Ranking Factors: What Are Search Engines Looking For?
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You hear all this talk about search engines and ranking, and you understand from the context that it’s something you should be concerned about. But what are the parameters? What are the search engines really looking for? While it might seem that Google, especially, just randomly raises or lowers your ranking depending on how frisky they’re feeling that day, that’s not really the case. There is a method to their madness. Here’s what you need to know about the real search engine ranking factors and WordPress SEO.
On-Site Ranking Factors
You on-site, or on-page, ranking factors are things you can control from your own dashboard or within the coding of your blog. First, of course, is your content. Is it unique, informative and relevant? Next, your images should have alt tags. Search engine bots can’t “read” images so if you’re using them to contain important information you need to put that information in the alt tags.
Keywords are still important, especially in your titles and sub-headings. And your navigation and internal linking structure is also important.
It’s crucial to remember that the search engine bots can only read text and code. If you want the search engines to recommend your blog in their indexes then you have to show those bots how great your blog is. To do that, you have to lead those bots around your blog with html links, relevant content and keywords, just like you lead your readers around with visual elements.
Off-Site Ranking Factors
You have less control over off-site ranking factors, or off-page factors. These are links that are coming into your blog from other locations, generally other websites and blogs. The search engines are giving these incoming links more weight because they indicate that other people like your content well enough that they’re linking to it.
However, they’re also giving these links a lot more scrutiny because they realize how easy it is for you to use black-hat methods to establish these links. Therefore, while these off-site ranking factors can provide a big boost to your rankings, they can also crush you if handled improperly.
It’s also important to know where each of these links is coming from. A link coming in from a questionable site or a site that’s highly irrelevant will actually hurt your ranking. So each time you see a pingback, follow it to check out that site.
It takes more than one violation to get your blog shut down, but each one you get hurts your ranking. And it’s not like Google sends you a little reminder each time you do something wrong. On the contrary, most of the time you’ll only know you’re in violation because you’ll see your site drop down the index.
Violations include keyword stuffing which means using the same keyword too many times within one article. Keyword dilution is using too many keywords within one article. Both are distracting to the search engine bots. Paying for traffic or links is a definite no-no, as are links from bad websites and abundant links all coming from the same page.
In other words, if you’re doing something to mislead the searcher and/or the search engine bots, eventually it’s going to come back to haunt you.
Searchers themselves can block pages or sites for whatever reason they want. They might not like your colors or those flashing ads you have in the sidebar. Maybe they don’t like your foul language or questionable images. Each time someone blocks you the search engines see it. And guess what… it hurts your ranking.