When you dive into the world of search engine optimization (SEO), then it’s easy to get overwhelmed very quickly.  There are hundreds of different factors that play a role in Google’s ranking algorithm, Google is constantly testing edits to the design and layout of the search results, and then there’s all the algorithm updates you need to keep up with.  There’s keyword search volume, schema markup, Title tags, Meta descriptions, canonical URLs, and a slew of other terms most businesses don’t have time to learn.

But don’t panic – and certainly do not put your head in the sand and expect all this digital marketing stuff will just go away soon.

In this article I’m going to boil down SEO into just two things you need to know.  In fact, most of what I’m going to talk about you already learned in elementary school.  So relax, I promise it will not be too complicated.  Plus, I’ll reveal the 1 SEO metric that is often overlooked (even though it’s one of the major factors in your search engine rankings).



It’s Elementary

Think back to elementary school when your teacher assigned you a research paper to write.  To be honest, writing research papers wasn’t my favorite assignment because I had to go find some books, read the key sections I needed for the report, and then cite the books in the report. But at least there was a step-by-step process for it. And when you break the process down, it’s not that bad.

Step one in doing research is to find the sources of information we need.  The criteria is pretty straight forward.  We need the books to be relevant to the topic we’re going to write about.  Plus, we need the books to be legitimate, or written by a well known and trusted author.  For example, an Encyclopedia Britannica would be a great source for information.  Remember those books? They were huge! :)

Take a minute and think about that process again.  To find the information, you looked for relevant and authoritative books.  If it didn’t meet those 2 criteria then it wasn’t worth reading and citing in your paper.


Google Is Doing Research Every Day

Now let’s apply this to Google’s search engine.  Essentially, Google is doing this same type of research that we all did in elementary school, but on a MUCH larger scale.  I mean, they are researching over a billion times per day!

Every time you type a keyword into Google, then the algorithm looks for the most relevant and authoritative webpages available.

See how simple this really is?  All you need to do to rank high in Google for a particular keyword is to make sure you have a relevant page, and an authoritative website.  Those are the 2 key factors you need to focus on.

I think it’s pretty obvious how to make a webpage relevant for a keyword.  That simply means creating a page that contains information relevant to the keyword you want to rank for.

But what about website authority?  How does Google know that your website is an authority that deserves to rank high?  Great question. :)


How Does Google Measure Website Authority?

The number 1 factor is the quantity of high-quality, relevant websites that are hyperlinking to your website.  For example, if you have hundreds of quality, relevant websites linking to your website, then that’s a strong signal that you’re more authoritative than a competitor website that only has a dozen links.

So the key to tracking your authority is to measure the quantity and quality of your backlinks over time.  As you continue to get more and more backlinks from other relevant and authoritative websites, then your authority will increase.  And in turn, your rankings will increase as well.


How to Outrank Your Competitors

If you want to outrank your competitors in Google, you should strive to build a stronger link profile than your competitors. So, you’ll want to start by researching your competitors’ link profiles to see which websites are linking to your competitors.

For starters, you can use a tool like Moz’s Link Explorer.

Run the report for your website, and then run the report for your top 5-10 competitors in Google (the websites that are ranking on the first page for your desired keywords). This tool will give your domain an authority score (1 to 100) and it’ll also show how many links are pointing to your website.

Compare your domain score to your competitors, and compare how many links (and unique linking domains) you have versus your competitors. This will give you an idea of how much link-building “catch up” work you’ll need to do in order to climb up in the rankings.