Search engine optimization (SEO) is the way to ensure that your website can be found amongst the crowd of businesses on the Internet. While Google is not the only search engine around, it stands out from the crowd when we talk about search engine optimization and how best to create and maintain websites that appease the fickle beast that is Google.
To be fair, Google does provide a number of free resources to help people follow what it declares to be best practices but the task can be daunting, none the less. So, you’ve heard of SEO, you know you want to rank high in search results, but how does it all work?
Google uses a multivariable algorithm to determine which results will be most helpful for the user making the search. The latest ingredient in this process relies on machine learning, or artificial intelligence (AI), to determine the intent behind a search to help decide which results are most relevant to the searcher. And, because the technology can learn, it takes information regarding how searchers interact with results it provides to tweak the results it generates the next time. This constant adaptation prevents brands from manipulating search results by using what are considered black hat SEO tactics. It is also producing a better user experience.
Google has identified four main types of user search intent and has adapted its algorithms to work with those. The first type of query is when a user wants information, he wants to know something. The second is when the user wants to take action or do something. The third is when a user desires to go to a specific website and asks for it by name or part of a name. The fourth is when the user wants to go to an actual location.
In conjunction with the search intent, Google’s mobile search index focuses on what is referred to as micro-moments or those instances when a user picks up his mobile device because he wants to do one of four things.
1. Know something
2. Go somewhere
3. Do something
4. Buy something
The AI adapts the search algorithm based on historical data and ranking signals to match the most common intent and then produces search results most helpful to that specific combination of circumstances.
Google doesn’t exactly publish a list of the search ranking factors it utilizes but it has been estimated that there are over 200 factors of varying weight used. To the right, we’ve listed 10 ranking factors identified by Blue Corona that they believe are key for success with Google in 2019.
So, what can you do to make sure you are not only following the rules but also offering a website with amazing user experience?
1. Feature high-quality content on all pages of your website. If you can provide helpful and useful information, you’ll encourage visitors to stay longer on your page and to share your content by linking to your site. Use long-tailed key phrases that people might type into a search bar or speak when doing a voice search. Keep your content focused on the topic at hand.
2. High-quality backlinks will help your website when it comes to ranking organically. The job of a link is to tell search engines that people (outside of your brand) think your site is relevant and provides value to the point that it should be advocated to a larger audience. The upside is that backlinks also help increase the volume of traffic to your website.
To learn more, read our article: Link Building Tips
4. While you may have a rationale behind the creation of pages and links you don’t intend for visitors, Google interprets those as an attempt to deceive search engines. The content you present for Google bots to crawl should be the same content you present to visitors to your website. Resist the urge to engage in cloaking, keyword stuffing, and other practices geared solely towards search engine. Instead, focus your efforts on providing top-notch, value-added content that will be well received by consumers and search engines alike.
5. Be wary of agencies that say the use of their services will guarantee higher search result rankings. SEO experts will certainly be able to help you monitor and evaluate search results in order to understand what sort of changes might be made to improve your rankings but they can’t guarantee absolute success. If you choose to work with an SEO consultant, fully understand what they are proposing to do for your website and that they do not employ deceptive tactics that will result in your site being banned from the Google index.
6. Remember that Google bots can’t “read” images or recognize text contained within graphics. Best practice is to not use images to display important content, links, or names. Use alt text, keywords, and other image optimization practices to ensure that search engines will be able to discern what an image is showing visitors to your site.
7. Ensure that your website is mobile-friendly and device responsive. Consumers have come to expect a consistent experience regardless of what type of device they are using to view a website. Visitors will quickly bounce from a site that doesn’t meet their performance expectations.
A mobile-friendly website displays site pages in exactly the same manner on all devices and doesn’t rely on mobile operating systems. There is no difference in the presentation of content from the desktop version to a mobile version. Nothing is hidden and all images are scaled based on the size of the device being used.
A responsive website responds to specific mobile operating systems based on the parameters of the device being used. The navigation is condensed, unnecessary images are hidden, other images are optimized for display on that specific device.
8. Ensure a quick page load speed. Today’s consumers have either blocked the pain of dial-up Internet speeds or were born into a world of 3G or faster content delivery. Keep the overall size of web pages under 5MB and image sizes under 500KB to ensure the quickest load times possible.
For more on speeding up your website, see this easy to read article from Crazy Egg:
9. Avoid having large numbers of isolated web pages. Your new web pages should be linked to older, indexed pages. Include a navigation bar that provides links to all internal pages.
10. Claim your listing on Google My Business (this is a local directory). Making sure your business listing in Google’s database is of utmost importance as it ensures that your location is properly displayed on Google Maps. Also, a number of other listing sites pull information from Google My Business and the more sites that correctly list your information, the more likely it is your website will be included in search results.
For more on this topic, see our article: What You Should Know About Online Directories
Search engine optimization of your website can be a daunting task but we are here to help! The team at Strategy Driven Marketing understands the importance of staying on top of the shifting terrain that is Google and its search result algorithms. We’re ready to spend time with your team to understand where you are and help you chart a course to the next level. Contact us today to learn more about our SEO services.