The Most Important Rule to Follow to Rank Well on Google
There are over 200 Google ranking factors. But if you wanted to rank well on Google, you may not necessarily need to follow them all. Well, because it's no easy task remembering and adhering to all the ranking factors. Some factors are even kept a secret by Google and who knows how many new ones they keep introducing as their engine and algorithm evolve.
But there's a rule which, if followed, holds greater impact in search rankings than fulfilling almost all of Google’s factors. In fact, it is the only rule you should follow even if you don't completely commit to getting a go at most other ranking rules. To understand this, you'd first need to understand how Google Search works.
HOW SEARCH WORKS
Google Search typically has three distinct phases:
Crawling the web to find webpages
Indexing the webpages found
Presenting the webpages found based on the user query
That's typically how search works. The Google ranking systems are designed to sort through hundreds of billions of webpages to find the MOST RELEVANT, useful results in a fraction of a second, and present them in a way that helps the user find what they're searching for.
According to Google, “these ranking systems are made up of not one, but a whole series of algorithms. To give you the most useful information, Search algorithms look at many factors, including the words of your query, relevance, and usability of pages, the expertise of sources, and your location and settings.”
Now, take note of the word “RELEVANCE.”
GOOGLE’S BIGGEST SEARCH GOAL
Google has made it clear again and again that its biggest and most important aim with Search is to provide the best possible experience for users. How? By providing the MOST RELEVANT CONTENT in the results pages to searchers.
This is about satisfying a searcher’s intent. This is Google’s core philosophy. When a user finds what they’re looking for, to Google, that’s a successful search operation. And that's what they've always wanted to do with Search — presenting exactly what the user wants to see. And very quickly, too.
Because by providing the user with the best experience — in terms of relevant content delivered within a fraction of a second — the user will keep coming back to Google, which allows the company to monetize through ads. In 2018, Google’s total revenue amounted to about 136.2 billion U.S. dollars. But out of that, ads gave them the majority of their earnings, 70.9 percent of the company's total revenues. Which means Google made about 116.3 billion US dollars from ads alone. That's a crazily high amount of money!
But here's what:
If they didn’t focus on user experience and making the user happy, Google wouldn’t be able to make all that money. They wouldn't be able to get people to return to their website day after day. They would not have been the most popular search engine. They would have failed! This is so important to Google that they introduced machine learning and artificial intelligence into search, to better understand search intention and deliver the most relevant results. It's called Google RankBrain and is an extension of Google Hummingbird.
And with the help of user signals such as click-through rate) and how much time users spend on a page (dwell time), the search engine gets an idea of how well searchers’ intent is met, allowing it to continually refine and improve relevance. Googler Andrey Lipattsev revealed that the three most important ranking factors Google use to rank a website are backlinks, content, and yes you guess it, RankBrain.
One industry study found that not only are search results more relevant than ever, many simplistic techniques to artificially inflate PageRank — like intentionally lengthening word count and unethical keyword stuffing — are becoming less effective. Backlinks are also becoming less important because of the rise of mobile search queries given that pages viewed on mobile devices are often liked or shared but seldom linked to.
WHAT TO DO?
Focus on RELEVANCE! Create content that accurately and pointedly nails on user intent. If you do what’s best for the user, you'll have the highest probability of ranking well in the long run. Because by focusing on the user, you'll be “organically” aligned with Google's core philosophy — satisfying the user.
In other words, if you, as an SEO-minded content publisher, want your content to be ranked well on Google Search, the first and most important rule is to make it relevant to the user. You have to provide exactly the information searchers are searching for, answer their questions, or solves their problem. Relevant content is content which answers as many questions as possible and which deals with the most significant aspects of a topic.
WHERE TO START
According to Google:
“The most basic signal that information is relevant is when a webpage contains the same keywords as your search query. If those keywords appear on the page, or if they appear in the headings or body of the text, the information is more likely to be relevant. Beyond simple keyword matching, we use aggregated and anonymized interaction data to assess whether search results are relevant to queries. We transform that data into signals that help our machine-learned systems better estimate relevance.”
As a webmaster, SEO, or content developer, you can *start* by using targeted strategic keyword research to identify which words are relevant for which search terms. Latent Semantic Analysis where you utilize the best-matching LSI keywords comes in here.Why Latent Semantic Analysis? Before Google rolled out Hummingbird, Google used to analyze only individual keywords on pages. But with Hummingbird, it started analyzing and understanding the general context of the topic of the page, not only keywords.
It is called “Semantic Search.”
Semantic Search talks of the effort by search engines to do a better job in understanding natural language queries. Put differently in, it's the ability for search engines to understand topics and rank search results accordingly.
THE BOTTOM LINE IS…
The more relevant, useful, and intent-compliant your content is, the more likely it is that it will achieve a good ranking. Don't just focus on some “general ranking factors.”Of course, the general ranking factors provide an overview of which signals are generally the most important in terms of search, and in a way, they give webmasters the most important areas of optimization to focus their SEO efforts on, they are no longer universally applicable for all queries.
Today, what matters is individual content relevance depending on the specific user intent. Thus in today's ranking system, your main task as an SEO or online marketer is the creation of relevant content that is targeted towards the specific user intent. Thus making RELEVANCE the most important rule to follow in today's search landscape.