How Does Google Decide Who Shows Up First?
Search Engines keep their cards close to their chest in terms of the inner workings of their algorithms, but there are a number of factors everybody agrees help your website rank higher for relevant searches.
1. A Secure & Accesible Website
Google needs to be able to access your site to evaluate it, list it, and decide where in the search rankings it needs to go. It needs to be able to check out your site and see what it’s all about.
To help Googles crawling bots out, you’re going to need:
- A robots.txt file that tells Google where on your site should be listed, and where shouldn’t be.
- An XML sitemap, which lists all your pages and how they are connected to each other. If you’re running a WordPress site, this can be trivial.
- HTTPS security with an SSL cert.
These all together let Google know that your website is the real deal.
2. A Snappy, Quickly Loading Website (Especially on Mobile!)
The speed of your webpages load time has been a key SEO factor for years. After all, if Googles function is to satisfy the searchers intent, why would it send them to a slow loading website?
Google have stated publicly that page speed is a big factor for search ranking, and in 2018 released an update that took mobile speed into account separately.
If your website doesn’t load fast on a mobile device like a smartphone or a tablet, your ranking will be penalised.
We create lightweight, speed optimised websites so your users can get straight to the information they need.
3. Mobile Friendliness
A mobile friendly website is one that displays and functions correctly on mobile devices like your smartphone. Mobile friendly websites are created with responsive web design methods, where the website ‘responds’ to the device it is on, and arranges itself accordingly.
Over half of online traffic is now on mobile devices, and Google have responded to this trend by penalising websites that don’t work on mobile devices. Google first began penalising non-mobile websites in 2015, and the weight of this factor is only increasing over time.
Mobile friendliness is now a key factor in your websites search ranking.
We create modern, mobile-friendly websites to ensure you don’t get penalised on this factor.
4. Domain Age, URL, and Authority
60% of websites in top 10 results are at least 3 years old. That’s not a dominating factor, but it is definitely a factor worth noting. Like we said, SEO can take time, but additionally time is also a ranking factor! If your peers have older websites, it can take a little longer to rank above them. However, good optimisation, content, and links are all other factors that search engines consider and weigh against the age of a site.
In other cases, the domain name matters. If you sell soup, soup.com is a great domain to have. It’s a good positive signal to Google but not the end of the world if you can’t get one.
Overall, content is king, and links are not far behind.
What is more important than both the above factors is authority. Authority is usually a combination of great content, and off-page signals like other sites linking to your own, and people sharing your links on social media.
5. Optimised Content
We could write for ever about how to optimise content. It’s an ongoing process of tweaking, editing, and experimenting, but with a simple premise:
Your site needs keywords.
Google relies heavily on keywords. Keywords are the words and phrases people type into the search box when they are looking for things. As a general principal, if somebody is looking to buy some coffee online, the word “coffee” should probably be on your website a couple of times.
Google is smart, however, and you can’t trick it by just dumping hundreds of keywords on a page. They need to occur naturally in your text, match the intent of the searcher in the context of the paragraphs they are in, and they need to have purpose in being there.
So no, we can’t just paste “plumber” 5000 times and hit rank #1 anymore. But we can use a series of techniques to let Google know you are the best damn plumber in the area.
6. Technical SEO
Your websites code quality, your meta tags and your image descriptions, and all the other things the user may not necessarily see, but search bots do. Technical SEO involves some pretty technical stuff (big surprise!) like populating your meta tags, making sure your H1s and H3s are in the right order, and making sure your images have the appropriate ALT tags.
We perform technical SEO audits of your competitor websites to see where we can give you the edge over them in this area.
Your code needs to be right.
7. User Experience
Google uses an AI called Rankbrain to measure a whole range of facets of how your users experience your website.
It checks click through rates: When you DO show up in search results, does anyone end up clicking on your result? It checks bounce rates. Do people stay on your website once they land? Or do they pack up and go?
We optimise the experience of your site to make sure people stick around.
If people land on your site and stick around, this tells Google they’ve found what they were looking for, and that you should be showing up more often.
8. Links (Links, Links, Links)
The web is built on links. Links to, from, and in your site are a crucial SEO ranking signal. There are three key link types to consider.
Inbound Links: Links other sites send to your site.
Outbound Links: Links you send to other sites.
Internal Links: Links between different pages on your site.
Google uses these links to evaluate your sites relationship to the wider web, checking to see if your site is having conversations with relevant, important, and authoritative sites across the internet. The best case scenarios are when high authority sites like a national newspaper or industry bodies link to your website. It implies to Google that your company is worth talking about, and worth showcasing to people.
We undergo link-building campaigns where we create linkable content for other websites to share.
9. Social Signals
When people are sharing your websites content on their social media profiles, that’s another strong signal that it’s useful. The highest ranking pages on Google usually have a lot of shares. Google have stated that social shares are not an official ranking factor. However many 3rd party studies have shown strong relations between search ranking and social share count. It makes sense too, if plenty of people are talking about you online, shouldn’t you be showing up more often? More people coming across your site, your content, and sharing it with interested people also leads to high-quality traffic where people are likely to spend a long time consuming your content.
10. Legitimate Business Information
Finally, your site needs to make it easy for people to get in touch with you. Google checks if you have phone numbers or email addresses present on your site, and scans directories across the web to make sure it’s consistent.
One of the first steps we take in any SEO campaign is making sure your name, phone number, email, and address listings are consistent across the web.