Everything for Google these days comes down to “Customer Experience”. Page speeds, table of content, the relevancy of content, length of content, uniqueness of content, jump links, video in the content, relevant headers, less broken links, customized 404 pages etc are all indicative of improving customer experience on th website and hence helps you rank better.
SEO techniques can be classified into two broad categories: techniques that search engine companies recommend as part of good design ("white hat"), and those techniques of which search engines do not approve ("black hat"). The search engines attempt to minimize the effect of the latter, among them spamdexing. Industry commentators have classified these methods, and the practitioners who employ them, as either white hat SEO, or black hat SEO.[50] White hats tend to produce results that last a long time, whereas black hats anticipate that their sites may eventually be banned either temporarily or permanently once the search engines discover what they are doing.[51]
Google and Bing use a crawler (Googlebot and Bingbot) that spiders the web looking for new links to find. These bots might find a link to your homepage somewhere on the web and then crawl and index the pages of your site if all your pages are linked together. If your website has an XML sitemap, for instance, Google will use that to include that content in its index. An XML sitemap is INCLUSIVE, not EXCLUSIVE.  Google will crawl and index every single page on your site – even pages out with an XML sitemap.
Search engines are expanding - When someone mentions search engines, do you automatically assume they’re talking about Google? The tech giant has such a big share of the market that 'Googling' has become a verb. However, a significant portion of searches take place on alternative sites, such as Microsoft’s Bing. Make a point to search for your site on Google alternatives to see where you rank. Just improving social media engagement and adding meta tags might be all it takes to boost you a couple ranks on Bing.
Google ranks websites (relevancy aside for a moment) by the number and quality of incoming links to a site from other websites (amongst hundreds of other metrics). Generally speaking, a link from a page to another page is viewed in Google “eyes” as a vote for that page the link points to. The more votes a page gets, the more trusted a page can become, and the higher Google will rank it – in theory. Rankings are HUGELY affected by how much Google ultimately trusts the DOMAIN the page is on. BACKLINKS (links from other websites – trump every other signal.)
Who is in your target market? - SEO today is not about just grabbing as much traffic as possible, but instead attracting high-value visitors interested in what you offer. In terms of demographics, what is your market searching for? How are they performing web searches? Where are they located? The more specific your answers, the more valuable your investments in SEO become. Google Analytics is a good place to start your investigations!
Experience can educate you when a page is high-quality and yet receives no traffic. If the page is thin, but is not manipulative, is indeed ‘unique’ and delivers on a purpose with little obvious detectable reason to mark it down, then you can say it is a high-quality page – just with very little search demand for it. Ignored content is not the same as ‘toxic’ content.
By relying so much on factors such as keyword density which were exclusively within a webmaster's control, early search engines suffered from abuse and ranking manipulation. To provide better results to their users, search engines had to adapt to ensure their results pages showed the most relevant search results, rather than unrelated pages stuffed with numerous keywords by unscrupulous webmasters. This meant moving away from heavy reliance on term density to a more holistic process for scoring semantic signals.[13] Since the success and popularity of a search engine is determined by its ability to produce the most relevant results to any given search, poor quality or irrelevant search results could lead users to find other search sources. Search engines responded by developing more complex ranking algorithms, taking into account additional factors that were more difficult for webmasters to manipulate. In 2005, an annual conference, AIRWeb (Adversarial Information Retrieval on the Web), was created to bring together practitioners and researchers concerned with search engine optimization and related topics.[14]
The more important concept to keep in mind is that you want to choose keywords that best relate to the content present on a web page and on a website; if you don't have a dog food comparison matrix, then don't bother including comparison-related keywords; you are misleading your users, and certainly not fooling Google. So in an ideal world, you do have a comparison section, a reviews section, and a rankings section, housed on different pages or sections of your site, with each one tagged with the appropriate keywords. Correspondingly, your SEO and PPC search engine marketing efforts should that content by driving review keywords to the review pages and so on.
Great guide Sharon! Thank you so much for sharing. I was wondering if off-page SEO is still worth it? Like using Personal Publishing Accounts or other social media where you can share your content. I’ve been trying for some months now to spread around content but still waiting for better results. I’ve read it needs diversity but I still haven’t figured it out yet.