Search is still the primary way most sites receive traffic. The main issue with this is that where your site ranks in search results is largely dependent on what happens off your site. That doesn’t mean you can ignore what happens on your site. In fact, you have to be completely focused on it.

The number one way search engines rank a site is how many other sites link to that site. When another site links to your site, search engines take this to mean your site is adding value. If other sites think you add value then the search engine will think you add value too. You might immediately think this means you should go out and pay link farms to link to your site, but you would be wrong. Quality plays an important role and you definitely do not want low quality sites linking to your site. They will reduce your rankings, not increase them.

So how do you get high quality links to your site? The best way is to create high quality content that is relevant to what people are searching. Compelling content that people want to link to will naturally lead people to actually link to it. What’s more, great content also means search engines will find it useful and want to drive people to your site. After all, people use search engines because they are looking for something‚Äö√Ñ√Æif your site provides that then the search engine has done its job. Everyone is happy.

All compelling content has a few characteristics in common. Follow these simple tips for improved ranking.

Unique & Visible

Compelling content is unique. It is original, not copied or scrapped from another site. In fact, many search engines will detect that copy is identical to another site and penalize your search ranking. That is not to suggest you cannot quote or repurpose existing articles, but it should definitely not be your primary source of content. Additionally, content should be visible. Don’t use content that is the same color as the background, don’t put your copy into images, always use alt and title tags for images, and make your content as visible to users as possible.

Search engines keep an eye on what a person does after they send them to your site. If that person looks at your site and doesn’t find what she is looking for, she will leave. The search engine will note that. If that continues to happen, the search engine will reduce your ranking since it will assume your site is not valuable. It makes sense, then, to ensure your copy is unique and visible so the person wants to stay and read it.

Choose the Right Keywords

What is the question that your content answers? Your content should include keywords that are relevant to both the question being asked and the answer to that question. Keep in mind that keywords are not single words but rather phrases. You are unlikely to perform well if you are targeting a generic search keyword like “dentist” for example. That is not how people search and it is not specific enough. If you target a keyword phrase that is more specific like “central district seattle dentists” you will be more successful.

Keep in mind how competitive the sector is and set your expectations accordingly for keywords. Highly relevant keywords will give you much better results. Use a keyword tool such as Google’s Keyword Tool to determine relative popularity of keywords. Copyblogger also has a very good resource for other keyword tools (and is a great source for writing compelling content).

Follow Best Practices

Search engines like well formatted sites. Just as your college professor would mark you down if you misspelled words or turned in a poorly formatted paper, search engines will do the same. The most important content—the page title—should use a h1 tag, the second most important should use a h2 tag, and so on. Headlines should be especially compelling and should include keywords that are included in the question and answer we talked about above. Remember, search engines look at everything on a page, not just what users see. That means you should format your HTML properly.

Search engines also like to see content that is digestible by humans. The recommended length for a typical page is around 500 words. You should not take this to mean that you cannot have less or more. This a general recommendation. If your content is well written, compelling and structured properly then it will rank high in search results regardless of its length. Link to other related content on your site as well. This provides additional benefit to your rankings.

Providing compelling and engaging content that people find relevant and useful is the best way to increase your search engine rankings. This process can take time, but it is well worth it. Building up valuable content that other sites link to, tweet about and post on their Facebook page is the key to a successful content strategy.


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