What is search engine positioning?
Search engine positioning, in simple terms, is defined as the process of optimizing web pages so they rank in good positions for search queries. It essentially is a continuous process of climbing the ladder of search rankings to eventually sit on the first position.
Search engine positioning has a number of on-page components but the most influential among them is the content.
Teams most commonly optimize web pages keeping Google in mind. But the practice of optimizing can be done for any search engine like Bing or Yahoo.
At the center of the search engine positioning process is a basic organic keyword. The goal here is to optimize a web page such that the page eventually ranks at the top position for that particular keyword.
Naturally, higher-ranking pages witness a larger pool of visitors. So search engine positioning essentially helps websites to increase their organic traffic and in turn their CTR (click-through-rate).
Most marketers think on-page optimization is a one-time effort, which once done well will reap benefits forever. But search engine positioning is a continuous process that not only helps pages rank at higher positions but also helps maintain the current rankings. This requires occasional maintenance to optimize for changing dynamics and make the necessary adjustments.
There are a number of processes that help achieve this goal. We will be discussing these methods in the further parts of the article.
Difference between search engine positioning and search engine optimization?
Search engine positioning is essentially a subset of the more popular term search engine optimization. Although these terms are very closely related, there are a few subtle differences.
To put it simply, all search engine positioning is SEO, but not all SEO is search engine positioning.
SEO focuses beyond page-level optimization. It is a much broader term that not only supports search engine positioning efforts but also focuses on domain-level optimizations. A typical SEO strategy will include processes to gain backlinks, improve response time, internal link building, competitor research, and many other aspects. This will consequently improve the domain authority of the website.
With a strong domain authority, the search engine positioning efforts can bring tangible results in form of relevant traffic to individual web pages. Nevertheless, search engine positioning only concerns itself with the goal of improving web page ranking. Here the scope is therefore limited but focused.
You can think of SEO as the strong infrastructure base of a building. Here, search engine positioning would be architectural components or the design of the building. Without the base, any additional elegant designs will be irrelevant for the function of the building. But, on the other hand, a strong infrastructure can reinforce and support all the architectural components and design.
How does a search engine determine a page’s position?
Now you are probably wondering, how these search engines manage to decide the rank of a page for a search query. The workings of a search engine algorithm are extremely complex. But, nevertheless having a basic idea can help with your SEO efforts.
Search engines primarily decide a web page's rank via the processes of crawling, indexing, and ranking. The process starts with crawling, where search engines use web crawlers to scour all the websites on the internet.
The web crawlers perform the task of indexing the individual web pages and the site they are linked to. Indexing is essentially a way for search engines to organize information based on its relevance, so they can promptly display results for any particular search query.
Now, for the indexed pages, each page is assigned a rank by the search engine which forms the SERP (Search Engine Results Pages). The ranking of a website on the SERP is influenced by certain attributes, which are as follows:
- Keyword density
- Keyword placement in the URL, H1, slug, title, and meta description
- Topic authority of the site
- Domain authority of the site
- Backlinks to the webpage and the site
- Readability of the content
- The geographic location of the user
Based on these attributes the search engine assigns a position to a webpage. So, in this context, search engine positioning is the method used to optimize these attributes to improve the rank of a web page.
How to find a webpage’s search engine position?
There are a number of different tools one can use to find the average search engine position of a webpage. Google Search Console is one such tool that is very commonly used.
But the ranking position of a webpage for a particular keyword is a dynamic metric that changes over time. So one of the essentials for maintaining the ranking of your web pages is periodic tracking of the position and also occasional re-optimizations.
The main cause of concern for fall in the ranking could be broken links or competitor activities. Broken links can usually come up if your website has recently gone through a redesign. So taking precautionary measures to ensure the URL structure is intact is very important.
As for competitor activities, websites can use specific tools to keep track of all the competitor activity to then devise a strategy if there is any cause of concern.
How do you improve search engine positioning?
Before we dive into different ways to improve search engine positioning, let’s first understand the different features of SERP.
SERP features are essentially the different components that make up a SERP result for a keyword. The examples of the so-called SERP features are:
- Featured snippets
- Video SERP results
- People also ask
- Top stories
- Image pack
Since the SERP is not made up of a straightforward list of organic search results, improving rank is not a linear journey to the top. Here, websites can aim to get rich snippets (Page displayed with additional information) and to even rank multiple times for a single query.
There are a few common practices used to improve a webpages search engine ranking which we explore in detail below.
1. Re-optimizing on-page content
If you have set out to improve the search ranking for all your underperforming web pages then starting with re-optimizing their on-page content is probably the best way to go. You can rework your present content in several different ways.
Firstly, you can find out the keyword your page is ranking for and make sure the page is optimized for that particular keyword. This will include checking for keyword density, seeing if the keyword is infused at all the right places. Use of related keywords (that your web page is probably ranking for) can also help.
Secondly, if your blog is a bit older, you can work on making the content up-to-date. Improving the readability of your content, page speed and the overall usability of the UX can also affect the search position for better.
2. Deploy an internal link building strategy
Once you have exhausted all the ways to improve your on-page content, next you can move on to build a strong internal linking system. An internal link strategy will essentially make your website easier to crawl and will also improve your overall site's authority.
Internal links can either be embedded directly into your main content or they can hang out on the sidebar of your page. Using keyword-like anchor texts to add links can help search engines to identify what the linked page is about. By use of proper anchor texts, readers can also navigate to other relevant pages.
3. Optimizing to appear in the “Featured Snippets”
For any Google search result, most users consult the content displayed in the “Featured Snippets”, to either skim through the other results or even entirely skip the rest of the page. We all know we are more likely to click on the first result if the featured snippet accurately addresses our query.
Hence, it is logical for websites to aim to get featured in the snippets section. One way to increase the chances of that happening is by optimizing a section of your page’s content such that it fits perfectly well in the featured snippets window. You can do this by adding images that are most relevant to the search query or by addressing the query head-on briefly in simple words.
If the web page is a guide, you can add a section that briefly covers all the salient points. For images, you can add the keyword in the “alt text” so the search engine knows what the image is about.