Search Engine Rankings 101

A few years ago Search Engine Land published an article where a French court ordered a blogger to pay a fine and change the title of a restaurant review because the owner of the restaurant believed the poor review was hurting his business.

The interesting aspect to this story is that it wasn’t the content of the review that was at issue (it was pretty consistent with other online reviews of the restaurant), it was that the review’s search engine rankings were “too prominent” in Google’s search engine results. (It showed up in the number 4 position.)

Normally, a website ranking higher in the search engine results is a good thing, especially if it’s ranking higher than competing websites. High search engine rankings for popular keywords are generally a sign of a healthy, well optimized website.

The Benefits of High Search Engine Rankings

Fast forward to September 2020 click-through rate data from Advanced Web Ranking, the number-one listing on page one of Google’s organic search results has nearly a 31% click-through rate for desktop and 26% on mobile. Those rates drop nearly 75% for position two then 50% for position three and keep on going down. So higher rankings do tend to pay off with more clicks through to a website.

How are Websites Ranked?

Google’s algorithms are designed to rank web site pages based on two primary qualities:

  • Relevance – How closely the page content matches what the searcher is searching for. Google uses more than 200 factors to determine a page content’s relevance to the search term, and properly using keywords and related content are the easiest factors to affect.
  • Importance – How “popular” is the page. This is determined by how many links there are to the page, both from within the website and from outside, and where those links come from. Links from trusted sources, like universities, are given more clout than links from small, less visited pages.

Improving Rankings with Website Content

In addition to using keywords in the title and content on each page, there are ways to organize your website content that can make a positive difference in your search engine ranking.

  • Add pages to the site that are devoted to specific content/keywords that Google can find and match to a search. If you sell short, medium, and tall widgets and your customers search for a specific kind, don’t just have one catchall widgets page. Create a descriptive page for each.
  • Make sure all pages have the best web address (e.g.,, the best title (e.g., Short Widgets | The Only Widgets You Need), and the best content to match what people are searching for to help add relevance to your site.
  • Create pages full of content that people want to read to learn more. Yes, many of us are in a hurry and don’t have time to read a lot of words. But there are two reasons to add more to the page:
    • You give people the option to read just a few paragraphs or really get a good understanding of your topic or product depending on what they are looking for.
    • More content on a page helps Google understand the topic of your page and can improve your page’s relevance to its keywords.

But High Search Engine Rankings Aren’t the Only Thing

High rankings are a good thing (unless you happen to be the French blogger), but they aren’t the only thing. Before you make it your life’s mission to make your site rank number one on the results pages, think about these:

  • Search engine ranking results can vary from person to person and search to search. While you see you’re in the number one slot on your computer for a particular search or keyword, your boss, your co-workers, your SEO company, and your customers and potential customers might see you as number nine, and vice versa. Why?
    • The exact wording in your search may be different
    • Google uses your unique search history to try and match your results – other searches you have run, other pages you have visited, etc.
    • Search algorithms are always changing and can yield different search results
    • Your physical location and your IP address can affect the results you receive
  • Being number one in the search results shouldn’t be seen as a complete qualifier of success. If people are visiting your home page and not staying long or not visiting other pages within your site, that could be a sign that while they’re clicking in, they aren’t finding what they’re looking for.
  • Are the visitors to your site doing what you want them to do? Are they making a purchase, filling out a contact form to get more information, or redeeming an offer available only from your site?

The owner of every website wants to be ranked number one and, unfortunately, there’s only space for one at the top of each search. But there are things we can do to help your site rank better. If you don’t feel you are getting the traffic to your website that you should be getting because the pages aren’t ranking well enough, click that get-in-touch link below and let’s figure it out together. We can evaluate your site and provide ideas on what we might be able to do to make some improvements.

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