Content and Links: The Two Most Important Ranking Factors

There is only one thing standing between your brand and complete obscurity: your website’s ability to be found by potential customers when they search online for what your company produces. Optimizing your website for search stands on two main pillars – your website’s content and links both from and to it.

Google and other search engines change their website ranking algorithms almost continuously. It’s anybody’s guess which website elements a new algorithm will give the most weight to with each update.

Two ranking elements, though, haven’t changed through time: top-quality content and industry authority. Since Google won’t go out and interview your customers and industry influencers, it determines your authority and reputation by assessing how many quality websites in closely related fields link back to your own.

While there are a wealth of factors that Google uses to rank your website, as OptInMonster’s Nathan Thompson points out, quite a few of them relate to your content.

Admittedly, your site’s page speed, mobile-friendliness, site security, accessibility, and the age of your site are either out of your control or better handled by your SEO team. However, you and your content teams play a HUGE role in the rest of them.

Let’s start with the two most important: backlinks and well-optimized content. Then we’ll look at how many of Google’s other ranking factors actually depend, at least in part, on the first two.

Well-Optimized Content

Optimizing your content for search goes well beyond including the words people use to search for your products and services: your target keywords. Keywords are just the foundation for search optimization.

Google and other search engines have evolved well beyond the old-school “best sales software US” or other awkward phrases that marked early 21st-century content. Instead, think about the natural language your target customers will use to find you. Customer-focused keyword research is an essential ingredient in optimizing your content.

Then, take optimization one step further. What pain points do your customers have that your products can solve? How would they search for solutions to those problems?

Use those questions as the basis for your content. Customer-focused, problem-solving, or informative content will rank better than posts loaded up with keywords.

To solve those problems in words or visuals, you’ll naturally use relevant keywords. With today’s AI-driven search algorithms, search engines will likely move such content toward the top of their search results.

Accentuate those natural keywords in meta descriptions, page titles, and image descriptions. Use relevant keywords in your titles and subheadings, tagging them with H1, H2, and H3 designations to attract search engines’ attention as well as your readers’. Two birds, one stone. Those visual guidelines help keep your readers’ attention focused on your content.

Links

Authoritative Backlinks

Other non-competitor companies in your general field are all trying to build EAT in their own content. When your content is of such high quality that they start to link back to it in their blog posts and other content, Google counts that as a vote of confidence in your brand.

However, as digital marketing strategist Jen Barrell points out, more than 55 percent of all webpages don’t have any backlink. For that reason, they get little or no organic traffic.

The more top-quality sites that link to your content, the higher the likelihood that you’ll move up in the search rankings. For that reason, backlinks have remained marketing gold since the early days of search optimization.

Relevant Internal Links

Internal links – when you link to other pages on your site – can increase your traffic by as much as 40 percent, as Ahrefs’ Joshua Hardwick shows. Quality internal links help your audience dig a little deeper into topics that you can’t cover thoroughly in your current blog post.

internal links - content and links ranking factors

Image via Ahrefs

Google’s search engines use internal links to find new pages and signal readers about the importance of each page. For example, the topic of content strategy is a pretty big deal for us.

So, when we create a post that deals with that topic tangentially but can’t cover it in-depth, we link (as we did two paragraphs earlier) to a page that fully covers content strategy. For that reason, that page gets a lot of traffic, boosting its ranking in the search results, as well as the pages that link to it.

Helpful External Links

Linking to valuable resources can also help boost your reputation and build traffic. Just like internal links to pages that explore a topic more thoroughly, linking to external sites can provide your readers with helpful information.

These links also provide search engines with information about both the source and target page, raising the importance of both to users who search for information about the topic that your post covers.

Other Relevant Ranking Factors

Although links and optimized content form the hub around which your SEO content strategy revolves, other factors can also help boost your rankings. With the right strategy, your content can play a role in these factors as well.

Expertise, Authority, and Trust (EAT)

Your brand’s authority in its field – at least online – depends directly on the quality of industry-related content you post. Showcasing your subject matter experts’ expertise is an essential part of building that kind of content.

Create easy-to-understand blog and social media posts, videos, podcasts, and long-form content by collaborating with your company’s subject matter experts. Their technical knowledge, unpacked in plain English by your content teams, can position your company as an industry thought leader. That kind of reputation, in turn, builds trust in both your human audience and the search engines that crawl your site.

A Seamless User Experience (UX)

seo + ux - content and links

Although user experience has its technical aspects that fall within the realm of your design team, you can structure your content to provide a better experience for your audience. Using subheadings, white space, and bullet points to organize your content allows users to find what they need faster.

Adding relevant images and infographics to break up the visual tedium of text-only posts, too, adds to a seamless experience on your blog posts and static content.

Social Signals

Likes, shares, and relevant followers on your social networks all affect your company’s search ranking. Posting links to your best content makes it more likely that people will like your content and share it with their colleagues and friends.

You can increase that likelihood by segmenting the audience you show your posts to. For example, if you make cleaning products for both residential and commercial applications, you’ll have at least two target customer segments – decision-makers at various companies and homemakers. Use your social and content analytics to study your target audiences – their demographics, location, pain points, and interests – to determine which posts to show to which segments.

Steer links to videos about how organizing a home can make cleaning it easier and other home-oriented topics to your homemaker audience. In-depth blog posts about how your cleaners were more efficient at reducing the spread of germs on work surfaces, on the other hand, will prove to be of use to your commercial customers.

Use your content calendar to schedule optimum publication dates and times for each segment and location. Then, put your content automation program to work so your teams won’t have to work ‘round the clock to publish them to relevant audiences wherever you want to have a presence.

On-Site Business Information

Update your static web content often. Fix any broken links and freshen the information regularly.

Above all, keep your site’s pages focused on your target customers and their needs, using natural-language keywords to deliver your message.

A Robust Email Strategy

Even though search engines don’t read through your recipients’ emails (that’d be creepy!), the benefits your email newsletter can bring to your ranking do make an impact on your place in the search results.

When you post only a teaser in the email itself, your recipients will need to go to your webpage itself to read the entire article or watch the video. And, when you make your newsletter highly shareable, you’ll get the added benefits of relevant backlinks, shares, and improved traffic – all of which boost your search rankings, as Backlinko’s Brian Dean points out.

Quality Content Forms Your Foundation for Higher Ranking

Quality content that contains – and generates — valuable links contributes to a wealth of ranking factors. Producing such content consistently, however, can be a complex operation, especially for larger companies and global enterprises.

What can help you simplify the process is a content marketing platform that takes you through every step, from planning to creation to publication and beyond. DivvyHQ can do just that – and you can try it out on your teams for free for 14 days with no obligation. Feel free to start your free trial today or request a demo.