When you run a website, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) practices are the only way to ensure that your site ranks high enough to be found. You may know the basics of SEO, but that isn’t enough to get your web pages ranking on the first page of Google. Every good marketing strategy should include SEO marketing.
To ensure that your site is ranking as high as possible, continue reading for a detailed explanation of Google’s web ranking factors and how site owners actually get their content to rank higher.
What is search engine ranking?
Your overall site or a single webpage’s rank refers to where it shows up in the search results for specific keywords.
To rank high, you have to use SEO best practices to show Google (or other search engines) that your website is worth ranking.
Google and other search engines do something known as indexing a site (reading it and categorizing it) to reach a conclusion about what the site or page is about.
Based on how helpful Google believes your site to be in reference to the keywords searched, it will determine how close to the top of the search engines results your site should rank.
Why is ranking important?
Web page and website ranking is important because it’s an organic and natural way to send traffic to your website over and over again until the user becomes a customer. The better your SEO is, the higher you’ll rank, and the more traffic your site will get.
After all, a higher web ranking means more traffic which means more paying customers.
While there are many different search engines, such as Google, Yahoo, and Bing, Google is the most frequently used with approximately 70% of the market share on desktops. Because of this, your main focus should always be on optimizing for Google, but you shouldn’t completely ignore other search engines either.
When it comes to Google, being on the first page for the keywords you want to rank for is very important. Being anywhere past page one is nearly useless (but more on that later). The fact is, no one clicks past the first page unless they are looking for something super specific.
How do I get my website or web page to rank higher?
To get your website or web page to actually rank, you need to pay attention to a dozen or so key ranking factors.
Every element on your site should be carefully thought out.
Google considers things like
- site needs to be indexable
- site needs to be secure
- page loading speed
- built with mobile in mind
- domain’s age and authority
- content that is optimized for google
- google’s RankBrain
- social signals
- site matches up with local search data
You may already know some of this information, and that’s great. We want to help you build on your knowledge so you can get your website and webpages to rank higher.
Web Ranking Factors for Google Search Results
Site Needs to be Indexable
In order for Google to know your website exists in the first place, it must be indexable. If Google isn’t able to scan your website, it won’t be able to rank it and your SEO efforts will be useless.
In order for your website to be indexable, it has to have been created with a well-coded website builder, it needs to have a robots.txt file that tells Google where it can and can’t find information for your site, and it must have a sitemap.
A sitemap is a file that shows Google what pages and files make up your entire website. Yoast’s plug-in has a great sitemap generator.
This is why you should always work with an experienced website designer to build your website.
Your Site Needs to be Secure
In order for your site to be considered secure by Google, it needs an SSL certificate.
An SSL certificate moves your website from HTTP to HTTPS. The S at the end of HTTPS stands for secure.
An SSL certificate is an encryption method that makes the connection between the users’ browser and your server secure. It keeps your viewers’ personal information safe from hackers, stopping any potential breaches in data. This is especially in sites that transmit personal data.
Google’s John Mueller once said that HTTPS is a ranking signal but it is only a “very lightweight signal” and there aren’t any plans to change that in the future. However, when Google reveals anything about their coveted algorithm, it’s worth noting.
Page Load Speed
Your website and webpages should all load quickly on both mobile and desktop. Slow websites that don’t react quickly will be ignored by potential customers, losing you traffic and potential income. There are many options out there for services, so it’s very easy for potential customers to click over to a different, faster site.
Built with Mobile In Mind
As more people tend to use mobile over desktop, having a mobile friendly website is crucial. Use Google’s mobile testing tool to check how your website compares to the competition in terms of how mobile friendly it is.
You should have a responsive site that automatically resizes to fit whatever device it’s on. Many website builders have built-in programming that do this for you, but you should always test your own mobile site as you build, to make sure everything is working correctly.
To make mobile viewing easier, you should opt for larger fonts so readability is easier on smaller screens. No one wants to hold their phone up to their face to read tiny print.
Your mobile site should be just as easy, if not easier, to navigate than your desktop site. A collapsable menu is a good way to ensure easy navigation. Make sure that the menu is easy to find and easy to use.
If your website has ads on it, make sure that the ads don’t cover any essential content on your mobile site.
Domain’s Age and Authority
The age of your site also matters. In a study done by Ahrefs, they found that 60% of sites in the top ten Google search ranking are three years old or older. They also found that sites that are less than a year old infrequently achieve that ranking.
Domain rating (DR) is calculated based on the amount of backlinks a site has. The more unique websites that link to your domain, the higher your domain rating will be. Domain rating is a service offered by specific SEO tools like Ahrefs, that help users understand how high their domain ranks. However, while this can help users understand their score, Google’s John Mueller has stated that Google does not have a website authority score that they use to determine legitimacy and authority.
Content That Is Optimized for Google
Google is the most popular search engine, so content should be first optimized for Google to ensure the highest chance at ranking there. Google prefers content that is well-researched and backed up with external links that trace to other trustworthy sites.
Google’s search algorithm heavily relies on keywords. Keywords are the words that users use when searching for content. These keywords are then used by you to point those users in the direction of your website. Therefore, it’s important to focus on certain keywords that you want your web pages to rank highly for, instead of focusing on too many keywords and not ranking for anything.
Header tags improve both the usability/readability and SEO for your website. Search engines take keywords from header tags, content, and titles. Header tags help to prove to Google that your content is thorough and consistent, as well as easy to read.
Internal and external links are crucial. Internal links help to keep users on your website while letting them easily navigate around looking for the content that they need—without having to use the menu. External links provide your website with authority and trustworthiness. When using external links, make sure that you’re linking to trustworthy sites.
Google suggests that content that is over 2000 words gets into the top ten more often than content of less than 2000 words. While you should never write just to achieve a word count, you should write more if the subject lends well to it.
[Read About How Content Decay Impacts Your Website’s Ranking]
Google’s RankBrain uses three signals to help analyze your site to better determine where it ranks. First is click-through rate. This is the percentage of people who click-through and visit your site after it appears in search results.
Bounce rate is the number of people who click on your page and quickly exit out and return to the search results. Dwell time is how long users stay on your website after they’ve arrived.
Backlinks, also referred to as inbound links, determine how authoritative and relevant your content is. When a website uses your domain as an external link, it’s called a backlink or inbound link.
Inbound links are important, as they help Google determine your website’s authority. However, they can be hard to achieve and control as you have to rely on other people to link to your content.
Backlinks can be achieved naturally, via another site finding you organically and choosing to use you as a resource for their own article, or through citations. If a website cites you as a source in the footnote of their article, this is also considered a backlink.
Backlinks can also be achieved through paid sources. Be careful, as some paid offers are scams and may make your backlinks seem scammy, which won’t help you rank in the long run.
Engagement on social media sites, such as FaceBook, Instagram, Twitter, and more can help Google determine how likable your content is. The more people engaging, the more it appears as important to Google.
Site Matches Up With Local Search Data
If your website is trying to rank high in a specific area, for example if you’re a store or a restaurant, making sure that your site matches up with local search data is important. This is less important if your store doesn’t have a physical location attached to it.
You NAP (name, address, and phone number) should be consistent everywhere on the internet where your business is present. If you aren’t using GoogleMyBusiness, you should. It’s a free tool that allows you to enter information about your business, allowing people to more easily find it locally on Google.
Encourage people to leave reviews on Google My Business, FaceBook, and Yelp. These reviews matter a lot and can help a potential customer make the decision of whether or not to purchase your services.
More Technical Stuff
Make sure to optimize page titles by adding keyword phrases to them. Google will look at your titles first to determine if the content is relevant to the search query.
Use headers to create a hierarchy within your content. Start with h1, then use h2, and h3 to further break up information.
Create a meta description that includes your keyword and is enticing to potential readers. Keep your meta description short and catchy to reel in readers. Meta description isn’t a direct ranking factor, but it will help with click-through on web pages.
Don’t forget to use image alt tags to show how your images are relevant to the main content. Alt tags are also helpful to those who are visually impaired and are using a screenreader to access your site.
Use schema markup to add more information to your content, such as the specific author, kind of content (such as a blog post, review, or article) and more. Using a schema markup can help tell Google what kind of content you’re producing, therefore helping them better index and provide your site with a rank.
Need Help with SEO and Web Ranking?
If you need help with SEO for your website, Site Social SEO is here for you. We can take care of SEO for you while you work on what’s the most important to you—producing your product and working with customers. Whether you’re a law firm, medical office, or bakery, we can put our skills and expertise to use. For more information, please contact us online or at 407-712-0494.