Episode 3

What Does It Take to Get Good Rankings and Build Organic Traffic?

Does SEO seem a tad initmidating to you? Are you struggling to get your head around the concept of achieving good rankings and search visibility?

In this episode, I walk you through the process of ranking a startup website, and explain what it takes to start driving organic traffic to your site.

Episode transcript:

Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Stacking Pancakes podcast. This is episode four, and I’m super delighted that you have me back in your ears. And if this is my first episode you’re listening to, hello, and it's great to meet you.

In this episode, I’m going to be talking about what it takes to start ranking and driving organic traffic for a startup.

That last word, startup, is critical because that’s what we’re doing here on the show, we’re discussing SEO specifically from the startup perspective. We already discussed whether startups really need SEO. If you haven’t listened to that episode yet, I recommend you check it out. It’s the episode two of the show. Spoiler: The answer is yes, they do. And today, I want to go through the actual process of ranking a site or content.

And let me start with some good news - In principle, SEO is actually quite simple.

However, the principles of achieving good rankings are pretty straightforward.

(This is great news because, let’s face it, once you’ve grasped the concept of SEO, once you know exactly why you need to do certain things and what outcomes they’re supposed to deliver, then you’ll only have to start putting those principles in action. Again, it's not a simple thing to do, but it's certainly easier if you know why you’re doing what you’re doing.)

So, let’s take it from the top, then.

Google ranks pages (and by pages, I mean any content assets, from blog posts and landing pages to any other types of content) based on about 200 ranking factors, give or take.

Some of these factors relate to your domain, its age, etc. Others focus on the website, its technical setup, speed, the taxonomy, and so on. And a whole bunch of those ranking factors focus on content, its quality, relevance to the search intent, the depth of information you’ve included, and a whole lot more.

But according to Google itself, this is information coming directly from the search engine; there are three key factors that affect how your site ranks:

The first one is content - Anything from your content’s quality to the relevance to the search intent and more will affect how the page ranks in the SERP.

The second factor relates to backlinks, which work as a signal of the content’s (and website’s) authority.

And the final factor is Rank Brain, the search engine’s AI system that helps it understand the user intent and analyze the search query better.

Now, personally, I like to think of those factors as categories, as at least the first two encompass many factors within them.

For example:

For your content to rank, your site must achieve a strong topical authority first. Your content must match the search intent, it must be of great quality, it should answer the user’s questions fully, provide value, and so on and so forth.

But also, for the same content to rank, you need to ensure that you clearly communicate the topic of the page so that RankBrain, well, I don’t want to say “gets it,” but that’s probably the simplest way to explain it. Because once it does, once it knows what the page is about and what questions it answers, your chances of ranking for many relevant searches only go up.

When we talk about links, we mean both internal links and backlinks pointing to your domain from other sources and more.

Overall, we can say that, to achieve good rankings, you need amazing and well-optimized content, ensure that it is relevant to particular search queries, its topic is clear and it includes signals that RankBrain could understand and has links pointing to it.

Now, that’s how it works in general, of course. So let’s see how these factors determine your rankings in practice.

Let’s start with the content.

The first thing to remember is that the information you include in the content will affect what keywords the page is going to rank for.

In other words, your content needs to be on-point and match the information searchers expect to find.

And I have to say; this is a sensitive point. Why? Because often, what we want to really say in the content might not match what searchers want to find. For example, let’s say that you’re writing a post on best practices for in-app surveys. Now, what you want to talk about is the advanced stuff - branding the widget or setting its placement and frequency or setting up triggers, audience segmentation, etc.

And I have to say; this is a sensitive point. Why? Because often, what we want to really say in the content might not match what searchers want to find. For example, let’s say that you’re writing a post on best practices for in-app surveys. Now, what you want to talk about is the advanced stuff - branding the widget or setting its placement and frequency or setting up triggers, audience segmentation, etc.

In fact, these people might not even know how to get started, and rather than reading about how branding affects survey response rate, they want to discover the best practices for setting up the survey, or how to write an engaging question that’s going to deliver quality insights, and so on.

Now, in either case, the content would deliver insane value. However, in the first example, the information would be more relevant to advanced users, whereas actual searchers are at the beginner level.

Unfortunately for you, in this case, Google might choose to rank content that matches the searcher’s intent and knowledge level instead of your piece.

So, to rank, you must focus on creating content that targets the right search intent and delivers the exact information a person searching for your target keyword is looking for.

Next, you need to ensure that Google can understand what your page is about. This is a tricky bit. And that’s where on-page optimization comes in.

On-page optimization includes several techniques that help set the page so that it clearly communicates the topic of the page to the search engine. You’ve probably heard of some of these techniques - optimizing meta tags, making sure that the opening paragraph focuses on the topic, optimizing images, optimizing anchor text of any links pointing to that page, and so on.

Then, you need to help search engines discover, crawl, and index your pages.

Your pages cannot rank unless Google and other search engines learn about them first, crawl and read those pages, analyze and understand the content, and add it to their index.

So, to do that, you need to ensure that search engine crawlers can reach the page quickly. There are a whole bunch of techniques to do that, but the most common one is ensuring that you link to this page from another asset that the search engine crawls regularly.

Finally, there’s user engagement. And that’s what often helps you get to the top three spots.

All aspects of the content I mentioned so far help you get to page one. But sometimes, to get to the very top, to the top three results, you need one extra thing – You need happy and satisfied visitors.

And it only makes sense.

It’s only logical that the search engine will want to include the best possible content at the top of the SERP. And the best way to evaluate who’s absolutely the best is by looking at how satisfied users are with the page.

In practical terms, it means that Google evaluates user engagement - For example, it looks at how long people stay on the page or whether they bounce right away, and so on.

Because of that, often, to rank, you must also improve those engagement factors and ensure that visitors remain on the page, read your content, and enjoy it.

So, what about links?

You know that links confirm the authority of your content.

Search engines rank content based on its quality, relevance, and perceived authority.

Links to your content (and the website in general) send that authority signal, affecting how the search engine perceives your domain. So, the more quality links a page has pointing to it, the more authoritative it will seem to Google.

Naturally, I’ve simplified the whole process. There are so many intricacies to every element we discussed (and we’ll be slowly going through them on this show.)

But that how achieving rankings looks like, in general.

And that's it for today's episode. You can always head to gopancakego.com/podcast to find the show notes for each episode. You can also check my full guide to startup SEO, where I outline the entire process of building search visibility for an early-stage startup. Again, head to my site, gopancakego.com, and you'll find a link to it in the main navigation.

Don't forget to subscribe to the show. I'll see you here in two weeks, and until then, take care.

Copyright: Smashing Copy Limited T/A Pancake 2023