The methods to improve website ranking might seem endless contradictions, but confusion can be the strongest cue to strike a balance. In the best use of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), the tactics are interdependent.
The human brain offers a remarkable model for two approaches that don’t work alone, but soar when put together.
The “right-brain” approach to SEO:
— Integrate good design, strong writing & multimedia
— Appeal to the viewer’s curiosity
— Incite your page to spread through social circles
This is the one you can’t fake. As a matter of taste, it’s elusive, but with consistent dedication and openness to feedback, good content comes naturally.
The “left-brain” approach:
— Analyze Google’s system of website ranking (PageRank)
— Strategize the best possible use of keywords and hyperlinks.
— Implement metadata and alt-tags to make prime your page for searches
You can’t fake the system either, but it’s a predictable defeat. Petty tricks to boost rank will alert the search engine if a site is untrustworthy, and could get it banned or flagged as spam.
Both methods are essential, but the question remains– how to blend them?
The relationship between the brain’s hemispheres reveals our incredible capacity to find a balance, even at the most daunting impasse. Traditional psychology sees the right side as the more “holistic” and “creative,” while left works systematically. Today we understand that the two hemispheres complete distinct tasks, and must also work in tandem for the brain to function.
As in any balancing act, the usual suspects are at play– quality over quantity, and process over progress. Success involves attention to the means, not just the end.
The right-brain sees the big picture and draws the bottom line. For SEO, that means create engaging content and your audience will find you. Statistical know-how cannot replace the human touch.
Still, the left-brain says, we need to grasp a few facts to move forward.
How does Google rank pages?
Page ranking relies on a basic contradiction. Although Google determines its search rank through an algorithm, SEO does not follow a strict formula. This is because Google keeps its algorithm private and ever-changing.
The first step is to understand the basics of PageRank— Google’s inborn filter for irrelevant content. The founders of Google designed PageRank to tally links in order to measure a website’s importance. However, links have different values in the final count.
High-ranked pages act as “curators” for search engines. For instance, if the New York Times links to the website of an unknown startup, the rank will climb much faster than if the link came from another fledgling startup. When a web page is already high-ranked, the PageRank system automatically considers it credible.
PageRank may help to explain the ins and outs of how rank is measured, but cannot explain why some content just catches. Social media works backstage by increasing visibility, making the page relevant to a wider audience. While posts and reblogs do not carry the same weight as reputable news sources, they can generate enormous traffic.
Traffic improves a page’s rank because it adds credibility. If more people see it and spread it, then this is a good indication to the PageRank system that the content is not only reliable but interesting.
You can easily check your PageRank through Google Toolbar. Google Analytics can also help use search data to your best advantage.
Pitfalls: Avoiding a Plummet
PageRank is subject to manipulation, but Google has outsmarted a many of these tricks. To improve your website’s search rank, here are trade-offs to consider:
— More links does not mean higher page rank.
While a high volume of “back-links” are essential to improving SEO, too many links on a poorly-ranked page will only limit it further. The most “relevant” or highly-ranked pages have few links, but a lot of clout. That way, each link becomes more valuable.
Pages that only list links are considered spam. PageRank classifies them as “link farms,” and attempts to ban them. Be skeptical of offers to quickly boost SEO, as most schemes will actually hurt your SEO. A “link farm” can work like quicksand, and even a paid directory listing might catch you by surprise when it drastically decreases your rank.
The problem also applies to the structure of your own page. Links between pages on your website can contribute to your rank, but use moderation. Too many links on your own page will hurt more than help, and at worst, flag your site as a potential scam.
— Keep keywords short and simple.
For clarity’s sake, stick to the same idea for each page that your make. However, like the trouble of multiple links, repetitive phrases can sink SEO.
Though variety maintains the viewer’s interest, rephrasing could make the keywords hard to find in a search. The unusual attracts attention, while a heavy-handed obscurity might seem like white noise.
Tools, Not Tricks!
— Use Metadata to help the search engine locate your page.
Metadata is found in the page title, description, and keywords and appears on the search browser. Concise and engaging words will intrigue your viewer, even if your page is not at the very top.
Keywords are generated through links on your page, but you can also specifically select them. The same advice applies as above– avoid excess by keeping your keywords straightforward, just like you would if searching the site yourself.
— Add Alt Tags to Multimedia
Like metadata. alt tags help describe your page in a language the search engine best understands. Unlike metadata, alt tags are hidden from the viewer of the video or image, but act as secret keywords to make the multimedia searchable. So if the user types the same keywords you tagged on a video, that video will appear in the search engine.
Multimedia may accumulate a lot of social media attention and traffic, but is otherwise unsearchable without using alt tags. Adding the tags is an easy way to boost SEO, and multimedia is always pleases an audience. Just be sure to choose the words wisely, keeping the tone natural.
Turn 2 Approaches into 1
Great content comes from great ideas, and innovative execution. At the end of the day, this is what we remember most. This is what we want to see when we search.
While a little strategy can go a long way to help great content reach the top of the page, even the most meticulous plan cannot overcompensate if the content lacks quality. PageRank sets the rules of the game, which cannot be pushed to make poor content get attention. This will damage SEO, or worse, get a page banned or marked as spam.
A balanced approach to improve page rank fluidly integrates two distinct methods, just as our brain uses both its sides. Creating dynamic content and hammering the technical details of SEO each involve a very different process. Yet when strategy imagination come together, the results are nothing less than stunning.