So, if the million dollar question is “What does Google want from your website?”, the answer is: “It’s complicated.” Here, allow me to point out that the rest of this post has to be treated as carefully considered conjecture. Because Google’s algorithm is under wraps and updated regularly without public knowledge, it’s not possible for anyone to know with certainty how a site should be built to please Google. The information below, however, is based on a variety of media excerpts and expert opinions, and therefore there are some things we can say with a relative degree of certainty. (Although, it is possible that as I write this someone at Google may be changing it!) If not Google, then insert any other search engine, but for the UK and US markets Google is the main game in town, by a country mile!
From practical experience, it is clear that Google, despite certain assurances to the contrary, still appears to consider very highly whether a URL (Uniform Resource Locator – the unique address for a file that is accessible on the Internet) contains the actual search term. So the first thing that you need to consider, is the URL itself. The most obvious way to leverage this fact is to name your company with a keyword, buy the URL containing that keyword, and then you’ll earn yourself a significant advantage. If that’s not possible, which is most usually the case, there are a number of other structural elements that can certainly make a difference to your site’s performance. This so-called; “on page technology” is what you, as the site owner, has the most control over, so it’s best to start here.
If you wish to stand the best chance of ranking highly for “customer personalisation” as a keyword, then your URL for the page containing information regarding that would be: companyname.com/customer-personalisation. However, your structural work is far from over; you still need to address the meta tags, the headers and the images on your webpages, and then, of course, the content on the page itself. These are the key areas that search engines look at when assessing which results pages to display it on and how far up the rankings to display it.
First, make sure both the the meta title, (which is the ‘headline’ on a search engine results page) is under 55 characters in length and contains your keywords. Next, make sure the meta description, which is the text that comes below the URL on the results page, is under 160 characters in length and contains those keywords as well. The meta keywords –the section of HTML code on the page which works as a tag– there is some controversy over these tags, and they are easily viewed by your competition, so the best advice available is either not to use them or to keep them short, sweet and relevant. So between four and seven ‘meta keywords’ max. In addition to that, the H1 header and H2 header, which both appear on the actual page on your site, should also contain keywords with H1 matching the key target for that page.
Another element of on-page technology that you need to pay attention to is how long your site takes to load. If your site is super complicated, with bells and whistles that don’t appear quickly once they’re clicked on: Google won’t like that. Remember: Google’s robots go around and scrutinise everything on the web on a regular basis and then reassesses the algorithm based on their findings. Depending on the speed of delivery for your content, you may or may not be favored highly by Google. If your website loads quickly, Google will be thankful for that and reward you accordingly. Your site needs to be structured in such a way that it’s easy to navigate and initialises within moments no matter what the platform or device.
Next, you need to make sure your content is valuable and relevant to your reader. Content and especially its quality, is becoming increasingly important for SEO, though this has not always been a prevalent aspect. In the past, keywords dominated the SEO market, and whilst they will continue to be the basis for search, you need to put some effort into the other words you’re actually publishing on each page. The guidelines now require at least 300 words of text on a page with a keyword density of 2-3 percent. You can’t overload or stuff your content with keywords, as Google will catch on. Remember: Google’s goal is to provide quality content to its users. If your content is just unintelligible sentences interrupted constantly by keywords, that are trying to exploit and beat the system, expect to lose and risk being penalised.
That brings us on to backlinks, backlinks, or having sites linking back to your site, are incredibly important because they prove your credibility and help establish you in the wider community. The metric that conveys a website’s SEO value is known as “domain authority.” Domain authority is somewhat hard to build as it relies on a significant number of links to your site being built on a variety of other sites. Larger websites tend to have a competitive advantage, as they acquire links more easily and have more opportunities to be linked to. However, by creating and advertising great content, you please others and encourage them to start linking and referring to you as a credible source.
Though it’s unclear how important it is, having lots of social media mentions shows a visible correlation with high search rankings. Think of this as peer pressure; if the social media world likes you, Google wants to like you too. Google notwithstanding, using social media is a great way to advertise and increase traffic to your website which will eventually bring about more links and improve your site metrics. So investing in social media isn’t a waste, we just don’t know how much Google cares about it.
Interaction also needs to be considered, Google does take into account how users interact with your site. They might evaluate your click through rate, or how often your site gets clicked on when a user is presented with it on a list of search results. Another potential factor is your bounce rate, or how many people come to your pages and immediately leave. A low bounce rate, if a visitor stays for a while and navigates to other pages, is generally seen as a good sign.The amount of time a user spends on your site also matters. Studies have shown correlation between user behaviour and Google’s rankings, however causation has not (yet!) been proven.
Lastly, Google favours large conglomerates and niche brands even if they do not optimise their sites to the best of their abilities. Furthermore, because they are considered to be experts in their field, they are likely to rank higher. There is not much you can do about this, it’s just worth understanding in your picture of how the Web is run and searched.
Good luck in your SEO, it is a complicated job so start by getting these basics right and you will build a good, honest foundation for your business.
Tip #32: Realise that it’s impossible to know for sure, forever, exactly how the Google algorithm will operate, but following these best practice guidelines will surely help your website to improve.
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