How is my website ranked by Google? This is a common question that we hear a lot and I thought it would be a good idea to address it in this post. We are also going to address some of the ranking factors relating to questions about what Google finds useful, helpful, and important when crawling a site to judge where it should be ranked.
Search engines like Google use an algorithm that determines what is shown on the SERPs and in what order. No-one knows this formula but there are many key SEO metrics provided by Google that help digital marketers figure out how to rank in the search results.
Appropriate Use of Keywords
Keywords give meaning and context to our webpage’s, but that is not where it ends. Keywords need to be used throughout a site on critical areas such as H1 title tags. If we search Google for “digital marketing in Lancaster” we will see results from Tower Marketing, LinkedIn, Yellow Pages, and Foursquare along with many other related results.
You can see different parts of the keyword that have been made bold in the title, bread-crumb, and description by Google to show the correlation of the search term and the results. Using digital marketing as part of the brand name also significantly helps sites perform better, in this case ‘marketing’. Google does not only produce results for ‘exact match’ keywords but rather shows a variation of keywords that are relevant to what the user searches for such as:
- digital marketing agency in Lancaster
- digital marketing consultants in PA
- online marketing experts in PA
We will read later on that Google actually has an algorithm that is able to connect words and phrases to try and help display the best results.
Analyzing User Data and Behavior
Google is trying to understand what the visitor to your website is doing:
- How did they find your site? How long were they on your site?
- Did they look at other pages on your website?
- Did they fill in the contact form, make a comment, or interact in any way?
These all can factor into how well your website performs in the SERPs. User behavior is becoming integral to developing the search algorithms and it is important for businesses and marketers to pay close attention to their analytics. Search engines want websites to be relevant and to fulfill user’s requests as quickly as possible. The search engines want to send users to the websites that most suit their search needs.
Analyzing Your Content – Creating Great Content for the Search User
Your content needs to be intriguing, inspiring, touching, emotional, easy to understand, convincing, etc; otherwise, it will simply be overlooked like much of the content that is overpopulating the web. You may ask, how is great content made? Search engines such as Google have, over the years, refined and are able to analyze if the content meets the search user’s intent. In other words, is your webpage including relevant information that your target audience would be interested in.
Producing Fresh Content
In the SERPs, results will now show you the date it was published, or when it was indexed by Google. People want more recent information and this has a definite impact on click-through-rates (CTR). As a result, search engines are eager to find the most recent (fresh) content available to satisfy search queries.
Search engine algorithms take into account how often users search for the brand, how often the brand is mentioned on different parts of the webs, blogs, news, social media networks. A positive brand helps a website rank better in the SERPs. What your brand is associated with is also something to consider. Your brand should be linked to and connected with relevant keywords that will help drive content.
Internal and External Links
A great website has internal links that point to different pages throughout the website making it easier for search engine spiders to crawl and for humans to navigate. If the links are relevant, people will click to the next page (which is a good signal to Google that the user is interested). External links have the most value because they are major components of Google’s ranking algorithm. If you have relevant links on high-quality, authoritative sites pointing back to your site, Google will look at these as votes of endorsement. Always ask yourself what is the quality of the website I am linking to? Does it have high value? If not, don’t link!
A highly regarded metric that determines the quality of a site is domain authority. If you have a high domain authority your website will gain more awareness and allow your content and pages to gain better rankings in the SERPs. If you examine a website with a high domain authority, you will see that they have high quality, relevant backlinks from many relevant sources. It also has strong engagement and awareness among web users, for example, Mashable, CNN, Fox, and the Wall Street Journal.
Google has developed its algorithm to be able to identify the sentiment behind each sentence. Google rolled out the Hummingbird algorithm that is able to identify whether visitors are speaking positively or negatively about your brand or website. In the past, people who received bad reviews were unfortunately rewarded with higher rankings, because it built backlinks. With the Google algorithm constantly developing, this is happening far less, with brands and websites that are spoken of positively being rewarded with high rankings.
Social Media Signals
Social media channels do contribute to how your web page is ranked by Google. Google+, Facebook, and Twitter have direct and indirect impacts on rankings. These social media signals have been shown to have a strong correlation with performing well in rankings in short-term circumstances.
Location and Geography
With Google putting a major emphasis on local search, the ranking factors that we need to take into account is the geographic location. This gives opportunities for small businesses to appear in the SERPs for queries relating to local areas. This algorithm focuses on personalizing the web for the user, offering a bias while presenting certain results depending on where you are located. If you search for a digital marketing agency in Lancaster, you want to find results pertaining to Lancaster, not New York, Pittsburgh, Dallas, etc. Simply put, people in different locations will see different results even if they type in the same search query.
Query Deserves Diversity (QDD)
This ranking factor known as QDD takes into account the variation of information pertaining to a particular topic. Users may use a search query, but it is Google that ultimately decides on the results, depending on various forms or information that might be considered highly relevant, therefore showing varied information in the SERPs. Results for ‘grocery shopping’ may reveal grocery stores in your area, but it also may include recipes or blogs about shopping at grocery stores.
Loading Speed of a Webpage
How fast your webpage loads is a serious algorithm signal that Google takes into account when grading your site. No one likes a page that loads slowly and Google wants to make sure users have an enjoyable surfing experience.
What to Keep In Mind
No one knows Google’s algorithm because it contains over 200+ ranking factors that are being tweaked approximately 500 times per year. However, these ranking factors mentioned above are definitely what SEO professionals need to take into account to help businesses succeed in digital marketing.