SEO Demystified: Search Signals

Some SEO signals that factor into search engine ranking & steps you can take to improve your search position

There are many specific factors that feed each search engine's search algorithm. For obvious reasons Google and Bing don't disclose them all, but there are some very general things you can start paying attention to in your own website to help increase your search ranking. To get a good start all it takes is a little attention and someone who can edit your website content and/or work with the SEO plugins and tools your web host and platform offer.

  • Site Content: Content volume, quality and keyword distribution on your pages as it pertains to keywords you're optimizing for (copy should be somewhat keyword dense but not so dense it looks like "keyword stuffing", Google doesn't like that. Rule of thumb – write copy for humans first, then add a few more well-placed target keywords/phrases, people will tolerate a tiny bit of redundancy, and it helps Google hone in on what you're offering.

  • Websites Linking to your Website: Consider the authority of "inbound links" pointing to your site. Is a link to your site coming from a CNN.com quote on footwear fashion trends or is is coming from random-website-listing-boots-you-might-like-with-tons-of-ads.biz? Google likes the first kind better.

  • Technical stuff: Quality of code, human readability of URLs, social media markup, responsiveness for mobile devices, image optimization, etc.

  • Social activity: Tweets, Facebook shares, Google+ mentions, likes, your own social content, others' content about you, overall authority of your social media accounts.

  • Domain name: How long ago you did you register your domain name and for how long did you register it (have you reserved it for 1 year or 15 years? Goes to show intent — "we're in it for the long haul" or "we fly by night". Is your domain name a .com? a .TV? something else? Does the keyword you’re looking to rank for exist in your domain name?

  • Reviews: User reviews across all legitimate review sites (Google, Yelp, etc.) How many are there, and do they seem real?

  • Metatags: Make sure your selected keywords are in the Title and Description tags and also in page headers (H1, H2, H3) (This is stuff that exists in your website code. To see it in action on a windows machine right-click a page on your website and choose "view page source" to see if there's something like this in there: META NAME="description" CONTENT="something very relevant to your company including keywords here

  • Contact Page & Legal Stuff: Existence of a contact page with address, contact details, phone, email, social media methods if any; also a Terms of Service and a Privacy Page are key.

  • Quality and frequency of content updates: Recency, frequency and quantity of compelling original content containing sufficient references to your keywords.

  • Local listings: Is your business listed in your local area like Bing Places for Business, Google My Business, Yelp? Other local listing sites specific to your industry?

This short list is a good starting point to focus your SEO efforts. No need to cram your site with all kinds of keywords you want to get listed for, making keywords invisible by coding them using the same color as the background or hiding them below the fold. Google already knows these tricks and more. Just focus on a creating a phrase describing your business like " sells in ". Then get to work communicating this phrase consistently to Google, Bing, Yahoo! and to the rest of the online world. Keep at it and it will work, I promise you.

SEO BLOG POST AUTHOR: Doreen Fleming is the Founder and Chief Digital Marketing Strategist at One Web Source. Doreen has been a digital marketing consultant for 18 years, she reports on changes in technology, new marketing communications tools and current trends in user behavior online to help businesses reach and engage with their customers.