Rank Potential Guide

Analysing a page’s rank potential is a vital step in planning your SEO campaign. It is a tool for working out how highly your page could realistically rank for various keywords. This is important for deciding which direction your SEO efforts should go in and which tactics to focus on, and in forming realistic expectations about the kind of results you might see.

While some self-titled SEO “experts” will make wild claims about getting you a guaranteed top-billing or front-page ranking, these kinds of claims are worthless. A reliable SEO professional, after researching keywords, will analyse the situation to work out what kind of results your site could realistically achieve and then discuss them with you. However, in order to approach this step in the process effectively it is important to understand the basics of what rank potential is and how it works

What is Rank Potential?

Improve the rank potential of your site
Improve the rank potential of your site

On the very simplest possible level, rank potential is the search engine ranking that your site could receive for a given query or group of queries. More specifically, it is the ranking that you might realistically be able to achieve given a certain investment of time and effort.

This last point is important. Given infinite money and work hours, any page could theoretically achieve top-billing in search results. In practice, however, it is probably impossible to beat a well-known multinational company in searches relating to their products, to outrank the BBC for a major news story, or to beat Wikipedia with your informational article. Rank potential doesn’t look at the ranking you could achieve in an ideal world – it looks at the ranking you could reach with the amount of investment you have at your disposal.

Of course, it is also possible to analyse rank potential for a range of different budgets and then compare them. This can be very useful, as it helps see how much difference a budget increase or decrease will make and therefore work out what budget you want to allocate to improving your SEO for the best return on investment.

How is Rank Potential Worked Out?

So how does this work, and how do SEO professionals work out what ranking you could achieve for a given budget? Do they just pluck out some figures based on an educated guess? Or is there some rule of thumb which states £X of investment in SEO services or Y hours of work will push a site up Z places? Actually, the process is a lot more complex and less haphazard than that, and based on an analysis of the situation and of your competitors.

In short, an SEO professional such as seohello.co.uk will look at the competition for a given search. They will assess how well these pages are optimised based on the many and varied factors that search engine algorithms like to look for. They will then look at how much your site could be improved within budget and how it would compare after this is done.

Of course, search engine algorithms are complex and those competitor sites may not be standing still, so rank potential is indicative rather than set in stone. Nonetheless, it can represent a good estimate and is a useful way to give you an idea of what you can achieve.

Google’s Top Ranking Factors

Getting your website ranked by Google as highly as possible is one of the most important ways to bring in traffic. However, there are a lot of different factors that Google takes into account when deciding where to place your site in the listings. And there is plenty of conflicting advice out there about which ones you should focus on when optimising your site. Here is a researched based infographic of Google’s Top Ranking Factors from last year (2014):

Google's Top Ranking Factors
Google’s Top Ranking Factors

Google’s algorithms are complex, nuanced and ever-changing, so it’s not really possible to point to one factor and call it the most important. However, a few factors can be definitely identified as top players, including:

Google’s Top Ranking Factors: Links

The goal of Google when ranking websites is to assess how useful and relevant a given website is. Links – both incoming and outgoing – are one of the key ways in which it does this. The assumption is that relevant, informative, useful content will link to other relevant websites, accounting for the importance given to outgoing links. Internal links also carry some degree of weight for similar reasons. As for incoming links, the logic is simple; if people want to link to content, then it is probably useful. Links from social media sites are playing an increasingly important role, as this has become an important platform for people to share content they like.

Google’s Top Ranking Factors: Easy Indexing

Humans like content that is easy to read and navigate, and so do Google’s crawlers. However, a search engine algorithm has a different idea of what makes content easy-to-read from that of a human. Try to make your site as easy for bots to navigate as possible and ensure that every page is going to be found. Site maps are your friends here, while internal links will be useful navigational tools for search bots and humans alike. Make sure you use alternate text for any informative images and videos – ideally a full transcription of information contained in videos. Otherwise, that content will be completely invisible to search engines and will not do your ranking any favours at all.

Google’s Top Ranking Factors: Keyword Usage

Keywords are not nearly as big a deal for SEO as people think – or at least not in the way that people think, but they still play an important role. Keyword stuffing is definitely bad, but it’s debatable whether there is really any “optimum density” sweet spot per se or if this is just a useful guide. The proper use of keywords isn’t about squeezing them into content just the right number of times for Google to decide it has maximum relevance without stuffing. It’s more about the way you use keywords. Specifically:

  • Ensure keywords are truly relevant, and don’t focus on more than 2-3 per page.
  • Don’t get too hung up on density. If you’re worried about stuffing you can use 1-3% optimum density as a general guideline, but don’t mistake it for a rigid rule.
  • Make sure your keyword makes it into key places – title, subheadings (with header tags), and the first paragraphs of your content being the chief examples.
  • Don’t be afraid to use pseudonyms. Google has long moved beyond matching only exact search phrases.