Organic Google Rankings: What They Are and What Your Business Can Do to Improve Yours
Feb 15 2022
Think of the last time you searched for something on Google. The first page of results probably featured a few paid links at the top followed by a list of web pages related to your query. The links below the paid ads are organic results, and a page’s location in these rankings makes a huge difference in whether or not someone actually clicks on a link.
How are these rankings determined? Can a page’s position improve without a paid strategy? Will understanding SEO help with any of this? Keep reading for an overview of how organic rankings work and what you can do to move up the page.
Factors Affecting Your Organic Ranking
Google uses a series of algorithms built around several factors to determine which information to deliver and in what order those links will appear. Though they’re weighed differently depending on the search, here are a few of the most important factors:
Search intent. Rather than taking the query’s words at face value, Google attempts to discern what the user is searching for by considering language use, synonyms, trending keywords, and other indicators before serving results.
Web page relevance. Namely, do the keywords from the query show up on a given web page in the title, headings, and paragraphs? Also, does this page fulfill the query’s request?
Page usability. Does the page appear correctly in different browsers and on different types of devices? Is it optimized for mobile? Does it load quickly, or is there significant lag that might deter users?
Content quality. Google explains there are “systems designed to identify signals that can help determine which pages demonstrate expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness on a given topic.” This essentially means Google prefers pages linked to other quality, trustworthy sites through backlinks or outbound links.
Add to all this the fact that Google regularly changes its algorithms, and SEO specialists, advertisers, and content creators have even more adjustments to make in an already complex strategy.
Why SEO Is Important to Strategically Improve Content
When competing against paid ads and other great organic content, search engine optimization (SEO) is key to your content ranking on page one of Google’s search results.
A recent study showed the average click-through rate for the first organic result on Google is nearly 29%, with each subsequent result getting fewer and fewer clicks. This tells us that even great content isn’t actually so great if it’s ranked on the second or third (or lower) page. SEO plays a crucial role in giving your content the best chance to rank higher in search, generate more clicks, and be seen by more potential customers.
If you’re not already in the habit of evaluating your business’s content with SEO in mind, now is a great time to start.
Actionable Steps to Optimizing Your Content
While there’s no singular fix to improving a page’s organic rankings, there are plenty of strategic adjustments you can make to help your content. Google provides tools and insights to help improve layout, usability, and loading speed. Consider these additional factors after consulting Google’s resources:
Publish great content. No amount of optimization will help if you’re not working with great content. Make sure the page covers the topic it says it will address and use clear, conversational writing. Provide the reader with information they can use.
Research industry competitors. See what your competition publishes and if any of their pages appear ahead of yours in organic search results. Study the page for helpful features such as a table of contents, relevant images, checklists, or expert resources in addition to useful content.
Use keyword research to your advantage. Incorporate strategic keywords where search engines will look for them:
Image alt-text and captions
Even when including keywords, the text should still read naturally — avoid keyword stuffing. Keyword stuffing makes content harder to read and is a bad practice that can potentially get your content flagged as unreliable.
Optimize for mobile search. Google evaluates a page’s mobile version first, so optimizing for mobile is essential.
Use credible, trustworthy sources in outbound links. Make it a practice to cite expertly researched and well-written sources in your content when appropriate.
It’s important to remember that SEO is a long game. Depending on the changes you make, it could take some time to see your content’s ranking improve. But with a better understanding of organic ranking factors and some key tactics to employ, your future content can yield better results.