Ever wonder how a website gets ranked on Google?? Or, at least wanted an idea of how to be on the first page of search results?? Check out this excellent chart from Moz. SEO experts guess that there are about 200 different factors that play into search engine rankings. Google does not simply display arbitrary results for searches. Its search algorithm takes all of these ranking signals into account before presenting the results because one search term can have hundreds of different meanings.
First off, many people ask why so much attention is placed on Google. Shouldn’t we be concerned with how their site ranks on all search engines? Yes… but no. Almost 90% of all searches happen on Google, and many of the strategies we use to rank sites on Google will usually translate over into other search engines’ algorithms. While we could spend more time and energy trying to fight for rankings on every search engine, almost the same end can be accomplished by funneling all of our efforts into one place: Google.
Now, let’s dive in. Websites are competing for attention and placement on search engines. On average, there are ten positions on a search results page. These positions are ordered by rank, and as pages rank higher on Google, more traffic goes to those pages. Thus, high ranking pages receive much more traffic than lower ranking pages. Please note, there is not a slight difference between ranking low or ranking high; there is an exponential difference. Why? Because 97% of people do not click past the first page of search results. We repeat, 97% percent. According to Advanced Web Ranking, the first three spots in Google get close to 54% of all clicks on average, with the number one spot getting 26%, the second spot getting 17%, the third spot getting 7%, so on and so forth. Having a number one ranking can drive six times as much traffic as ranking fifth! Having a great website is important, but what’s better is ensuring that it will be seen and visited by optimizing your site for search engines, aka SEO. Now, let’s break down some factors that affect your search engine ranking.
Google uses links to find out what content on your site is related and what the value of that content is. In the same way that people are heavily influenced by other people’s opinions (i.e. I am much more likely to eat at a restaurant that I have heard about from other sources), Google is heavily influenced by other sites’ opinions of you. This is what we call “backlinks.” When a website that Google trusts (a site with a strong domain authority) contains a backlink to your site, it communicates to Google that it can trust your site. For this reason, some would say that they are the number one driver for search engine ranking. While backlinks are extremely important, we do not want to forget about internal links. Internal links connect the pages and posts on your own website, as opposed to backlinks which connect your pages and posts to other websites. When your internal links are not organized properly, it frustrates Google because it crawls your page via links. Typically, it starts on your homepage and follows the first link it finds, and it goes from there. That’s why it is highly valuable to make sure that all of your internal links are in the right place, so they are easily recognizable by search engines.
If you want to be successful in SEO, you absolutely have to have good, quality content. Think about it like a songwriter writing a song for radio. They will be working hard to write a good hook, a catchy chorus, and have some type of memorable instrumental riff. That is how you should be crafting content for your website. For your content to stand out among the very populated crowd of information found on the internet, you need to consider the quantifying elements for what determines quality content: content length, readability, uniqueness, and relevance. Readers want meaningful content that will capture their attention and be useful in their lives. Find out what piques the interest of your target audience and create content around those topics. Don’t worry if you can’t identify right now what will create the most engagement with your audience. Most of the time, finding out what they are most interested in reading, only happens through trial and error. A couple of things to keep in mind are the length of content and its relevance. A 1,000 – 1,500 word count is ideal for blog posts. Any more or less than that can feel like a waste of time. As for relevancy, if you have a website for a restaurant, but you have keywords on your site that rank for the local flower shop, Google will not qualify your site as relevant, understandably so.
The security of websites have been a factor in ranking for the past four years, but the weight of this factor became heavier when Google began flagging sites as non-secure. As of 2018, if your site does not have an SSL certificate (i.e https:// versus http://), Google will display your site as being non-secure. This affects traffic coming to your website because often times users are prompted with a secondary screen asking them if they want to continue to the site. In the world of malware and computer viruses, this is a huge red flag. If users dare to venture onto your unsecured website, they already have a skewed sense of your credibility and therefore, may question if they trust your company. There are many benefits to having an an SSL certificate on your website (we will write a post about that later), but how it affects your search engine ranking is definitely high on the list
In the age of smartphones, mobile web traffic accounts for over half of all web traffic worldwide. Chances are, almost everyone you know has a handheld device that they frequently use to browse the web. Essentially, if you are not spending the time and effort required to make your site mobile-friendly, you are losing valuable business for your company. Google feels this way too, and if your website hasn’t been optimized for the mobile web then it won’t get recognized in search.
There is a link between social media activity and a higher search ranking. That is the keyword: link. Social media does not directly affect ranking, but it does influence links which can influence ranking. There is a lot of debate about how social media exactly influences SEO, but take it from Marketing Consultant, Brian Honigman, “Today, links are mainly achieved through developing original content that is in turn, shared across social media. Links to your content on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, YouTube and other social networks help the search engines understand what websites are credible and should be ranked for what keyword phrases.”
When we perform SEO on your website, we evaluate each one of these factors and make sure that your site is meeting Google’s guidelines. Our goal is to help Google help people find you. Contact us if you have any questions about this chart or would like us to help you with your search engine ranking.
Content Marketing, Andy Crestodina