Becoming an authority on Google is no easy task. Google changes its search algorithm frequently, and no one truly understands the secrets behind it all (except, I suppose, the developers of Google’s algorithm). Becoming an authority on Google means that Google’s web crawlers have determined your website to be of value to consumers and that your website answers essential questions asked into Google. If, as a website design digital marketing company, our website only talks about ice cream, we are not going to rank in our category of searches, or possibly even at all. Your website needs to be relevant to be authoritative.
However, even if you have relevant content, that’s not all that matters. Your content needs to hit your keyword targets. We farm keyword targets for clients to use in their content, website, and advertising, and it needs to be applied correctly. Your content must be updated frequently, too. If you have a website with a few blog posts from June 2013, it doesn’t matter how relevant the content is, Google isn’t going to rank you. If you were post daily in December 2016, but haven't made a post since, Google isn’t going to rank you. Your content needs to be relevant, keyword-focused, consistent, and constant.
This is the challenge we have with most of our clients, and I’m sure you’ll relate - you’re too busy to write content! I feel the same way. Taking the time to write blog posts and content that hit keyword targets to help you rank on Google is challenging. How do you keep it fresh? How do you even get the motivation to write? Not to mention, part of our company’s job is to write content for others - how can we justify resources towards writing content for our agency when we have work to do?
Below are a list of keywords to help you nagivate the langauge used when discussing SEO.
- SEO: search engine optimization, or optimizing your website to appear higher in organic/unpaid Google ranks.
- Organic: is earned attention or unpaid growth. If you have a free share, it's organic. If you paid to bring in customers, it's paid.
- Authority: ranking on Google in organic/unpaid searches. This is obtained over time, through producing and maintaining great content, having a modern website, and being a high traffic website.
- Web Crawlers: Google’s AI goes through your website to constantly “crawl” it, gaining new information, and determining your placement in the rankings from this information. Think of them like secret computer spiders, crawling all over your website’s content.
- Content: Any media on your website, be it text, photo, video, song, etc. The best content for your website is often mixed media, but written content is often the easiest for hitting keyword searches.
- Keyword Stuffing: the practice of hiding keywords in invisible text or photos. Maybe your website viewers can’t see it but Google sure can (and, also, any developer can and therefore should know never to do this). Google will penalize you.
- Responsive design: reacts or responds to the changing screen size. If you have a responsive website, it will change for iPad, Samsung Galaxy, iPhone 6, and and any screen size your developer has prompted the website to adjust for!
- Click-bait title: a title on an article that is usually designed to attract clicks to the link, but has little relevancy to the topic of the article.
- Bounce rate: the percent of traffic that immediately exits your website.
Your take-away from this should be that: Mastering Google and SEO is difficult. Especially so since writing content to become an authority on Google is an incredibly slow process. You are not going to rank over-night, even if you spew out 100 pages of new content. There are so many pieces that need to come together in order to properly rank, and perfect content isn’t the only factor contributing to success (but it’s a big chunk!). Below a few things you need to master SEO and catch Google web crawlers’ attention.
As it should be obvious, you cannot copy and paste content from other high-ranking sources. Google knows who published first. You need original content. It is obviously challenging to think of new content, but always start with what you know or find what is trending in relation to your business. If you enjoy the topic, it will show in your writing.
Answer a Question
What are people asking that’s relevant to your work? For example, many business owners want to try to manage their online presence themselves to save money. We tell them how to do it and which tools we recommend and even ones we use ourselves. This answers the questions our potential clients are asking of Google, and tells Google we are useful to our client base.
Is your website content entirely focused around pushing people through the sales funnel? Or are you trying to help your clients? If you are all about pushing sales, think again. The 2017 “Fred” update on Google is believed to push your website down the ranks on Google if you do not have quality, useful, user-centered content. Not everything is about making a sale and often the first step in obtaining a client is to get them on your website and revisting.
If you don’t know your keywords, it’s time to open a Google AdWords account and find out. Other websites such as SEM Rush will give you an insight, as well. If you are writing content that in no way touches on keywords relevant to your business and website, you are not writing content that will help boost your Google ranking. Do not do keyword stuffing, it is important that your keywords are properly applied to your content, not just shoved anywhere on your website or the page. Remember, Google is smart and will know when keyword matches are similar, so don’t feel the need to place the same keyword into every paragraph.
Remain constant in your posting. Having fresh content appear regularly encourages Google’s web crawlers to continually look through your website for new information. This applies to all areas of your online presence - updated, fresh material is a must. Think how many Instagram followers you lose when you don’t post for a few weeks. Google’s web crawlers need new information to determine if you're worth ranking.
You can post all you want, but if you make 20 blog posts in one day, then don’t post for the rest of the month, Google is, eventually, going to ignore you. You need to post consistently. If that’s daily, weekly, or monthly, make sure it’s something you (and your website developers) can maintain.
The number of pages you have determines your place on Google, too. Ever wonder why the big name companies rank top? They’ve got 500-1000+ pages and that’s what Google likes to see. As you start to do the math, you begin to realize how difficult this task is. If you posted daily for a year, you wouldn’t hit that target. Further, not every page you create gets indexed by Google, which helps prevent spam and useless pages on websites. Your pages need to be useful to searchers and cannot exist for the sake of a page number. This is why SEO is such a slow process.
Linking out to relevant content and websites is a great way to boost your SEO. For example, we have a blog where we share our favourite free stock imagery websites, and we link out to each one. However, if we had a blog about ice cream and linked out to ice cream shops, that would have nothing to do with us and our category. Further, other websites can link to you and Brian Dean of Backlinko has some excellent techniques for getting others to promote your content. Remember that it matters if relevant sites link to you and vice versa. Further, do not link every, signle word. Link what is relevant, not every term. You’re not a dictionary and your blog would look a little ridiculous.
This is one of the best ways to rank on Google, but also one of the most difficult to accomplish and maintain on a regular basis. You need to convince other companies to write about you, post a link to your content, or let you post on their websites. If they post about you and forget to link you, well, that’s a waste of time. For our previous business, which we sold, we shared it on Subscription Box listing websites and eco websites, and that helped us rank and gain traffic and subscribers. Finding relevant websites willing to embed your information and website link on it is very difficult, and something we help clients with when handling off-page SEO. Once websites do link you, it’s important that you link them back. This is the process of back-linking. Again, relevancy of these links matters.
If your website loads slowly, not only does it impact customer experience, it effects Google’s ranking of you. Image size, auto-play videos, and amount of images have an impact on loading time. If you have a blog or another portion of your website running off a subdomain (blog.yourwebsite.com versus yourwebsite.com/blog), that will impact the speed of that section, too. The reason this has a high impact is often because it leads to a high bounce rate. When was the last time you've clicked back on a website because it took a few seconds to load? When there is a high bounce rate, Google assumes the content isn't relevant to the searcher. You can check your website's load speed here through Google Developer tools.
If your blog, where we can assume the majority of your content is, is run off a subdomain, it has a negative impact on the SEO of your overall website. While blog.yourwebsite.com may rank, yourwebsite.com will not. Subdomains are read by Google to be a separate website. Avoid using these if at all possible.
A website that is older and does not have responsive design or a mobile version will rank lower on Google, which makes sense. With 50-60% of worldwide searches on Google being conducted through mobile devices, how can Google justify ranking your non-mobile-friendly website? Make sure you let your website designer know that you want a mobile and responsive website, as it can be difficult to change this after the build has been completed. Google’s 2016 and 2017 updates have been very mobile-focused. If your website has pop-ups that can’t be closed on mobile or a website that doesn’t fit the mobile screen, it will be penalized.
It’s a bit obvious, but you do need to garner traffic to attract Google. You can write all you want, but if your information isn’t what people are seeking, then it’s not relevant to searches. A good way to get traffic is to promote your original content through social media, such as on Facebook or LinkedIn. Beware of using click-bait titles, as while this may garner you traffic, if people are annoyed that your title does not align with your content, they will negatively rate your ads and likely bounce from your website.
While having visitors is key, the amount of time visitors spend on your website, and how many pages they go through also matters. Ever wonder why annoying websites like Forbes make you scroll through a list of 20 items, each loading onto a separate page? This is why! Your website needs to find a way to engage people, and hopefully push them through the sales process, or at least get them interested in what your company has to say.
An SSL certified website assists in your Google ranking and it's easy to purchase this through your hosting provider. All browsers are working together to encourage all websites to be SSL certified. If you process payments, you absolutely need SSL security encryption (unless you want to end up sued!). Many hosting providers offer a paid option, but Firefox offers a free way to do it through their program Let's Encrypt. If you know how to program and want to invest some time, this is a great way to get a secure website. A secure web is the best web.
Ranking in maps, “nearby,” or mobile-based searches is a great way to rank a bit quicker than through organic search. You don’t need to be an authority to be ranked in local, but it never hurts to succeed in both. We go more in-depth into Local SEO rankings on our blog.
Beware of Spam Linking
There are some “companies” that promise instant rankings on Google for very low prices. These companies often spam your website out into the wilderness of the Internet. Spam links, as of Google’s 2012 Penguin update, result in lowering your ranking and are hugely detrimental, since once you’ve paid this company to link you it is unlikely you will be able to get them to delete all the links they have placed. Have the agency you are working with explain their plan for your SEO and do not invest in anything on Fiverr that claims it can boost your Google ranking ASAP.
At the end of the day: user experience seems to be king with all the latest updates, across all devices. If your website is not focused on providing users an excellent experience, you will find it difficult to rank. While this covers the basics of some on-page and off-page SEO techniques, it’s not all-encompassing. We delve further into on-page SEO in this blog here. Frankly, all this information could be useless tomorrow in a major algorithm change - we’ll have to see what Google’s web crawlers have to say about it!