We know that backlinks are still important to get ranked in Google, but what else can be done to improve our ranking?

Well, what we also know is that there’s lots of other ranking signals to think about.

Search engines aren’t the wild west that they used to be, but there’s still lots you can do to get the results you want.

“We think about words like trust, authority, reputation, PageRank, high quality”, Matt Cutts, Google, 2009

If getting backlinks is the objective, then building reputation must be the goal. So how can we build that?

Analytics

“Software engineers are often divorced from the consequences of their actions” - Kevin Hale, Wufoo Co-founder

You and your developers need to know the SEO implications of what they are working on. Using Google Webmaster tools, which is free and invaluable. A tool that is not to be underestimated. It’s a looking glass into Google’s world.

To make your backlink efforts measurable, you can use tools like Majestic to measure unique linking domains acquired.

There’s a whole host of metrics are available to marketers interested in search engine optimisation.

Google, Moz, Majestic Search Engine and Ahrefs all use their own crawled data to derive at a numeric conclusion on a website’s organic search potential.

Content

To improve your search result ranking, you need to have rich content.

We know that Google wants magazine style websites that can grow exponentially, so create shareable content (eg: Top 10).

Transparency is key to building trust and brand recognition. Displaying facts and figures about the business are likely to gain some trust points with visitors. Where possible, showing business locations on a map on the homepage is a good way to demonstrate that you are a trust worthy bricks and mortar business, not just another fly-by-night operation.

Add images that complement the content and explain ideas. They get people’s attention and can be much more efficient than words.

That doesn’t mean you should depend on images to display content. Text will make your content accessible and search engine friendly.

Give your visitors what they want. If people come to the website for deals, give them deals. Give them great deals that they will want to share with their friends and on other websites. Ask questions such as: “What do your friends think of this product?” - Share it on Facebook.

Don’t worry so much about duplicate content. In 2008, Google’s blog said that duplicate content penalties were a myth. In 2013, Google’s Matt Cutts said “Duplicate content won’t hurt you”. Do follow Google’s advice to avoid duplicate content, but let Google worry about stolen content.

Focus on building reputation, be authoritative and create new unique rich content.

Engagement

Despite social signals providing better organic reach (think Facebook and Google Plus), search engines aren’t phasing out backlinks just yet, if you’re not present on social media, it may not only harm your ranking but it will actually harm your public image.

Use social media to provide great customer service. Don’t just reserve yourself to Facebook and Twitter though, reach out to forums and online groups and engage with your customers.

Tap into existing communities such as such as youtube, reddit, stumbleupon, forums and blogs.

Do press releases. Let people know what you’re up to.

Manage your brand on external sites such as reviews and rating websites and ensure your business is listed and correct in Google places/business.

Security

Security builds trust.

Google has had default https access for Gmail since 2010, Facebook has had secure browsing by default since 2013, HTTPS has been a ranking signal since August 2014.

Going secure by default has already happened.

As of November 2015, “Let’s Encrypt” is offering free SSL certificates. There’s really no excuses.

Hosting

You don’t need to focus on speed too much, but you do want to make sure your hosting is reliable.

Do checkout Google’s page speed tips, but be aware that they will only get you some of the way.

If you want to build an enterprise, you need to build a bigger, faster, more reliable website by implementing a scalable infrastructure.

Cache everything (think CDN and memcache), if you can cache it, cache it.

“Stop worrying about Time To First Byte” - CloudFlare, 2012

Focus on the perception of performance from users rather than speed tests.

Do host your website in the same country as you are targeting. For example, if you are UK based, targeting a UK market, you’d better make sure the IP address of the server you’re using says “United Kingdom”.

Using something like Amazon Web Services is fine, but do picking a region that is approximately closest to you will .

User experience

“I was shocked to realise how dependent I’ve grown on three simple features that just aren’t available in the analog world: search, sort and filter.”

The design should be focused, modern, accommodating, appealing and adaptive.

An elegant and modern design is perceived as more trustworthy. Make it clear and easily accessible.

The aim is to have brutally simple web pages consisting of key elements.

Use Image Sliders and Carousels sparingly (take Amazon’s lead on this).

Avoid using lightboxes, as they aren’t suited for mobile and hide content.

“Interactions that happen through modal dialogs or across modules/panels on large screens often make more sense as separate pages on smaller screens.” - Luke Wroblewski

Avoid infinite scrolling, people tend to hate endlessly scrolling through results.

“Don’t break the back button”, Jakob Nielson, May 30, 1999

The web has certain fundamentals that should be honoured. They work well for a reason. Enterprise apps can afford to take risks with these because they know their user base will continue to use it, while your website will need to be optimised for search engines.

Focus on elegant, modern design. Have a very clear and easily accessible navigation.

The home page should be visually clear and provide easy access to the website’s main purposes or functions.

Pictures are faster than words so use pictures to explain complex ideas. They get people’s attention and can be much more efficient than words.

Grid lists are best suited for showing data sets that represent themselves through images.

Fluid grids and media query adjustments, responsive design enables page layouts to adapt to a variety of screen sizes.

Summary

When I first got into SEO in 2005, I didn’t understand much about it. By 2008, when I was able to see through all the smoke and mirror tactics that marketing agencies were employing I felt that I had mastered it.

Almost 10 years later, in 2017, the landscape has changed, but the rules are still pretty much the same.

That’s pretty important when you consider that according to Google’s CEO, Eric Schmidt, in 2010, Google made over 500 algorithm changes – almost 1.5 per day, making it practically impossible to keep up with.

The different now is the sheer volume of data we have available to us and the tools to analyse it.

Follow the rules and analyse your data to find out what works for you. This is where you will separate yourself from the rest.