Ranking on search engines… SEO… Content optimization… it seems like not so long ago these terms were just a bunch of fancy words to me that people seemed to throw about in conversation. Making it sound like those words stand for golden rules which one must reach for but deep down they will never achieve. Indeed, I had such an illusion not that long ago, until I decided to take a deep dive (as I tend to do) into this unknown and unmask this untouchable world of content.
My blogging journey has taken me on paths I probably would never have thought of traveling. If it weren’t for my determination to learn all I could to ultimately produce the best content I possibly could, I wouldn’t know all that I know today. From web development to basic design and video editing, and now, ranking on search engines through search engine optimization.
I’m not an expert in SEO. Frankly, the rules of that game seem to change so regularly, without notice, that it’s one heck of a job for SEO experts to keep up with. I will go into that in a little more detail in a minute, but before I do, all the information to follow has been researched and tried by yours truly. I will also be using this blog’s online content as examples, during my journey of unmasking the puzzling world of SEO.
Unmasking the world of SEO and ranking on search engines
There was a time not so long ago, that I found myself being ripped between 2 inner voices. One would tell me that I should be pushing myself into creating content that will appear on the first page of Google, whilst the other called me insane and said that I was late for that game and all those seats were taken by those that invented the wheel a long time ago. I came to the conclusion where I shut both those voices down and decided to not simply want results, or tell myself it’s unachievable. I decided to first dig deep and find out what ranking on search engines is all about. After all, how can I opt in to spend my time on something, or be upset about something, when I haven’t even bothered to understand it in the first place.
SEO rules are fluid, not concrete
First off, I’ll go into the topic I mentioned of the rules always changing, because the system is constantly evolving. There are of course the basic guidelines, but the more you dig, the more you realize that it resembles less of a human-written programme and more of a self-evolving programme which may have been created by people at some point, but now has surpassed that initial code and is developing all on its own.
This system is developing as does language. It studies the online content, the context of that content, amongst other things, and finally analyses the manner in which users search, to ultimately give those users the best possible matching content which has already been checked. Its constant evolution may be hard to grasp when you look at it as a one-sided programme; to do a certain action and get a certain result. It seems to do a lot more than that. It not only does the sorting and analysis of content but also the analysis of how users search and their actions when presented with results. It is a code that runs flawlessly and combines results from everything out there, as well as presenting every user with those results best suited for their search. It is quite a remarkable architecture if you were to think about it. The number of mechanisms that act upon a single request and deliver results in split seconds… I would say it is somewhat artistic.
Ranking on search engines majorly depends on 2 sets of rules. The first set of rules are those that have been accepted by all those SEO demi gods. Many of these rules are structural but there are those that are also content orientated. Such rules are those of Headings structure, a certain keyword or phrase that is to be used within existing text, alt text on images, text not being too small or buttons not being too close especially on phones, mobile optimization, etc.
The second set of rules are those that are fluid and seem yet to pass the test of time. The system, especially one like Google, is constantly changing these rules. One such recent optimization items were the priority of mobile usability over a desktop that has not so long ago graduated from this second group and is now part of the first group. I wish I could list all the items that fall into this category, but unfortunately, I, as well as many others, are still doing that guesswork on this one. And no, I’m not kidding. I’ve tried narrowing the list but there really seems to not be a list or guide on this, and it seems like the moment people catch up with these rules, the system changes them.
Ranking on search engines
Google is no longer a program that simply sorts through content and chooses to rank content by the number of times a keyword is used. From my own experience I will just go ahead a call it what it is, an AI. Maybe not as advanced as the AI we see in films, but it is certainly more advanced than a simple algorithm that counts the number of times a certain phrase is used. It is smart technology, that analysis not only quantity but even context.
7 SEO basics to improve your ranking on search engines
Be more human and less mechanical and statistical
At the end of the day, it is humans that will be searching for content. So, until that changes, focus on your content being both accessible and understandable by another human being. If you try to piece content by simply looking at statistical numbers and keywords, your content will become too fragmented and firstly it will seem to be of a language not understandable to the majority of people, and secondly, search engines will probably know you desperately tried to rig their own rules.
Turn ideas into key phrases
I personally love the use of key phrases over keywords. To me, keywords are way too generic and I’m not after simply being online. I truly want my content to be found by the right people, and for them to get a fair chance to rank on search engines. Key phrases are what helps content from being lost in the abys, to finding the real reader that is not only searching for your content but will truly appreciate your work.
When my content is almost ready, I upload it onto my website and re-read it 3 times. The first time I check for typos, grammar, and technical mistakes. The second time I read it as a user and make sure it is clear and interesting as a first-time reader would expect it to be. The third time I make final tweaks to written content with any final or additional changes for SEO.
Do not depend on SEO plugins
SEO plugins are not there to dictate the rules. They are guides. Do not change your content to fit the SEO guide unless it adds value to your overall content. Most SEO plugins are incapable of analyzing your individual content. They simply give you hints to follow. Yoast SEO is one of such plugins that are actually incapable of reading your content if you use a composer, however it happily hands you over things to fix without the ability to see your work.
I think one of the most fascinating SEO rules is one of interlinking. It also seems to be one of those rules that really forces creators in creating connections between their work and other people’s work and create a miniature web of information within their own website. Come to think of it, it’s also as though the system is trying to replicate its own self within every website. Oh, and interlinking is not only extremely useful to keep people on your site, but also to give people the information they may have not known they were looking for.
Don’t turn away from good traffic
Ranking on search engines, specifically, Google is amazing. But why not aim at all the rest too, like Bing and others. Surely users worldwide don’t all use Google. This is something I found very effective and very easy to set up. Once you get your site linked and verified with other search engines, you will slowly begin seeing your content being ranked in other search engines… meaning you are no longer getting traffic from just one source.
Revisit your published content
This was something I did before I unplugged from social media. I went through every single post and re-vamped my content. The incredible thing about ranking on search engines is that they don’t give you a grade on your fresh content and call it a day. They also don’t treat your content like social media platforms where it is only relevant in a short amount of time once it’s published, and then it becomes irrelevant unless it reaches viral status. Search engines are constantly re-visiting all your content separately and your website as a whole. This means that old content can definitely have a chance at ranking on search engines today if you simply go in there and make a few updates.
Rank on search engines
It is best to use some tools, whether an external analytics programme or a website internal programme to help you get an understanding of which terms your content ranks for. However, if you do not feel comfortable or just dipping your toes into SEO here are 2 absolute basics on checking your content rank online:
- Remember to check your content by using your browser in Incognito mode, to avoid the browser from showing you the results of pages you visited.
- Keep in mind that results can vary depending on where you search from, geographically.
Rank as a Featured snippet
Featured snippets are great for ranking too. Although most featured snippets may appear when a very specific search is performed on a search engine, even having a few featured snippets means that the search engine has gone through your information, compared it to existing information, and decided yours deserves to stand out.
I for one would rather have a featured snippet that ranks for a very particular collection of keywords, than have an article shows up somewhere on the 5th page following top websites with articles on hot products.
When taking the concept of human action into the understanding of Google and other search engines, the entire game changes. Although the basic rules are important to follow, to truly have your content stand in the spotlight, one must think more human than machine or program. In my experience, finding the middle line of two main components. First, how I would converse with a human on an unknown topic to them. And secondly, making sure to meet the basics of SEO that are set. This has been the best approach to getting a shot at ranking on search engines so far.