A question we often hear is “how do I improve my SEO and drive more traffic to my website.”
Unfortunately, the answer to this question isn’t as simple as using better keywords more often. Though keywords are a critical component—there are a variety of aspects to SEO you need to be aware of—and they all play an important role in your website performance on search and your inbound marketing.
Improving your website’s ranking in search engine results requires that you address the fundamental structure of your content, the keywords you use, as well as the technical performance and infrastructure of your website.
Search engine algorithms do change over time causing specific SEO and content tactics to vary over time. However, there are core elements to effective SEO that remain consistent, known as the seven hierarchies of SEO.
These hierarchies provide guidance on how to implement effective SEO and content to ensure search engines rank your content.
The 7 Hierarchies of SEO Success
These seven hierarchies in order of importance are:
- Crawler Accessibility
- Engaging Content
- User Experience
- Shareable Content
- Compelling Titles, URL, and Descriptions
Each one of these hierarchies needs to be addressed in your content, website, and structure to successfully drive organic traffic.
Here is a quick breakdown of each of the seven hierarchies:
Crawler accessibility is the foundation of your SEO strategy. This includes the strategies and tactics to ensure crawlers can access your content. Essentially, you’ll need to ensure that your content can be indexed. This means having a well-organized website infrastructure, parsable XML sitemaps, and a properly configured robots.txt file.
If search engine “spiders” can’t crawl through your content and understand it—you won’t get indexed and you won’t show up in search results.
The second tier, is the “human component” of SEO. Creating compelling and engaging content requires an understanding of your consumers needs and that you answer questions and provide value in concise, engaging ways.
In other words, your content solves the searcher’s query. In doing so this promotes engagement, which communicates user “intent” to search engines—further improving your search rankings.
SEO keywords are the specific words and phrases that consumers use to form their queries into search engines. Keywords play a significant role in search performance—particularly when you properly apply them to a comprehensive content strategy.
Your SEO keyword research and strategy will help to determine your highest opportunity keywords. By then creating content around these keywords with high search traffic, organic click through, and other factors—you can solve consumer questions and drive organic traffic.
User Experience is next in the hierarchy. It revolves around the performance and usability of your site and content.
This includes things like load time, responsive design (mobile, tablet, laptop, etc.), navigation, and UI.
These strategies and tactics make it easy for users on any device to navigate your site and interact with the content they are looking for. Sites that are bulky, slow, or confusing ultimately get down-ranked as users typically leave (“bounce”) after short interactions. High bounce rates will convey a lack of intent and problems with your site—negatively impacting your website’s overall SEO score and performance.
It’s important to remember that there is a critical balance that must be struck between human intuition and a crawler’s ability to discern intent. Make your website beautiful and intuitive—but also make sure you don’t undermine your efforts elsewhere.
The “sharing” tier specifically addresses how often your content is being referenced, shared, or backlinked by other sites, networks, and users on social media.
Are other sites linking to, referencing, and sharing your content? If not, you may not be creating content that is useful or interesting—OR—you’re not engaging communities and information hubs effectively.
Engagement with news sources, social media, and other hubs of information is critical to making significant improvements to your SEO score and presence.
Compelling Titles, URL, and Descriptions
How often are consumers clicking through to your links and engaging with the content on your site?
Page titles, URL conventions, and meta descriptions all play a significant role in how search engines index your site—and thereby impact user’s ability to find and identify the value of your content on the web.
Page titles and URLs are among the most important places you should be using your target keywords. It’s important that you use your target keywords, follow guidelines on length, and make these “crawler friendly”—but also that you optimize both of these for the human element.
While your meta descriptions should also include your target keyword(s)—they should be specifically crafted to draw interest, speak to value propositions, and motivate interactions from human readers.
Together, these elements help to increase organic click-through-rate (CTR) on search engine results pages (SERPs). In other words, if people can’t quickly tell what content you’re providing—they likely won’t engage—and search engines will downrank your content.
Schema is the final tier and addresses the metadata, snippets, and tags on your site and web pages.
This tier is more technical in nature than anything else. The specific metadata fields and tags on each page help search engines, social networks, and other online read and understand your site content.
Essentially, properly structured metadata clearly communicates the blurbs, synopsis, images, and other information that search engines and other networks display accurate and concise search results.
Specific pieces of metadata—such as titles and meta descriptions—play a key role in how your content is displayed as well as whether or not searchers find your content relevant. Again, relevant, properly structured content results in higher engagement and user clicks on SERPs.
Improving Your SEO
To improve rankings on SERP pages, organizations should implement strategies and tactics to address each of these hierarchies. It’s important to remember that effective SEO creates human-centric content that is intuitive and navigable, while also structuring and organizing your site in a way that search engines understand.
The ultimate goal of SEO is to inform search engines that you have highly relevant content as it pertains to the intent of searches. Search engines have been designed and honed for the sole purpose of providing pertinent and useful information in response to queries. If the results they provide aren’t useful to users, then users find new search engines (AskJeeves anyone?).
It’s incredibly important that your content not only enables search engines to index and rank you, but that humans engage with and find your content valuable.
Managing this duality is the art of great SEO.