Many businesses hoping to boost their search engine rankings will succumb to trends or try ill-advised shortcuts. It’s easy to understand why. Increasingly, businesses are operating and marketing in the digital realm, and being found online can be the difference between being highly profitable and failing to make it past the six-month mark.

Unfortunately, companies that rely on these shortcuts for search engine position often find that either:

  1. They fail to achieve the results they’re hoping for because their motivations are misguided; or
  2. They experience temporary gains only to have their rankings plummet when Google updates its search algorithm (which it does often).

To avoid these scenarios, it’s important that businesses adopt a long-term approach to search engine optimization (SEO). The truth of the matter is that there is no easy way to procure consistently high search engine rankings. It takes a lot of work, trial and error, and time. And this is because Google’s success is built upon delivering accurate search results to its users. Why should Google or other search engines recommend Site B, which is new to the arena and firing on only half its cylinders, when Site A has been showing positive traffic for years?

It’s important that businesses adopt a long-term approach to search engine optimization

This is the general hurdle that all websites must overcome. Not only do they need to earn the trust of Google and other search engines, they need to out-compete competitor websites. So how does a business rank for applicable keywords with any degree of consistency? How does a website out-perform competitors? Simple:

By focusing on what matters – the user.

If you would like to improve your own website’s search engine position, take the following into consideration:

Relevancy

Above all else, your website must be a relevant and topical resource for the areas of interest that it covers. Can you legitimately say that your website is the best resource online for its particular industry? Set aside vanity for a second and think about that question. If the answer is “no,” then why should (or would) Google place your site high in the rankings for related search queries?

In order to rank for any search term or keyword, your website must be relevant for that search term. It’s a simple concept that far too often people forget. The underlying factors dictating search results are so simple, in fact, that Google basically lists them out in plain language via its Webmaster Guidelines – a set of recommendations and best practices for industry professionals designing, writing, and building websites.

What’s important to note is that Google doesn’t allow itself to make the mistake of giving specific recommendations. And that is because Google’s search algorithm is dynamic – it takes into account hundreds and thousands of individual factors when populating a search engine results page (SERP). Rather, Google gives users general, common sense guidelines that will serve them well no matter which version of the company’s latest algorithm is scanning the Internet. Recommendations like, “Create a useful, information-rich site,” and “Make a site with a clear hierarchy.” Sound advice, no matter what.

Lastly, to be relevant, you must realize that your site has to be more than an exhaustive resource on whatever topic, product, or service it offers or covers. You must also think in terms of user experience, bounce rate, click-through rate, time on site, and number of pages viewed. All of these are factors that search engines look at. Your website may be comprehensive, but is it inviting? Is the layout and experience intuitive? Get your ducks in a row, and you could be half-way to your goal.

Authority

As part of your long-term SEO strategy, you should take steps to ensure your website becomes a recognized authority in its field. Not only because it’s sound practice, and because it can impact web traffic and search engine rankings, but also because it can have a tremendous impact on your business’s reputation. Being the go-to authority in your industry should be your ultimate goal.

To determine a site’s authority, Google will look at many factors. One of these factors is inbound links. That being said, if you are starting to think that the key to success is link-building, don’t get ahead of yourself. The quality of those inbound links is as important as the quantity.

Though any number of things may influence the volume of inbound links directing users to your site, only good, relevant content will attract links from reputable sources – news publications, government sites, educational institutions, and similar. If you want quality links, you need to have a quality site.

So how do you become an authority? Again, the answer is simple – build a quality, reputable website that is intended to meet the needs of users, not search engines. Google’s Webmaster Guidelines recommend the same. Don’t deceive users. Don’t use shortcuts or try tricks to arbitrarily improve your search results. And never do anything that is intended solely to please search engines.

Don’t deceive users. Don’t use shortcuts or try tricks to arbitrarily improve your search results.

If you think about it, “authority” can simply be seen as other authoritative organizations recognizing your relevance. Thus, you should approach this goal in the same manner. Worry about quality first, and search traffic will come later.

Popularity

If your site is relevant and an authority on the topics it covers, users will come. It may not happen overnight, it may not happen in the first year, but if your motivations are in the right place, you will eventually find the traffic you’re seeking. Just like in Field of Dreams, “If you build it, they will come.” (Ideally, anyway.)

This popularity will be seen by Google and other search engines as a sign that your website is an authoritative and relevant resource for applicable search queries. In other words, the very thing you are seeking – search traffic and search rankings – will ultimately help bolster the number of people that visit your site every day. Though this may be a bit unfair for those businesses that are just starting out, it happens to be the way of the world. As is often the case, growth is not linear when it comes to the Web.

What makes a site popular? You may find us repeating ourselves here, but quality content, relevance, and an engaging and user-friendly experience all help. Your website, in its ideal state, will be one that people want to return to and share with others. If you can achieve this through graphic design, UX/UI design, and content, people will come to you.

Don’t Get Lost Down the Rabbit Hole

Too many businesses lose sight of what their corporate website should be. In the ever-more competitive digital landscape, it can be easy to be drawn to the carrot at the end of the stick. Unfortunately, just as the camel has no chance of ever catching the carrot, you’ll never achieve the results you’re seeking unless you approach your digital presence with the right state of mind.

Make quality, relevance, and user experience your priority – and the results will come.