The majority of the population now relies on search engines to find what they’re looking for. We use search engines to find information and read content. We use them to look for and buy products. We even use them to discover more about our surroundings. Accordingly, the businesses that rank higher and more frequently in search engines have a huge advantage over those that fall behind, or are rarely (if ever) found in search engine results pages (SERPs).

If you’re interested in ranking higher in search engines like Google, you’ll need to master the art of search engine optimization (SEO)—or at least familiarize yourself with the basics.

How to Rank Higher

These are all vital elements in any SEO strategy, and you’ll need to learn them if you’re going to increase your rankings:

  1. A crawlable site. Search engines typically use crawlers—bots that explore the web and categorize the pages they find into an easy-to-parse index. If and when the bots find your site, they’ll use the information they find to categorize your pages for future reference. It’s important to make sure all the content on your site is discoverable by search engine crawlers, and make sure the information in the back end of your code can be discovered and understood in context.
  2. A keyword strategy. It’s also important to have a keyword strategy in place. Search engines use two broad concepts to determine which sites to rank in a SERP: relevance to the specific query, and the authority of the site. Knowing which keywords and phrases to include throughout your strategy will help you optimize your site for relevance, ensuring that you rank higher for the right types of queries.
  3. Technical factors. You’ll also need to consider technical factors when optimizing your site. These tactics rely on changing how your site is built, or including various technologies in your site to ensure it’s easier for crawlers to parse, or is seen as more authoritative. For example, Google tends to reward sites that are mobile-friendly, while penalizing sites that are hard to navigate on mobile, so it pays to use a responsive design. You’ll also need to consider how quickly your site loads, how you’ve structured your sitemap and navigation, and many other subtle factors.
  4. Core onsite content. Every page on your site should be optimized with keywords in the title and description, and with several hundred words of on-page descriptive content. This is important to boost the authority of your pages, while also optimizing for your target keywords. It’s also beneficial for your onsite visitors, and taking this measure could improve your conversion rates as well.
  5. Inbound links. Search engines tend to measure authority based on how other reputable sites are linking to you. The more links you have pointing to a page from high-authority sources, the more authority it’s going to be perceived as having. Without any links, your site won’t have any discernable authority, and you may not be able to rank even with a solid keyword and onsite content strategy. Building links is arguably one of the most complex and most important elements of SEO, but the basics of the strategy are approachable. Eventually, you’ll want to write regular offsite articles with links pointing to the content on your site, gradually escalating the level of authority of your chosen publishers.
  6. Regular onsite content. You’ll also want to commit to a solid onsite blogging strategy, creating new, high-quality posts frequently—i.e., at least once a week. Blogs are valuable opportunities to optimize for new keywords and phrases, and can help improve the overall authority of your site. On top of that, if you’re writing about new concepts, bold ideas, or original research, your onsite posts will have a good chance of attracting external links all on their own, increasing your authority even further.
  7. Strategic improvements. Even if you start with expert-level knowledge of how SEO works, it’s unlikely that your first collection of tactics will be effective. You need to measure your results using tools like Google Analytics, and draw conclusions based on those results, using them to adjust your strategy in the future. If you aren’t learning from your mistakes or reinforcing the strongest points of your strategy, you won’t be able to make much progress.

Improving Your Knowledge

These factors may seem overwhelming if you’re new to the concept of SEO, but once you become familiar with them, they’ll seem far less intimidating. Spend some time improving your personal knowledge, and consulting experts to help you fill in the gaps. Most newcomers to SEO find it much easier to work with an SEO agency or a team of independent contractors, rather than attempting to do all the work on their own.