This is a great question and one we get quite often because there is no easy answer. The reason there isn’t cut and dry is because there are many factors that go into what makes a page rank higher than others. Small businesses can rank higher in the organic search results on Google, Bing, and Yahoo based simply on having a differentiation strategy that focuses on niche product offerings as compared to an company that has a broad keyword topic it needs to cover. Another factor is localization and other marketing strategies like remarketing. As the saying goes, “There is more than one way to skin a cat” holds true in regards to achieving the desired results. There is no on right answer and marketing is not an exact science, especially when it comes to SEO strategies, but something that constantly needs monitored, re-evaluated, and tweaked. Google has been famous for saying it is in perpetual beta.
While each scenario is different, and it’s impossible to say for certain without performing a comprehensive website audit and competitor analysis, some SEO roadblocks are common among large organizations. The fact is, no one knows the whole story. Google can’t tell us the whole algorithm because people would take advantage of that information to rank poor quality sites simply by manipulating the ranking factors and focusing on nothing else. That is why good (White Hat) and bad (Black Hat) SEO Analysts, SEO Specialist and SEO companies exist. Google is constantly changing the way it operates based on consumer trends and insight. Google now includes social media in it’s algorithm for returning credible authority building results for publishers. There mission has always been to get the end-user the most valuable information through the most direct route as possible. That is what differentiated them from other search engines in the late 90’s.
Here are just a few website ranking factors:
Visit duration matters. This metric tells Google, Yahoo and Bing that someone found your page and enjoyed it enough to stay on site longer than when they went to your competitor’s site. Duration is a sign of the page’s overall quality and usefulness. The more informative and relative the content the more valuable it becomes. Usually the more straight to the point it is the better. Think conversational copywriting mashed up in an elevator pitch.
Pages per visit matter. If a user searches for “social media marketing” and visits just one page on the #1 site then seconds later bounces back and goes to #2 where they spend 15 minutes and visit three or more pages, any guess which site Google, Yahoo and Bing will think matters more to that search query?
On page factors matter. The days of putting your keyword keyword keyword on the page three keyword times is keyword, thankfully over. This will rarely help you and can actually penalize your site. However, having accurate and descriptive titles that match the content of the page and the user intent of a search? After all it is about providing value in your content that differentiates you from your competitor. That does matter!
Algorithmic and manual penalties matter. If you put that keyword fifty times on your page, as we discussed above, you will run into an algorithmic penalty. This means Google, Yahoo and Bing know you have “stuffed” the page and will take a bit off your ranking. Do it repeatedly and you’ll get a much larger penalty. Much like email spam blacklist companies if a Google, Yahoo or Bing manual reviewer catches you doing this, or if a competitor reports it, you may get a manual penalty. You will get a notification in your Webmasters Tools about this and you do need to fix it or suffer a harsh penalty. It is better just not to do it in the first place.
Social share marketing metrics matter. Some SEOs believe and will tell you that social metrics matter very little. We know this not to be the case and have tested these ourselves. As we’ve mentioned Google has changed the way results appear to include social sharing that factor in to their crowd-sourced credibility strategy. If you get three retweets on your link, no, it won’t help you very much. You won’t notice a bump. Get 200 retweets on that same link, have it shared 50 times on Facebook and now it is pinned 8 times? Yes, that will affect your ranking. It is the cumulative sum of all parts and marketing efforts.
Anchor text matters. Don’t misunderstand what we’re saying here. Anchor text can be positive *and* negative. If you over-optimize a handful of keywords, it will be a negative effect. If you balance these, include branded anchor text across a variety of link types, it will have a positive effect.
301 redirects matter. Your competitor with the poor metrics may actually have fantastic metrics – on another site. They may have changed domains and redirected all that great SEO juice over to the new site, which looks like it has no value, but is absorbing a lot of the value from the previous domain. In order to retain the “juice” redirection is very important.
We could go on, but hopefully you get the idea. You should understand that the metrics are just part of the overall picture. We also know there are always “exceptions” to these rules, such as the ranking bonus new sites get when they first appear on the SERPs. You can’t control how Google, Yahoo and Bing see other people’s sites so try to stay focused on what you can control… …your content.
What You Need to Rank For
When it comes to ranking organically on search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo, you need a few things: a site that is coded, structured and optimized in a way that makes it easy for search engines to find, read, and index; unique, relevant, remarkable and have an authoritative overall presence online through consistency in building the brand – typically this means having other relevant and authoritative websites that reference or link to your site. The quickest way to do this is through social media and public relations strategies (eg – influencer outreach, guest blogs, contests, etc.).
Where Large Companies Typically Fail
The bigger an organization the more complex the SEO infrastructure can become. While enterprise organizations typically have no problem getting links from relevant and authoritative third party websites, they frequently have complex websites with hundreds of pages nested inside other directories, mismatched title tags, outdated and unorganized sitemaps which can serve as roadblocks to search engine spiders. It’s also not uncommon for enterprise companies to have a shortage of search engine accessible content for example, publishing all your white papers as PDF files instead of plain HTML pages with a PDF download option or having hundreds of pages worth of content coded as a Flash-powered digital magazine. Ultimately, they don’t take advantage of repurposing existing content.
The Enterprise SEO Solution
If you’re a c-level executive or marketing manager for a large organization and your site is being outranked by smaller competitors, the first thing you will want to do is get a comprehensive, technical enterprise SEO audit and competitor analysis report. This process will show you, in quantifiable terms, exactly what your competitors are doing with respect to SEO and online marketing as well as the changes you need to make to claim your (deserved) organic rankings.
If you’re interested in learning more about our search engine optimization services, call 614-285-7565. Contact Sigma Creative today!