The 3 Main Components of SEO and How to Know If You’re Acing Them All
The following is adapted from Law Firm SEO.
SEO became a discipline in the late nineties, and by 2001, I had immersed myself in the field. Since then, I’ve spent most of my adult life reverse engineering Google’s algorithm—figuring out exactly why Google ranks web pages the way it does.
What does Google measure? What does it value? Why is one webpage ranked higher than another? What can you do to make your website reach more people? Thankfully, I’ve found the answers.
While Google looks at hundreds of variables and crawls your website, everything its algorithm considers boils down to three main components. Below, I’ll explain how these three categories work and offer practical steps so you can ensure your website achieves all three.
Google wants to provide users with answers to their questions or solutions to their problems, as quickly as possible, which is why it measures the relevancy of webpages in relation to a search query. Relevancy simply measures the extent to which the content on a webpage addresses the user’s intent for a specific keyword or phrase.
To determine relevancy, Google looks at many variables, including: how many times a keyword appears on a webpage, which is known as keyword density; how many other relevant websites link to that page; the keywords used in the anchor text of the link; and even behavioral patterns, such as how long users spend on the page after they conduct a search on Google.
For example, when someone clicks off of Google onto a page and stays there for six minutes, we can assume the content is interesting or useful to them, but if they quickly leave, after just a few seconds, and go back to the Google search results to click on another page, which is commonly referred to as “pogo sticking,” the content probably didn’t satisfy the user’s intent for that particular search.
One of the best ways to build your site’s relevancy is to publish content that establishes you as a subject expert. I recommend internally linking related webpages to one another, to associate and strengthen the web of content you’re creating.
In Google’s vast web, links are the strands that spiders follow from page to page. They bring people to your website, and they can either add to or detract from your credibility. In a way, they’re the currency of the web, because if you have more high-quality links pointing to your website (called “backlinks”) than your competitors do, your website has more value.
You could have a technically perfect webpage, with well-crafted, relevant content, but without links adding to its popularity, that webpage could still linger in obscurity on the third page of search results.
To estimate the authority and importance of a website, Google takes popularity very seriously within its algorithm. They use something called PageRank to rank webpages in their search engine results. PageRank is a link-analysis algorithm that uses a logarithmic scale to assign a value to every webpage, a.k.a. “document,” on the internet.
The idea is that important websites are likely to receive more links from other websites. Not all links are equal though. For example, a link from a respected university would have a higher PageRank than a link originating from an obscure mommy blog.
To prevent gaming the system, Google frowns upon link trading (“I’ll link to your website if you link to mine, and we’ll both get a boost.”). Google values one-way links more than reciprocal links.
You’ll want to build links naturally, by getting mentioned in the press, contributing content as a thought leader, on authoritative websites such as Forbes, Entrepreneur, and Inc., or simply getting your law firm listed in a popular legal directory.
Technical SEO, or a website’s integrity, is the third component Google considers when ranking webpages within their index. This is an area of SEO that can be intimidating but is crucial to the success of your digital marketing strategy.
A website with high integrity will be secure, load quickly, and will follow best-practice, on-page technical SEO. It won’t have broken links, internal or external duplicate content, unnecessary redirects, or issues preventing users from browsing on a tablet or a mobile device.
In short, a high-integrity website won’t have any technical problems that detract from the user experience or make it difficult for Google to crawl its pages. You will need someone who knows technical SEO and can assess if there are any technical blockers preventing or impeding Google from accessing, crawling, and indexing your website.
You should ideally have your specialist audit your website for technical problems weekly, or monthly at the least. If you work with a reputable SEO agency, they will likely have a technical SEO expert—or team of experts—who monitors for problems on your website daily.
Top-Ranking Websites Have All Three
Relevancy, popularity, and integrity each play a critical role in your website’s SEO success, but importantly, it’s the combination of these three categories that will determine your website’s search ranking, more than any single factor.
As long as you practice an ongoing SEO strategy that creates a good user experience—fast, easy, and informative—and follows Google’s rules, your website should be able to meet the SEO challenge.
Remember, at the end of the day, Google is an internet search engine that uses a proprietary algorithm designed to retrieve and order search results, to provide the most relevant and dependable sources of data possible. Google just wants to provide the best possible user experience, which will keep people coming back—not just to their site, but ultimately, to yours as well.
For more advice on the main components of SEO, you can find Law Firm SEO on Amazon.
Jason Hennessey is an author, entrepreneur, and internationally recognized SEO expert focused on dissecting, demystifying, and reverse-engineering the algorithms behind the world’s most popular search engines. He’s the CEO and Founder of Hennessey Digital, a multimillion-dollar digital marketing agency recognized by Inc. as one of the fastest-growing private companies in the United States. A digital search marketing correspondent for the Washington Post, Fox Business, CNBC, and CBS News, Jason is also a highly sought-after public speaker, prolific angel investor, and an active board member of several nonprofits. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Bridget, and their three children.