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The Two Keys to Top Search Engine Rankings

Jun 6, 2008
Yes, the title is correct. When you get down to it, it only takes two things for your site to rank well in the search engines. The problem is most sites only do one or the other correctly. The sites that do these two "magical" things properly enjoy those coveted spots at the top of the rankings.

So what does it take to get to the top? Focus & Popularity

Let's talk briefly about "focus" and it's importance. The search engines do their best to return relevant results to a given query. To decide if a page is relevant to a users query, it has to be able to determine the focus of the page. The more focused the page the more relevant it will generally be seen.

If each of your pages aren't focused on a core phrase, it is likely that you will not be seen as relevant to a users search as you could be.

Unfortunately, relevance alone is no longer enough to obtain those coveted top spots. A site/page also needs popularity. By popularity, I'm referring to link popularity. The search engines look at inbound links to a site as votes of confidence. The more of these votes a site has, the more "popular" it is seen as being. The more popular it is, the more "worthy" of ranking high the site/page is seen as by the search engines.

In many instances, the popularity of the site is more important than the focus. It is not uncommon to find very popular sites ranking for phrases that they are not truly focused on, however, you will almost never see a highly relevant page ranking for a phrase if it has no link popularity.

While the popularity of the site/page tends to be the more important aspect, they are both very important pieces to the puzzle of high rankings. Think of it as similar to cooking. While there may be one primary ingredient, if you don't add all the proper ingredients and cook the meal correctly, it won't turn out as expected.

The same goes for ranking. You need to insure that your site and it's pages has the relevant focus on it's core phrases to be seen as relevant by the engines AND you need to make sure it has the popularity to be seen as worthy of ranking. To little of one or the other and you will end up missing your target, but get the balance right and you will be the one enjoying the feeling of owning the top spots in your industry.

If you find your site is not ranking where you feel it should. Take a look at both factors. Is it possible that your site isn't as tightly focused on your topics as you thought? Are you being beaten by sites that are better focused? Or do you have the proper focus, but you are being beaten by sites that are seen, due to their inbound links, as being more popular than yours and deserving of a higher rank?

Take a look at your competitors and see in which area you can outdo them and go after it.

See You at the Top!
About the Author
John Buchanan is an Texas SEO specialist with 10 years experience in the field. He does seo consulting and search engine optimization in Texas and for companies throughout the world.
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