Google admits that it has over 200 factors that determine where a web page ranks in consumer search queries. Of those 200, there are perhaps thousands of sub factors.
On March 23rd, 2016, Google gave us its top three.
Those three are inbound links, content and its machine learning system it calls Rank Brain. We know that of those three, Rank Brain is currently the third most important factor, but we don’t know which is first, content or links.
Since the purpose of this post is to help you with the online marketing of your business, it doesn’t really matter which one is more important than the other, both need to be a significant part of your online marketing strategy.
How to Use Content to Improve Your Rank in Google
The World Wide Web is a series of links that connect trillions of pages from around the world. Each one of these pages has content. In order to keep consumers using its search engine, Google needs to make sure it renders the most useful and relevant content for each search query.
In order to do this, Google bots crawl the web, going from link to link, finding relevant content and sending it back to Google to be evaluated, categorized and ranked. The bots find all sorts of information and for years, they picked up on certain keywords to determine what your page was about.
Today, Google’s search algorithm is much more sophisticated. It not only searches for keywords, but it can often determine the intent of your content just by how it reads, where it is located, user engagement and other factors. In fact, you don’t even need a keyword listed on your page in order for it to be ranked high for that keyword, though it still helps.
What does this mean for you?
The more useful the content on your pages, the more relevant it is for visitors, the more engaging it is for users, the better it will rank.
The days are gone when you can just use filler content on your pages, throw in a few keywords and have it rank well in search. Today you need to be writing extraordinary content. Content so good that visitors want to engage with you.
Such writing includes excellent text, but it also means relevant images, a good user flow and intuitive design.
If you are not a writer, then you should consider hiring one. Websites like Upwork and Fiverr have writers you can hire for a fee. Keep in mind, you pay for what you get. Cheap writers are going to produce junk content.
Also try to keep your content fresh. You can do this by blogging and by updating your pages on a regular basis. And always add unique content. Do not copy from other websites. If you do, your website may not rank at all.
How to Use Inbound Links to Improve Your Rank in Google
Inbound links are the way websites are connected on the web. It’s how users navigate the Internet. Your objective is to get relevant, trusted websites linking to yours. That’s it.
For a detailed explanation of linking as well as a list of ways you can get websites to link to yours, see my latest blog post on inbound links. See what I did there?
Inbound links is a ranking factor because they are like votes of confidence. If a lot of relevant websites are linking to yours, it tells Google that your site is popular and useful to a lot of people. Otherwise, why would they be linking to you?
Remember that Google wants to show the best possible content for search queries so if so many websites think your content is useful enough to link to it, then they will make it more visible (move up in rank position) so others can take advantage of it as well.
When exploring ways to get websites to link to yours, be sure you play by the rules. Using link schemes and manipulative practices to build links is not only an ineffective and outdated SEO tactic, the practice actually has negative consequences.
Any links intended to manipulate PageRank or a site’s ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme and a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. This includes any behavior that manipulates links to your site or outgoing links from your site.
Try getting links from sources that are credible and relevant to your niche. If you own a motorcycle repair shop and the salon down the street links to you, it’s not going to do much good.
The way Google and the rest want you to get links is by producing the best content possible. Make your pages so interesting that other websites are compelled to link to it. Now, see how content and links work together?
Content vs. Links: Who wins?
At this level it doesn’t really matter which one is more effective at ranking your website higher. They’re both too important to ignore and we’ve demonstrated how they both actually work together. Even so, we believe links may have a slight edge. From our experience links appear to impact rank a little more, but nobody really knows. A 2015 Moz.com survey of SEO professionals agree that both links and content are highly important ranking factors with links getting a slight edge.
Regardless, start producing great content on a regular basis, share it in online forums, communities and in social media and you’ll start seeing your website move higher and higher in search results.