while others carry slightly lesser weight. Website owners sometimes overuse search engine recommendations for immediate or better results and are frequently penalised by the search engines. These malpractices are known as Black Hat SEO strategies. We are only concerned with clean SEO practice and the following section deals with ethical SEO basics.
Some major types of information web crawlers collect from your site include: title of the page, meta description of the page, content of the page, word count, number of users that have visited the page, time they have spent on it, number of times the URL is shared on social media, number of links to other sites, use of HTML markups etc. The information that the crawlers collect form a basis of your ranking and because the algorithms are frequently updated to deter malpractices and to accommodate new digital practices, your SEO practices must be up to date.
This concerns with the quality, originality and the relevance of the content. Factors like readability and information density of your content, the presence of relevant keywords in the body of the content, page title and meta descriptions etc. make up your on-page strategies.
Other things that form your onsite strategies are the originality of the contents, the frequency and volume of the updates, inclusion of multimedia contents, ease of reading, page layout, page age, inclusion of keywords in URL etc.
This concerns with technical factors affecting the ranking of your site. It includes factors like mobile/browser compatibility, presence of schema markups, application of International SEO practices, availability of site map and the complexity of the site architecture among others. Another important factor to consider includes the location where your site is hosted. The vicinity of hosting servers, use of Content Delivery Networks to forward site information etc. play an important role in your site’s loading speed and hence ranking.
Various off the site measures must be employed to complement your onsite strategies. Factors like if or not your site contains links from reputable sources, usage of it as citations in other places – for e.g. as a source in Wikipedia articles, being registered in local directories like yelp, your presence in social media, the number of reviews and endorsements from your users etc. affect the ranking of your site and form a part of off-site SEO basics.
This article forms a part of our series on the basics of SEO and best practices. For other articles in the series click on the links below:
It is great working with such a dedicated and competent team in this ever changing space and I would highly recommend Michael and his work.