Looking at analytics can make your head explode. It’s easy to become overwhelmed by mountains of data unless you know exactly what you are looking for and why.
SEO (search engine optimization) can be similarly daunting. It is difficult to get a grasp on what SEO factors can affect a website’s search rankings. With that said, here are the five measurable factors that affect your website’s SEO rankings.
The mother of all SEO metrics, domain authority is your site’s overall SEO “ranking”, with a maximum of 100 (a 100 site being Wikipedia or YouTube). Sites with higher domain authority will usually win keyword battles over lower-authority sites.
Scenario: Your site has a domain authority of 44, your competition has a domain authority of 68. You both optimize for the search term “Best Cotton Candy Recipe”. Your site will have a very hard time ranking above your competition in search due to your lower domain authority.
There are times when Google search results will not strictly follow domain authority order. That usually happens due to either a) a lower website properly optimizing for the exact search term (an exact hit can move a lower-ranked site up in results) or that turns up in a local search (if you type in “buy groceries”, local businesses will get priority in search).
How do you find a site’s domain authority? By downloading the free MozBar plugin into Chrome or Firefox. Go to any website and activate the MozBar, and you will see the domain authority in the top bar (see the image below). Don’t worry about all of that other stuff in the bar, just worry about domain authority.
MozBar also lets you do a Google search and see the domain authority of every website in the search results. if all of the websites on page 1 have a higher domain authority than yours, you may want to optimize around a new keyword.
A variety of elements go into calculating domain authority, some beyond your control. Here are the metrics that you should pay attention to when trying to build your site’s domain authority.
Are people coming to your site and then leaving without clicking through to another page? That is called a bounce and Google doesn’t like it. It tells Google that your website is not engaging and that it may not be a good source of information about that keyword.
Time on Site
If people don’t spend much time on your site, Google sees it as a sign that your site is not very engaging.
A good way to decrease bounce rate and to increase time on site is to include links to other pieces of content on your website. Never consider a piece of content to be complete until you have linked to other content on your website.
Better formatting of content can help time on site. If your content looks like a big chunk of text, that is going to drive people away. Break up content with subheads and bulleted lists to improve readability and to help your readers scan for the parts of the content they are interested in.
Adding media also helps improve time on site. Add images and videos to your page to improve engagement and to make your content more eye-pleasing.
A buggy site can have a strong effect on your domain authority. You can use a free tool like Screaming Frog SEO Spider to scan your site for errors. Some things to look for:
– Pages with duplicate meta titles or meta descriptions
– Pages with 300, 400 or 500 redirects
– Page load time
– Images missing alt text ot that are over 1 MB in size (large images can slow load time)
The primary component in calculating domain authority is backlinks – links back to your site from other sites.
It’s not enough just to have a lot of backlinks. The links also have to come from a wide variety of sites. Multiple links from the same website don’t carry the same value as the initial backlink.
So, what is the best way to increase backlinks to your site? There are several options:
– Content distribution. Jonah Peretti, CEO of Buzzfeed, advises that you spend as much time thinking about how and where you will distribute content as you spent making the content. Think about the best way to reach your audience. It may not always be on your website – sometimes you can make better SEO strides by posting your content on another blog or website that will then link back to you (remember that backlinks are the goal).
– Interview experts. Is all of your content inwardly focused? Find some other experts on your topic to interview. This adds fresh perspectives to your content and can bring some added credibility, as it is a voice from outside of your organization. In addition, external experts can help your content distribution. Find subject matter experts who are active on social media, and contact them with a link once your interview piece is posted online. With any luck, they will share it with their social followers and improve your chances of getting backlinks.
– Social sharing. Every time you publish a new piece of content, get it out there on every social network you are on – Facebook, Twitter, G+, LinkedIn and any others you can put a link on. In addition, make sure other people can share your content by adding social share links to each piece of content. While social media doesn’t provide quality backlinks outright, it boosts your chances that more people will see and consume your content and then link to it from their own sites.
These five factors – domain authority, time on site, bounce rate, site errors and backlinks – are the core of SEO. There are plenty of other factors to discuss, but knowing these five will help you understand where you rank and how to improve your search standing.
Are there any factors you think are missing? Share them in the comments!