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According to marketing consultant Mathew Barby in his recent article How to Rank Number One in Google: A Study of 1 Million Pages, some of the most common elements of top ranking websites in Google are:

  • Backlinks
  • Anchor text
  • Page titles
  • Target keywords
  • URLs

In this blog post we are going to discuss more of Barby’s findings of what it takes to rank on Google in 2017 and provide a brief rundown of how this might impact your SEO roadmap.

Backlink Quantity

Barby found that backlinks outperformed any other aspect of the study with the Top 2 Google results sharing 38% of all backlinks of page 1 search results. As always, organic and natural link building is clearly an area on which to focus.

Backlink Variety

Pages ranking #1 had 168% more linking domains that pages ranked #5. This indicates that the number of backlinks from multiple domains is more fundamental to search results than a large number of backlinks from one domain. A natural backlink profile with a diverse set of authoritative domains is important.

Anchor Text Focus

Anchor text driven by keywords is still a significant ranking factor. Pages holding the #1 ranking position had the keyword they were ranking for take up 5.4% of the anchor text. Focussing on your anchor text and keyword placement within it are a priority.

Shorter Titles & URLS

The optimal length for page titles was shown to be 8 words. The shorter the URL length, the higher the ranking position of the page. Barby’s study found that URLs under 60 characters also equate to higher ranking, and when combined with short page titles, could make excellent snippets that have high Click-Through-Rates which in turn can further strengthen the ranking. Optimizing in this way for snippets alone can be an extremely effective tactic.

Title/URL Keyword Placement

Surprisingly, the keyword presence in the title for 15.8% of number 1 pages has less to do with page presence itself than the consequence of click-throughs on the search snippet. As always, keyword placement within the URL was significant as well. If you are interested, read our recent article 3 Ways Featured Snippets in Search Can Boost Your Website Traffic to learn more about the implications of a featured snippet ranking.

HTTPS Ranks!

This study reports that 33% of pages ranked in the first 3 positions had implemented HTTPS. Google has confirmed the importance of HTTPS and in their continued efforts to make the web more secure will undoubtedly put more ongoing weight behind it where page ranking is concerned. For more information, check out our HTTPS Everywhere page.

Utilizing the items discussed in this article as next step advancements or maintaining them as an on-going part of your SEO strategy will likely improve your SERP presence. Don’t abandon other important aspects of SEO such as schema markup or mobile friendliness. Instead, include them as parts of a diversified, comprehensive, and ongoing web presence master plan.

If you have any questions about the development of your website SEO, call us today at 1-888-262-6687. Or, you can reach us by email at contact@1stonthelist.ca.

Is Search Engine Optimization (SEO) just a buzz phrase you hear floating around the office among your colleagues?

In this article our goal is to help you understand SEO better by explaining the fundamentals of how Search Engines work, what Search Engines need to rank your website and how we “SEO” a website in an effort to give the Search Engines what they need.

Understanding How Search Engines Work

Search Engines are the directories of the Internet. Imagine the Internet as the largest library in the world. Now picture finding an image or article in this vast library. Unless the image has some defining terms to enter into the library directory, that picture is just a piece of paper floating around without categorization in the miscellaneous drawer. Now envision the billions of pages that users around the world have deposited onto the internet.

Search Engines were originally created to sort through all the information uploaded to the web daily. Search Engines use spiders to find and crawl the information on each new page. The Search Engines then have to decipher how this information fits with every other page on the Internet. The page is then categorized and added to an index so that is it faster to recall and show in a Results page for a relevant search.

There is a big difference between what Search Engines actually show in results and all the potential results they could show that are stored in their results. In fact, Google uses more than 200 factors in its algorithm and is continually updating the formula to meet user demands. In the last year alone, there have been almost 900 updates!

What Search Engines Need from a Website and How You Get Ranked

Before any website can be shown in Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs) the Search Engine must be able to:

  1. Find your website.
  2. Crawl (or spider) your website pages.
  3. Understand what information is on your website.
  4. Categorize each of your website pages in the indexes based on what it understands from your Source Code.
  5. Understand the intent of any Search Query by a person and display the pages in its index it believes are most relevant.

This means that your website must be easy for Search Engine spiders to find, to crawl all your pages, understand what is on your pages (including text and images) and be confident that your web page is the most relevant. Sound like a lot of work? This is where Search Engine Optimization comes in.

How Search Engine Optimization Works in 5 Simple Stages

At 1st on the List we like to break SEO down in 5 stages that work together to make the website most accessible to the Search Engines and most relevant to what visitors expect to find.

1. Site Analysis:

Taking stock of the current state of any website provides a good strategy for moving forward and determining what needs to be fixed to make it easier to the Search Engines to access and crawl your website.

    • Review the site to make sure the Server and Hosting is set up properly, to make it as easy as possible for the Search Engines to access any page on your site at any time.
    • Review the website for duplicate content, spam, slow load times, broken links and other things the Search Engines will demerit your website for.

2. SEO Keyword Research:

A large part of Search Engine Optimization is making sure that the words people are using to search for a company like yours are visible on your website for the Search Engines to read. Keyword research provides the basis for optimizing the content on your website and seeks to discover:

    • What phrases people are using to search for your company? (these are your “keywords”)
    • What SEO Keywords are the most popular (search volume), have the fewest competiting pages and are most relevant to the content presented?
    • What phrases are most attainable for your website and will attract the most qualified traffic?

3. SEO Content Optimization

Once the research stages of the Site Analysis and Keyword Research are completed it is time to start optimizing the content on the website. This SEO work includes but is not limited to:

    • Proper page source code
    • Internal link structure
    • Meta Data
    • Alt Tags
    • Page headings and sub-headings
    • Sitemap creation
    • Body text content that supports the keywords searcher’s use.

A site must attract visitors and it must hold the visitor’s attention. Google uses engagement metrics as one of its ranking factors. The more people who visit your website and stay on it for a long time and look at a number of pages, the more often the Search Engine will show the site in Search Results.

Content optimization focuses on accessibility, reliability, readability, currency, credibility and more as these all affect site rankings. Content optimization also focuses on giving visitors the exact information they are looking for, plus anticipates what additional information the visitor will need in order to complete a conversion, such as purchasing a product or signing up for a consultation.

4. Website Analytics

Once most of the initial grunt work is complete to bring a website up to Search Engine standards the best way to increase value is to monitor its progress and growth. This stage is called “Analytics” and includes:

    • Monitoring visitor traffic to the site over a set time period
    • Tracking and understanding visitor motivations
    • Tracking where and how visitors use the website
    • Tracking and measure sales conversions

Often Analytics can give additional insights to go and tweak items from the Site Audit, Keyword Research and Content Optimization stages.

5. Ongoing SEO Maintenance

If you think SEO is a one time task you are wrong. SEO is always ongoing as the Search Engines like to see fresh and new content on your website. With more than 500 websites created every minute and with your competitors working on their SEO strategy you can’t afford to just sit back. Ongoing website optimization and maintenance keeps web content current, relevant and maintained to meet the changes that the search engine algorithms make, changes in HTML standards and what visitor searching habits indicate.

Search Engine Optimization has changed drastically in our 17 years of experience. However, our general process for optimizing websites has remained stable and is able to achieve lasting results for clients.

Do you need help applying the SEO Process to your website? Give our consultants a call at 1-888-262-6687 to set up a free meeting to discuss your needs and the SEO Plan best suited for your goals and budget.

Keyword Variations:  “Subs & Soda” or “Grinder & Pop”?

This article discusses how to select specific keyword variations to target people by age, location and gender and outlines why it is important to ensure that your targeted keyword phrases, your website and your text copy all work together to increase conversions and sales.

To aid in understanding this article, I will target potential visitors interested in a sub and a soda… or should I say a grinder and a pop?

I first looked at soda, soda pop, pop and soft drink to determine which phrase is more popular by location, age and gender.

I also took a look at subs, submarines, grinders and hoagies to uncover how the phrases differentiate based on the searcher’s age, gender and location; and how, as a website owner, you could be missing the mark if you fail to complete the proper research to find the proper keyword variations for your target market.

The Online Business Plan

Before most companies open up a brick and mortar business, they usually create a business plan.  Within that business plan, they outline their target markets:

  • Businesses or Consumers
  • Gender
  • Age
  • Location

This information is generally heavily researched and decided upon to ensure the company’s success.

However, when most people have a website, they seem to only worry about how much traffic a keyword receives, not whether it is reaching the same targeted market that matches their online business intentions. Often times when I speak with business owners they provide a handful of keywords that they say are a must to sustain their online business.

Their chosen keyword phrases are usually the generic or broader term keywords that tend to attract anyone and everyone, whether they are a potential customer or not. Keyword variations are generally overlooked.

It’s important for website owners to give as much attention to their online business plan and business model as they would to their offline business to ensure that their website can be another successful marketing force for their company.

Keyword Research & Selection Tools

When Search Engine Optimization companies (SEOs) first began completing keyword research for clients, the tools were limited and we did not have a large amount of information that was available to us.  We were usually only able to obtain an estimated number of searches for a given phrase, and the number of competitors for that phase.

A lot has changed in a few short years and now many of the search engines are providing much more information; far more than ever before.

  1. Google Adwords Keyword Suggestion Tool provides you with the average number of searches and last months’ estimated number of searches for a specific phrase. Additionally, you can receive a list of related keyword variations based on your website’s content.
  2. MSN AdCenter provides geographic and demographic information which allows you to ensure you are targeting the right searchers.
  3. Spyfu gives PPC and competitor data for both organic and paid search marketing. You can also receive a list of related keyword variations that your competitors are paying for on Google Adwords plus terms that are achieving top rankings within Google’s organic listings.
  4. Compete.com provides you with traffic patterns for your competitors’ websites, the top phrases they are using to bring in that traffic and information that tells you how much of their traffic comes from specific search phrases.
  5. SEODigger.com provides you with a complete list of top search phrases; plus Wordtracker & Yahoo! Search Marketing search estimates

Keyword Variations Based on Age, Gender & Location

All this valuable information, as provided by these online sources, will allow you to select keyword variations that target visitors by age, gender and geographical locations, which can make a significant impact on your conversions; and ultimately you’re ROI.

It is important to know your targeted market and the keyword variations used before selecting your keywords phrases for your SEO campaign.

Selecting Keyword Variations by Location

When targeting search visitors by location, website owners commonly put actual location in the keyword phrase; such as “Tampa SEO Company”.

There is nothing wrong with doing this, however if you offer your products and services on a national level then you’ll need over 6,700 keyword variations to target all the cities within the U.S.

The truth is that people from different geographical locations tend to phrase things differently, even within the United States. Often times the terms we use when talking are the ones we use when searching as well.

Subs, Submarines, Grinders & Hoagies

If you’ve ever gone to Philadelphia and asked for a sub, most likely they looked at you funny and said, “You want a what?”  They will then correct you and tell you that they call it a hoagie!

Although you were not wrong, people in different geographical locations may use specific terms that are not used in other parts of the world…or country.

    • Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey use the term “hoagies” more often
    • Ohio, Michigan, Illinois Missouri and Utah use the term “grinders” more often
    • Nevada, Florida, Arizona and South Carolina use the term “sub” more often.

Soda, Soda Pop, Pop & Soft Drink

When I visited Pittsburgh, people would ask me if I wanted a pop.  For the life of me, I kept thinking do you mean a soda?

When visiting South Carolina, people asked me if I wanted a Pepsi. When I said yes, they would ask me “what kind?”  I would say, “What kind do you have?”  They would say, “Orange, Sprite, Ginger Ale…”  It would seem that in South Carolina a soda is considered Pepsi and the name Pepsi isn’t actually being used as a brand.

    • Utah, Washington Wisconsin, Connecticut and Missouri use the term “soda” more often
    • Iowa, Nebraska, Oregon and Utah use the term “soda pop“more often
    • Kentucky, Louisiana, New Jersey and New York use the term “pop” more often
    • Alabama, Tennessee, Indiana and Georgia use the term “soft drink” more often

The end result is that although they are all trying to find a sandwich and a drink, they are all utilizing different words to accomplish the same end.

If you are attempting to attract a specific state or sub-region to your website, it is important to ensure you target the keyword variations that state or sub-region are likely to use.

If you are not trying to target specific areas, then you would not want to limit yourself by selecting only soda, or only subs; ensure that all the keyword variations are available within your content; essentially providing you maximum exposure.

Locating this type of information is becoming easier than it ever has been before, with the help of trend data from Google Trends.  This information can be used to find keyword and phrase trends throughout the world.

Note:  Please keep in mind that although I provided state specific information, your research may need to be city specific.  I live in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and I order a sub, however in Philadelphia it is a hoagie.  Additionally, I drink soda and in Pittsburgh it was called pop.

Selecting Keyword Variations by Gender & Age

I believe it is important to know the Gender and age of your targeted market BEFORE you actually create your website.  Your website design and website copy represent you to your website visitors.  It’s important to know who will be seeing and reading your website.

Note:  If you were to create a website with senior citizens as your targeted market, you would want to ensure you incorporated the Website Usability recommendations for Senior Citizens; created by the Nielsen Norman Group.

Soda, Soda Pop, Pop & Soft Drink Variations

Below is the information I was able to research regarding gender and age for searches on Soda, Soda Pop, Pop & Soft Drink.  You’ll definitely see that there is a big difference within the genders and the ages.

GENDER
•    More women used the term “soda
•    More men used  the term “pop

AGE
•    More People age 13-18 use the word “soft drink
•    More people age 35-50 use the word “pop
•    More people 65+ use the word “soda pop

So now that we know that women love soda and men love pop; but middle-aged men and women love pop, let’s see what we found for subs.

Subs, Submarines, Grinders & Hoagies Variations

Below is the information I researched for both men and women of various ages who search for subs, submarines, grinders and hoagies.

GENDER
•    More men use the term “submarines
•    More women use the term “hoagies

AGE

•    More people 18-25 use the term “hoagies
•    More people 25-35 use the term “grinders
•    More people 65+ use the term “submarines

Seems like women love hoagies and men love submarines while the 20-30 crowd enjoy grinders.

Now subs and sodas aside, if you apply this information to your own website and do the proper research you will begin to look at your keywords, your website content and website design a little differently; ensuring they are geared towards the market you are looking to target.

If you wish to use keyword variations that target a specific age or gender you can download MSN AdCenter’s Excel 2007 Ad-on.

Popularity Keyword Search Trends

As new technologies emerge, so do new products, brands, companies and more.  Knowing what keyword searches change based on trends is important to sustaining your online business.

Google Trends provides trending data and history that will allow you to visually see how specific keyword variations have decreased or increased in popularity over the years.

It’s important to ensure that you take this information into consideration before you do your keyword research as well as throughout the year in order to keep up with new emerging trends and incorporate the proper keyword variations into your website.

Below you will find additional information I researched, which has some pretty interesting results.

Trends for Pop, Soda Pop & Soft Drinks

    • Over the past four years it appears that searchers are decreasing the number of searches for the term “pop”.
    • Although there are more spikes in 2007, people seem to use the phrase “soda” in 2008 as much as they have since 2004.
    • Over the past 4 years there appears to be a gradual decline in searches done for the term “soda pop”.
    • A fairly significant decrease can be seen for visitors who use the search term “soft drink”.
    • Although we see a decrease over the past 4 years for visitors who use the term “pop”, it is still much more popular than “soda pop”, “soda” and “soft drink”.

Trends for Subs, Submarines, Hoagies & Grinders

    • The use of submarines has seen a tremendous drop in searches over the past 4 years.
    • The use of grinders has been roughly the same, a few ups and downs but no real large drops or increases.
    • The term hoagies was nearly non-existent in 2004, but has grown in popularity over the past 4 years
    • The term subs has had a large increase over the past 4 years as indicated in the screenshot shown on the right.

Note:  Over the past four years, searchers have increased their search for subs.  Based on MSN Adcenter, this has grown due to both men and women ages 18-35.  I personally would like to believe that it is because more restaurants are putting up websites, uploading their menus and providing delivery information. Additionally Google is delivering localized results based on your IP address, as well as Google Maps providing maps and directions based on these types of searches.

One other thought is that more people may use their cell phones to do this type of search and Google requests your zip code to help show relevant results.  Let’s face it; there is no purpose in showing me sub shops in California if I live in PA.

Conclusion About Keyword Selection and Target Market Behavior

As you can see, it is important to use any data available to you when selecting the keyword phrases and the keyword variations you will be using for your website, but in order to do so you need to know your target market, by age, by gender and by region.

You need to know who is searching and how they are searching. The tools to accomplish this are now readily so use them often and use them wisely.

To learn more, visit our SEO Keyword Research Page, contact us Toll Free at 1-888-262-6687 or Email our SEO Consultants.