For many organisations, search engine optimisation (SEO) is a process that tends to sit on the back burner.

With new features to launch and customers to support, the idea of spending time fiddling with irksome title tags can seem like a fool’s errand. That can be true, particularly when there’s no guarantee that your hard work will result in additional visitors from Google’s search engine results pages.

So why do organisations shy away from SEO? Many dislike the uncertainty that stems from the time spent nailing down a solid SEO strategy. SEO success can seem like throwing a dice and hoping to roll a seven.

There is an element of uncertainty with SEO (there’s good reason why Google doesn’t publicly reveal the factors they use to rank websites). But SEO doesn’t have to be a complete shot in the dark. In fact, you can prioritise your SEO tasks based on what’s likely to give you the highest return on investment.

Backlinks, content and site speed! Oh, my!

Backlinko, a team of SEO strategists, recently teamed up with a number of SEO organisations to evaluate the key tactics for ranking highly across search. To do this, they analysed over one million Google search results.

Of the 20 potential factors examined, three were revealed to be particularly important. We’re going to dig a little deeper into these three important ranking factors, so you can squeeze that little bit more out of your SEO efforts.

Bolster your backlinks

Backlinko’s study found that the most important ranking factor was the number of different websites linking to your website. This factor is almost as old as Google itself, and shouldn’t come as that big of a surprise.

Google’s reliance on backlinks has rapidly taken it from a two-man startup to one of the most valuable organisations on the planet. Even today, Google’s global search market share remains enviable to its nearest competitors.

Many agencies tend to preach a ‘quality over quantity’ approach to link building. Whilst there’s no question that certain backlinks provide more benefit than others, this study suggests that quantity is just as important.

Ultimately, your aim is to encourage third-party sites to link to your content in some way. If they’re doing this, the web keeps spinning and Google will see that your content is being shared favourably. You need your audience, competitors and influencers to like, link to and share your content.

This reciprocal process makes it highly unlikely that Google will ever stop using backlinks as a ranking factor within their algorithms.

Supercharged site speed

The team found a strong link between site speed and Google rankings. Using loading speed data, they discovered that fast-loading websites significantly outperformed slower sites.

Google has openly said that they use site speed as a signal in its algorithms. Look at it this way, users hate slow-loading websites, so Google doesn’t want to show them to their users.

The golden question you need to ask yourself here is: how fast should my site load?

Google Webmaster, Maile Ohye, states that “2 seconds is the threshold for website acceptability. At Google, we aim for under a half second.”

Half a second is the literal blink of an eye. If you’re not sure how to check how quickly your site loads, get in touch with us.

Content is king

The data also identified that, when it comes to SEO, content is undoubtedly king. However, it’s not that cut and dry. Specifically, the data revealed that long-form content tends to rank above shorter content.

According to their analysis, the average article on Google’s first page boasts 1,890 words.

Does this mean that Google has an inherent preference for long content? Maybe. The study’s authors point out that this finding was simply a correlation, and they couldn’t say for sure. But they hypothesised that Google would want to show their users thorough content that fully answers their query.

However, it may just be that longer content generates more shares. Considering that social shares can lead to higher rankings, long-form content may simply outperform short content in the share department, leading to Google ranking that content higher. The chances are, Google prefers in-depth content, as it gives them a deeper understanding of your content.

If you haven’t attempted to publish long-form content before because you feel your audience doesn’t have the need or attention span for it, this may give you the impetus to give it a try.

We are Connect – the original web development agency. We have been providing best-in-class web, data and development services to public and private sector clients since 1994. Connect with us today to take the first steps towards your digital transformation.

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