SEO is a vast and complex field that changes seemingly every day, so it is hardly advisable for you, the average business leader, to attempt to master it. Even so, hiring an SEO agency will go much smoother if you understand the fundamentals of SEO — so here are some top rules for ranking in search.

You Need Your Own, Secure Domain

SEO only works for unique domains. It is much more difficult to rank for subdomains on websites like WordPress, and it is all but impossible to get social media pages, even business pages on sites like Facebook and Tumblr, to appear in search results. The reasons for this concern how Google’s bots find, crawl and index different kinds of webpages; subdomains and social media pages tend to be less valuable than pages from unique domains.

Perhaps as importantly, your domain should be secure. At the very least you should enable SSL to make your URL start with HTTPS instead of the old-fashioned, insecure HTTP. Any vulnerability or corruption found on your site could cause Google to remove you from its index, erasing years of diligent SEO work. Security should be a top priority for your web development team.

You Should Have a Collection of Backlinks

This is one of the best-known rules for ranking in search: The more links you have leading to your domain, the better. However, this widespread belief is a little misleading. Not all links can improve your ranking; in fact, having a huge number of poor-quality links can actually cause your ranking to plummet and even disappear from search altogether. A large collection of backlinks is important, but it is as important that your links are relevant and authoritative as opposed to spammy.

Building backlinks is one of the more labor-intensive efforts associated with SEO, which is why you need an SEO agency on your side. Experienced SEOs have a network of high-quality content creators and publishers, who make it easier to develop a backlink catalog that suits your business. Plus, professional SEOs are better equipped to monitor and maintain your backlinks and pivot your linking strategy when Google’s algorithm shifts, as it often does.

The User Experience on Your Site Matters

Too many SEO DIYers focus intently on off-page ranking factors, like backlinks, at the expense of more significant ranking factors over which they have greater control. In particular, you need to be much more hands-on regarding the UX on your website. Users who visit your domain should find the content valuable, the navigation intuitive and the products or services relevant and worthwhile; if they don’t they will behave in ways that tell Google your site isn’t worthy of high rank.

UX is especially important when it comes to mobile-friendliness. By now, your website must be optimized for mobile use; failing to develop a mobile site not only harms your search ranking but also all but eliminates the opportunity to capitalize on the high rates of mobile internet traffic. You can test your website’s mobile readiness using various online tools, and you should work with your SEO agency to improve your website’s overall UX.

speed, internet, high

Your Domain Needs to Load Fast

Page speed is incredibly important to Google, whose bots greatly appreciate domains with fast load times, which allow them to crawl and index without using up much time or bandwidth. Speed is a vital element of UX, both in desktop and mobile formats. Again, you can test your domain’s speed using development tools available for free or low-cost online.

There are some easy ways to increase the speed of your site. For example, you can optimize your images, making sure they are no larger than necessary and of an appropriate resolution. However, there are many more exceedingly technical tweaks that need to occur to speed up your domain. You need to have an experienced and trustworthy website developer in your corner to consistently identify reductions in speed and work to improve side speeds overall.

The More Unique Content, the Better

Content is king — at least Google thinks so. Websites with more content, especially unique, high-quality content, tend to rank higher on search than websites that do not prioritize content creation. Content is a cornerstone of effective SEO, so you need to develop a content marketing strategy that aligns with your SEO efforts.

However, you shouldn’t be working to develop content for Google’s sake alone. If you focus on creating content that engages your audience, users will naturally flock to your pages, and Google will reward you with a higher rank. Plus, the people who visit your site are more likely to buy products or services, whereas attracting Google’s bots alone won’t improve your business’s bottom line. Content is for people, which is why Google shows appreciation for websites that develop it.

By no means are these the only rules for ranking in search. SEO is a vast and ever-changing field, which is why DIY SEO is rarely successful. The sooner you partner with an SEO agency you can trust, the sooner you will see the powerful, organic increases in traffic that your site deserves.