4 Elements of Search Engine Ranking You Must Not Ignore
Ranking on Google long ago ceased to be a keyword game. Google is now smart, and super intelligent. It can sniff out keyword stuffing a mile away. Now Google ranks pages intelligently. It considers user intent, associates content with searches using latent semantic indexing (LSI), and has incorporated machine learning into its process to continually improve the search experience.
Understandably, Google is very secretive about how it ranks content in its SERPS (Search Engine Results Pages). It doesn’t want people gaming the system, but wants interesting, informational and relevant content to rise to the top. However, you can use what we know about how Google Search works to give you an advantage and create more effective content for inbound marketing.
In this article, you’ll learn about four key aspects of what is called ‘topic modeling’ – the way that Google matches content to search queries, and therefore ranks your content.
What Is Topic Modeling?
Simply put, topic modeling is how a main topic and subtopics are linked. Within each subtopic, the most relevant information is shown first. It’s a little like when you manually categorize your finances. The topic may be ‘financial accounts’, and the first thing you see is an overview of your finances. The big picture.
Next, you drill down into categories – let’s say income, expenditure and investment. Within these, you may have subcategories – such as salary, overtime, bonuses, dividends, second job, etc. This continues through each category and subcategory. Some categories may have an overlap, such as your expenditure may include regular payments into your investment accounts.
You get the picture. The most relevant information appears first, and then information of lesser relevancy. This is essential for Google, because it has to deal with trillions of pages of content, and rank them so that people can find them. A little like a library, only way bigger and way, way faster.
To do all this effectively, topic modeling relies on four key elements:
- Query Expansion
- Information Retrieval
- Personalized Search
- Topic Clusters
Understanding these will help you position your content to maximise its potential to rank higher in online searches. It’s not necessary to know how all this happens, but you should understand what happens before creating content and a content marketing strategy.
Query expansion is how search engines take your search term and give it greater meaning. This widens its search and brings in more pages. It does this by considering your search term as maybe incomplete or less specific than it could be, and then expanding the search to include:
- Antonyms, meronyms, hyponyms, hypernyms
- Morphological forms of the search term, by stemming each word in the search
Search engines will also automatically correct spelling (see this by deliberately searching an incorrect spelling – Google will show you answers to the spelling you think you meant, and provide an option to search the spelling you actually made).
When you enter a term in the search bar on Google, its search engines go into warp mode. It first applies all its algorithms that expand the query. Then it searches the trillions of online pages to provide you all the information it believes is relevant to your search. But it doesn’t simply look at the headlines of each item of online content. It searches deep within the content, and it searches for all the items it has ‘created’ by query expansion.
The data that may be included in the information retrieval process includes elements such as:
Now, how Google does this is by storing the information that tells it what your content is. Often, this is represented by the metadata attached to your content, which maps back to your content.
The content it finds is rated as to relevancy, and this is what is used to rank it on search pages.
Google introduced personalized search in 2004, aiming to improve the search experience for all who use Google Search by making the displayed content more relevant for each individual.
It does this by referring to your user history, bookmarks, personalized Google+ pages, and location. A simple example is that if two people in different locations enter the same search term, let’s say ‘restaurants trip advisor’, they will receive a different list of content. Similarly, if you take your laptop abroad, let’s say to France, you are likely to receive search results from French websites. This personalization is automatic, though can be turned off.
Finally, we come to topic clusters, and they are the key that savvy content marketers are now using to open the door to higher search rankings. It used to be that you could rank by targeting a single keyword, but because of the first three elements described above, this strategy no longer works. Let me explain:
- Because of personalized search, keywords are harder to rank for across all users
- Because of query expansion, Google can better identify meaning and context – LSI keywords provide this context
- Google wants to provide more trustworthy results, and so searches through all on-page elements
In short, Google wants to know that your content is relevant, useful and personal. How do you do this? Create content around topic clusters.
Those sites that contain multiple items of content around a topic are more likely to outperform those that are more focused, narrower, and less deep. The benefits of doing this include the following:
- More meaningful content keeps visitors on site longer, and exploring your site more deeply.
- A piece of content that does well is likely to improve performance of linked content, and this is likely to improve SERP ranking. It could result in multiple rankings for a single keyword.
- More time on site and higher ranking create a virtuous cycle of increased traffic and conversions.
However, to enjoy these benefits you must employ all the tricks of SEO, such as: relevant URLs; internal forward and backward linking; and pillar posts linking to relevant content. Your content must also be informative and interesting (answering questions that your audience may ask).
When creating topic clusters, deliver a main topic, subtopics, categories and subcategories. Think about what your audience wants to know, the problems it faces, and the help it may need. Consider what your area of specialization is, the authority you bring, and what you want to be known for. Then:
Remember that your keywords need to be wider and deeper and in line with your topics, and that multiple pieces of content around a topic helps to develop your subject authority, which leads to higher SERPs rankings.
Do you need help to create your content marketing strategy? To find out more and discover how we help businesses grow, contact BlabberJax today.
In the meantime, tell us what you have found to be your biggest content creation challenges in the comments below. We’ll be happy to get in touch and help you find the solution.