For small businesses, a top Google ranking is a major factor in getting found by prospective clients, and a driver of potential revenue. So I thought for today's article we would explore some of the practical things you can do to optimise your website and boost your search ranking results.
According to the morbid industry saying, the best place to hide a dead body is on page 2 of Google search results. It paints a bleak picture of just how dire it is for a small business to be languishing in the lower rungs of Google.
And the statistics back up this harsh truth. A whopping 12 billion searches are conducted on Google each month, accounting for 84% of all search engine traffic. The first 10 Google results account for 94% of all clicks and most tellingly, 90% of people will not go beyond the first page of a Google search result.
Little wonder that small businesses see a top Google ranking as the holy grail in today's digital market.
While there is no way to guarantee the top spot on Google, there are practical tips and tricks you can employ to optimise your website and ensure it climbs the Google rankings and cements a place on the front page.
How do Google rankings work?
Meet Sally. She’s planning her wedding and is busy Googling everything from local florists to photographers. Every time she enters her search terms and hits ‘enter’, what happens in that secretive vortex we call cyberspace to return the Google search results? Let’s find out.
Crawling is the process by which a program called Googlebot discovers new and updated pages to be added to the Google index. Googlebot uses complicated algorithms to determine which sites to crawl, how often, and how many pages to fetch from each site.
Google's crawl process begins with a list of web page URLs, generated from previous crawl processes, coupled with sitemap data you provide directly to Google.
Googlebot compiles a massive index of all the words it sees and their location on each page. As part of crawling, it also processes your site’s metadata, such as title tags and the image alt text.
Google will then search the index for pages that match Sally’s search query and return the results it believes are most relevant to her search. Over 200 factors contribute to Google's relevancy determination.
Get familiar with the technical
aspects of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
Knowing the technical side of SEO is like knowing what ingredients to use when baking a cake. Keywords, on-page SEO, securing high quality links from other sites and making sure your website is optimised for speed are all essential parts of SEO — and a high Google ranking.
For the purpose of this article we’ll assume you understand your buyer and have identified the keywords you want your website to rank for in the Google search results. On-page SEO is optimising certain elements of a page with the right keywords, these are:
- page titles
- headings and sub-headings
- image alt text
- page content
These elements are what Google will look for to understand what the page is about and its relevance to a users search query.
Publish great content, regularly. Then
Google loves nothing more than fresh, quality content produced frequently, it’s a signal that your website is legit.
Content doesn’t belong solely to the realm of words. While blogs are the most common way to produce fresh content frequently, videos, photos and audio are also valuable. Any content that can be indexed by Google will contribute to your ranking.
It’s time to start thinking of yourself as a publisher and your website as your platform. Invest in your blog, build an event calendar, integrate your social media platforms and get creative with video and audio content.
Optimise your website performance and responsiveness
The latest Google algorithms favour websites that load quickly and which have responsive design – that is, websites which automatically adapt to smartphone and tablet screens.
If your website load times are sluggish, check your image sizes to make sure they aren't too large for the web. Google's own PageSpeed Insights tool is also a great starting point for finding out areas you can improve upon.
Similarly, if your website still makes smartphone users pinch and zoom and the navigation is clunky, you’re falling behind. It’s time to update your website to a model that will automatically adapt to tablet and smartphone screens.
Submit your sitemap
This is an important yet often overlooked step in the process: submit your sitemap to Google.
Sitemaps are an easy way for you to let Google know which pages on your website are available for crawling. Google uses an XML file that lists your site’s URLs and metadata so that Google can more intelligently crawl your site. Learn more about Sitemaps and why they are essential to improving your Google ranking.
You can’t beat Google
The temptation can be to build artificial or paid links and jam your content full of keywords to zoom up the search result rankings. If the thought has crossed your mind, I have three words for you: don’t do it.
Google’s algorithms are updated anywhere between 500-600 times per year, and are designed to keep web publishers honest and accountable. It also dishes out harsh penalties to websites found to be manipulating the results or creating content designed to deceive. Some websites have even been blacklisted by Google due to their tactics, and removed from Google search results altogether, making them almost impossible to find.
There are many SEO companies out there who promise to get your website at the top of Google results. Such claims, while well intentioned, can be misleading. The honest truth is it takes time to achieve a top search ranking.