Want your website to rank higher in the search engines? Ignore the tricks and focus on what really matters to Google.
Ok. Here’s the secret to ranking high in Google.
Are you ready?
The secret is… give people stuff that they want.
Pretty anti-climatic, huh?
But there it is. It’s not about loading up on keywords or back links or having someone submit your site to hundreds of search engines and mysterious search indexes.
Sorry to disappoint.
What about SEO techniques?
I’m not saying there aren’t any. There are absolutely ways to make your websites and pages “SEO-friendly” to help Google better understand them, and I’ll get into some of those below.
But… here’s the thing. None of that matters unless you actually have good content for Google to learn about.
I know! Where did all those tactics come from? What happens if I pay someone $5 to give me one thousand back links? Won’t that at least give me a little bump?
No. It won’t.
What will happen is… you’ll anger the Google, and your search ranking will drop.
What Google really wants
Here’s the thing. Google’s job is to do one thing and do it well: give the people what they want.
To do this, they’ve got a whole bunch of logic that returns you the right web pages, ranked in their order of usefulness, for whatever it is that you type into their search box.
It’s really smart. Even typing the same words in a different order can be interpreted as having different meanings and, thus, return different results. Try it out.
The gold star for Google is when you type your search into Google
“how to make slime” <– 4th most popular how-to search for 2016, so I’ve got a pretty good feeling that’s what you were going to type
and the very first result Google returns answers your question so well that you don’t have to bother looking any further. You’ve got all the information you need to make the best slime ever.
And you say say, “Gee! That Google sure is good at it’s job. I’d never even consider Binging it up.”
Don’t be sketchy
So, how does Google even know which webpages are related to Slime? Much less which ones are the very best on how to make it?
It uses a set of ever-evolving criteria that it hints at, but never quite discloses. In the early days, Google figured out which pages had information about a given topic by looking at the keywords assigned to each page. If a page had the slime keyword, it would show up in the results.
The problem was that the people who create the websites are the ones who set the keywords. And so, of course, people started gaming the system by stuffing their webpages full of every keyword they could imagine with the idea that He Who Has the Most Keywords Wins.
So now Google’s just pissed off because you’re messing up its results and wreaking havoc on its good name. And so… it retaliates in the way it knows best. With code. Google engineers code through the night and add new logic to detect that crap and make sure that, not only do keyword-stuffed websites not rank any more, they now get buried six feet under where no one will ever find them.
And so the race goes on, between the sketchy folks trying to lore us in with their false words. And Google getting angrier and angrier, writing more and more code and getting smarter and smarter as a result.
The moral of this story: don’t be sketchy. Provide the stuff that people really DO want and Google will reward you for it.
Ranking higher because people like you(r site)
Google has also gotten really good at figuring out which sites people like. And since sending people to sites they like looks good for Google, this factors more and more into their ranking criteria.
Think about your own experience trying to find information on the web. My guess (and, it seems, Google agrees) is that the following stuff annoys you and tends to cause you to bounce (that’s search lingo for leaving a website):
- Webpages that take forever to load
- Webpages filled with walls-of-text, making it hard to find the information you want… or figure out if it even exists at all
- Websites with confusing navigation and/or convoluted site structures so you have no idea how to get from point A to point B
- Websites that are miserable to use on your phone (over half of Google searches are done on mobile, so that’s a big thing)
Particularly when you’ve got 2,537,648 additional results in front of you… who’s gonna wait around for any of that? Screw that. Back button. Next search result -> Click.
Showing Google you’ve got what people want
Ok, so… you’ve put together your awesome content that you know people are interested in. Now it’s time to make sure Google understands it. Which… if you’re doing it right… means helping your visitors understand it too.
And, sure, you’ve still got your keywords. And it is, I believe, still really important to know which search phrases (“keywords”) that you want to rank for in order to focus your page around them. But… if you tag your page with a keyword that you never mention or talk about in your page, it it ain’t gonna do you any good.
And as Google gets smarter, it looks more to your actual content and less to your keywords to understand what your pages are about.
Here are some of the things it looks at:
Think about what your ideal visitors are searching for. Put together some great content around it and then give it a title that makes clear what it’s about. That’s going to help both Google and your visitors know when it’s relevant.
Your web page’s URL is another good indicator. If your URL is www.mydomain.com/contact, that’s a pretty good signal that that’s your contact page. So try to make your URLs meaningful and, if you can, include your keyword in them.
Headings are great for readability – especially the way people read on the web. Nobody actually reads entire articles anymore. They skim the headlines headings and use those to determine which sections they’re interested in. As such, they’re also a great indicator for Google to understand the sub-topics on your page.
Body (the text on your page)
And finally the body – particularly the very top of the body. When someone arrives on a page, they want to be able to quickly evaluate if this is the right page and if it’s going to be of value to them. And so it’s super helpful to provide a summary right up top. Google likes this because it shows you’re providing a good user experience for your visitors. And it rewards it by weighing the first words in your body highly when determining what your page is about.
Don’t forget your search listings
If ranking in Google is Step #1, then Step #2 is people actually clicking through your listing to visit your site.
And so even though your page’s meta description doesn’t count a whole lot towards Google’s ranking – it can make a big difference in whether customer’s decide to click or not.
Compare these two listings:
SumoMe does an excellent job of embellishing their website’s homepage title with a description of what they do “The Best Website Traffic Tools” so people don’t just see “SumoMe” and go, “huh?”
They also have a great description that helps people further understand what they do:
“SumoMe is a suite of free tools that can be used to grow your website’s traffic. The SumoMe tools are easy to install and work on any website.”
And, finally, they’ve made it all fit nice and neat within Google’s maximum listing size, so that it doesn’t get truncated with a “…” Google listings give you:
- Approximately 70 characters for the title (this varies a bit based on which characters are used)
- 154 characters for the description (unlike the title, this is a hard #)
Contrast that with this…
Meta data? keyword? description? what?
I know all of this meta data description and keyword stuff sounds really technical – but, if you’re using WordPress then there’s this great tool called Yoast SEO that make it super easy for you to set them yourself for every page and blog post.
And ultimately… make sure people find your page valuable!
Okay, so you’ve ranked on Google. You’ve provided a great listing to get people to your site.
Now the final step is making sure that when people get there, they actually find enough value to stick around and get to know you.
I’m not quite sure how they do it, but Google can tell how long people stay on a site that they’ve gotten to through their search results. And so if you get a lot of people to your site, but they’re all bouncing within that crucial “5 seconds” that you have to convince them they want to stay. Well… you’re not going to keep that ranking for long. At least not for that search term.
On the other hand, if people are sticking around for a while, that’s a good indicator that your site provides useful content. And that’s going to improve your search ranking.
So make sure you follow through with compelling content!
It’s not just about having a website…
I know it’s easy to think, sure, I can put up a website. I’ll put my company name and info on it. I’ll list my products. And I’ll tell people all about me. Easy peesy.
And it is.
Except you want to make sure that you think about this: What type of useful information, helpful tips or tools, or even entertainment are you providing that’s going to cause your site to climb it’s way up to the top of Google’s search results?
Sure, you’re selling valuable products and services.
But so are 2,537,648 other sites.
So how are YOU going to stand out?
Have questions? Let me know in the discussion below and I’ll do my best to answer!