It is an undeniable fact that we live in a world built around the internet. You and your business are as powerful as your presence online. But, no matter what kind of business you do, there’s a big chance your website won’t be the first one to show up when you type in your line of work in a search engine. There are so many other companies, so many other people who offer the same services or product you offer, there’s so much competition out there. So, how do you carry your name to the first pages of search engines? How is it done? And how can it help your business?
What is SEO?
SEO, or search engine optimization, is the process of optimizing the pages of your website to reach a higher position in search engines by increasing the number of organic, or unpaid, search results. 95% of people don’t even make it past the first page when searching on Google. Investing in this process will increase the traffic your website gets, which will lead to you reaching a wider audience of potential customers for your business.
Big search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo all have their own algorithms that work differently from one another. Google rankings work with an algorithm called RankBrain. The way it works is taking the keywords used in the search and then increase/decrease the importance of the components of your website depending on how related it is to that keyword.
What is RankBrain and How It Works
RankBrain is a smart, constantly updating algorithm that learns from the users’ behavior and adapting and changing to the responses it gets. If the users interact positively with the results given by the AI (RankBrain), then it knows it did something right and keeps those results. However, if there’s no positive interaction, AI learns from that and knows it needs to make some changes so the users can find what they’re looking for easier in the future.
That’s where keywords come into play. For RankBrain, one word can have hundreds of meanings, so when users search for vague terms, it displays all the results that can be related to the term that was searched for. For instance, searching for something like “pancakes” can get you hundreds of results ranging from restaurants that serve pancakes nearby to pancake recipes, or even websites where you can get utensils to make pancakes.
But keywords are only one of the many factors that can affect the search results on Google and decide where your website will show up. Let’s dive into it.
Understanding the Factors
Let’s start by making one thing clear: the number of factors that determine the fate of your website is well over 200. The important thing is to know which ones to take into consideration and which ones affect the results the most. It’s a matter of picking your battles and finding out which factors have a bigger role in website rankings.
Depending on what kind of content there is on your website, the most important factors you need to focus on might change. But here are some of the factors that SEO experts know to play a big part in the ranking system:
Google wants the users to reach the best content they within the first pages of their search results to minimize the time they spend searching for the right website. That’s why high quality content always ranks higher in search results.
“High quality content” can be anything from a portfolio, a gallery, a blog post, especially videos; basically, anything that encourages to spend more time on the page by reading/viewing its content. The more time users spend on your website and pages the more important you are to Google, as it makes RankBrain algorithm think “people really like this page, I should carry it up on my ranking”. Lengthy and informative blog posts, a full, charming portfolio, or an entertaining video can help you more than anything else on this list!
It’s important that people have a good, easy time on your website. Although users come to your website for its content, their experience is what makes them stay or keep coming back. Just like any other business, you need to make sure they’re getting what they’re looking for.
One thing users respond positively to is an inviting homepage that is free of clutter and clear to understand and navigate. It is important to keep the layout user-friendly and clean. A survey shows that 38% percent of visitors will give up on a website and move onto the other one if the layout is unattractive. Low quality images, typos, grammatical mistakes and broken links are all negative points for your website in the ranking system.
Security and Accessibility
Google cares about their users’ online safety and security more than anything else. Therefore, if they find a website with content they consider to be “unsafe”, you can be sure that website will not be within the first two pages of search results. In 2017, Google announced that their browser, Google Chrome, will start flagging websites as “not secure” if they didn’t use HTTPS. That’s a significant change as 45% of us use Google Chrome as our main internet browser.
Another important thing to consider is the accessibility of your website. When I say “accesibility”, what I mean is how easy your website is to find, navigate, and understand for Googlebots called “spiders”. These bots visit your website, “crawl” through it, and collect information that later factors in the ranking system. A sitemap that shows the way to all your pages and a well-coded website builder can help these spiders find their way and collect data easily.
When Google matches users to search results, they do so by looking at the words and phrases searched by the user. Using the right keywords and phrases in your content may be the easiest way to reach your target audience online, therefore, it is important that your content reflects who you are and what you do.
The intent behind your primary and secondary keywords and the intent behind the keywords searched by the users should be identical (or close enough). That way they can all be served from the same source, aka your website.
However, keep in mind that Google dislikes content that is created solely for the purpose of pumping it full of keywords and keyphrases to increase clicks and visits. Your content should remain high-quality and easy-to-read with strategically placed keywords here and there.
Making sure people can use your website on their smartphones should be the number one priority when optimizing, especially in today’s world. People use their mobile devices like tablets and phones more than they use their desktop devices.
Ideally, your website should be able to respond the same on a mobile device as it does on a desktop one. According to OptinMonster, a few key points to keep in mind are:
- Accessible menus and buttons that are easy to engage
- Layout and UI should that resize automatically to fit the size of the screens
- Ads placed in a way that will not block access to the site features
- Font sizes for readability
Domain Age, URL, and Description
On average, websites that are 2+ years old rank higher on Google search results. That’s due to the amount of content and optimization done on the website over the years. A one-year-old website with ten content-related blog posts is more likely to rank higher than a new website with only one blog post.
Having the keywords related to your content in your main URL and the meta-description of your website can also bring traffic to you. Meta-descriptions are the short descriptions Google users see under each link listed in the search results; they should be short yet explanatory. You should, however, keep in mind that Google won’t direct traffic to your website just because the keywords users search for are in your main URL or meta-description; a website with low-quality content or a bad layout will not remain on the first page of search results.
Rich Snippets/Schema Markups
Rich snippets are basically previews for your website that show up under Google search results; they can be reviews, ratings, or small images that give users an idea of what you’re offering before they click on the link. They can make your website look more professional and appear rich and full of content, seeming more attractive to potential visitors.
Schema markups are codes that are placed on websites search engines use to return more informative results to the users. They don’t just tell users what your website says in texts, but also tells them what that website is about. Schema markups can lead users to your blog posts, videos, articles, etc. by understanding what they’re about and telling the user “hey, you might like this”.
SEO is Crucial
SEO is not something to shrug off, especially if you own an up-and-coming website and have no idea what you’re doing wrong because it won’t show up when you Google it. Hiring a professional SEO services company can significantly increase the traffic to your website, ultimately positively affecting your business volume.