The Difference Between a Well Ranked Site with Good Traffic and a Top Ranked Site with Huge Traffic

I have had very little time to blog over the last couple of months, the industry seems to be booming even more so than a few years ago which means I am kept very busy!

Despite the lack of posts (other than quick news updates) there has been loads I want to talk about, Google continues to evolve and the rankings continue to keep fluctuating, due to this SEO’s are more often than not having to think outside the box.

So this post will be a bit of a round up but also my view on what it takes to be a ‘top ranked website with huge traffic’.

You see, there are a lot of people who rank well on Google, a few big keywords rank in the middle of the first page and their overall search traffic is respectable, however if they want to seriously increase traffic & rankings they need a strong search strategy that incorporates link building, social, PR, content and branding. Without this it is very difficult to take the top spot of the SERP’s and dominate longtail traffic.

Google Panda, E-commerce & Creating Great Content

Google Panda hasn’t rolled out in the UK yet, however as I mentioned in my last post we can see the impact when segmenting US Google traffic to a website, in many cases the impact has been pretty brutal and sites affected need to address the issues before it comes to the UK.

The issues are simple, Google has devalued sites with vast amounts of duplicate content that can be found across the web on multiple domains. Unfortunately this seems to be impacting e-commerce websites who’s product descriptions tend to be copied from a large data base and published across the web.

This is basically Google saying “we want better content at the top of the SERP’s’ and if e-commerce sites want to be top ranked sites they have to embrace this and figure out how to develop unique content across potentially thousands of products.

Social Signals

It’s just about common knowledge now that Google are incorporating social signals into their ranking algorithm and the recent launch of +1 sends a clear message that this is the direction they will continue to go down.

Again any site that wants to be a ‘top’ site needs to embrace this and adapt their SEO efforts accordingly.

Unique Domains Linking

This is a factor that has been around a long long time, however building unique domains isn’t something that happens overnight and if you want to be at the top you need to make it your business to know how you can develop your link profile quickly.

There was a time when building links too fast was seen as a negative signal and this still kind of applies to newer/thin sites, however once your site has a little authority and plenty of depth, then is the time to open the flood gates and attract links as quickly as you can.

Sure you could go out and buy a load of text links, it may get you on the first page but we’re not talking about first page we’re talking about being on top, maybe you can get on top with bought links in an industry that has very little or no competition, but in competitive industries I would save the money and spend it being more creative.

So if you’re trying to decide on what your strategy should look like in 2011 here are my recommendations;

Twitter Campaigns

After numerous tests I can fully confirm Tweets are a ranking signal, on more than 10 occasions now I have seen tweets that include a link to a page, boost the rankings of the target page, however you’re not just looking for 1 or 2 tweets you’re looking for hundreds if not thousands.

It may take a bit of time to do this but:

– competitions
– giveaways
– petitions

Are great ways to generate tons of tweets, competitions on twitter are becoming more and more popular and can generate a lot of activity, they are certainly my favourite way to leverage tweets.

Facebook Sharing

I blogged on the power of Facebook just before Christmas and still firmly believe this will play a big role in rankings moving forward, in fact Tom Critchlow recently published some correlation data on SEOmoz about how facebook shares correlate as well as linking domains to Google rankings. Now this only correlation but it gives an indication that they are important and could become more so.

– Make sure you have a presence on Facebook
– Interact and share
– Connect your blog to facebook to push out regular updates
– Have ┬álike buttons on your pages (great for e commerce product pages)

I am almost certain this will become more of a factor during 2011 so probably best to get started now.

Press Releases

Yes good ol press releases, a link building tool used for years, the quality and impact of press releases has been brought into question many times, however if used in conjunction with other mass link building methods they can be quite effective.

– Come up with a unique press release idea
– Re write the release 10 – 15 times
– Get 10 – 14 bloggers on board to publish one of the copies, link to it and link back to your target site
– Make sure the press release has links to your site (optimised)
– Also throw in a bit of syndication just for good measure

Getting this right is almost like guaranteed viral activity and great for giving your whole domain a freshness boost.

Quality Content

As mentioned above, never has it been more important to create quality content than it is now, with Panda here and Google looking to rapidly clean up the SERP’s, creating useful content should be at the top of the agenda for any online business.

– Having a blog on the site is becoming more important
– User generated content is an excellent strategy for most commercial sites
– Making sure content is sharable

These are things the SEO community has been shouting about for a while and if you haven’t done it already now is the time to pick up the ball. Content that is unique, sharable, useful and diverse is going to help drive longtail traffic and result in higher rankings across your whole domain.

Another thing to consider in line with this is user behaviour, I am not sold on this but with the amount of data Google has makes it bound to play a role in the future;

– Bounce rates
– Page views
– social sharing

How users interact with content could be used as a sign of quality in the future, however I have so far seen no evidence of it yet.

Now if you are going to implement all of the above and try to be a ‘top ranked’ site you are going to need the budget for it, this stuff won’t come cheap. If you are a smaller business then I would suggest investing in the basics:

– blog posts
– articles
– badges
– content generation & social sharing

As your income starts to grow then reinvest in making your search campaign more creative and diverse.

Remember, in most industries you can develop decent traffic & rankings by doing the basics, however to be a top site and take your business to the next level you need to incorporate the bigger picture.