All of us at some point or another have searched Google for a particular business or service we were interested in. How many of those times were you willing to delve into the second or third pages of the search results? I’m betting not often! Your customers are no different. That’s why it’s so important for you to rank well on Google’s search results. A staggering 68% percent of all clicks from the search results page come from the first five results. The first page has been reported to be responsible for as high as 92% of all clicks from the search results. That leaves the question begging to be asked, “How do I get on the first page?” The answer isn’t quite so satisfying unfortunately.
Getting to the top
The process of getting to the top of Google search results is more of an art than a science. Specifically, it’s the art of Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Google is notoriously secretive about the algorithm they use to make these determinations and for good reason. Google wants the results to be helpful, this helps fuel their ad-based business model and keeps people coming back for answers. So while there isn’t a guidebook to getting to the first page, there are ways to improve your chances of securing one of the coveted top rankings:
- Keep your website clean and fresh
- Don’t use shady tactics
- Be a source of help for others
- Make your website viewable and intractable for all people
Let’s go through these one-by-one and see what we can learn about SEO and getting your site to the top.
Keep your website clean and fresh
A core function of Google’s algorithm is determining if people will enjoy their visit to your site. There are several factors that are considered when trying to make that determination:
- Your site is fast to load (especially important for mobile sites loading on a cellular connection)
- Your site isn’t littered with too many ads and gimmicky images
These seem a bit strange when considering if your content is helpful. It’s true, your site could be the exact thing a user is looking for, but if it’s not an enjoyable experience for the user, Google is hesitant to send traffic your way. This is going to be a common theme throughout this discussion of SEO because it truly is one of the most important factors Google considers.
Don’t use shady tactics
When SEO became popular ten years ago, the Google algorithm was naive and not very complex. Sites could game their way to the top by using shady techniques like link spamming, keyword stuffing, and hidden content. Over time, the Google algorithm has become a sophisticated bit of software and can pick out sites that are continuing to use shady tactics. This algorithm is so impressive, there’s a high probability that if you use techniques like these and others, Google will penalize your site and send your search ranking down several pages. Google is forgiving though thankfully, and with a significant effort from an SEO specialist, you can have your reputation and ranking restored.
There are also those that use shady tactics against you. Like I mentioned before, link stuffing is a common dark tactic used to manipulate the rankings. This doesn’t have to be used by yourself however to get punished by Google. In fact, competitors have been known to link spam their competitors in an attempt to diminish their reputation with Google and replace them in the rankings. Fortunately, Google is aware of this tactic and has a fix in the form of disavowing pages to be associated with your site. This means you need to stay out in front of the situation and monitor incoming links to your site to make sure they aren’t spammy links.
Be a source of help for others
The majority of business owners I talk with think that their site is a place for their services, about me, and contact pages. While this is largely true, those pages won’t be a major factor in Google deciding to send traffic to your site. Consider a plumbers website. A common search term for finding answers about plumbing could be something like, “Why is my drain backing up?”. If Plumber John’s website consists of just his about page and services, there’s a small chance Google thinks your site will have the answer to your question. That’s why it’s so important to have fresh content on your site.
This is commonly done through a blog that targets what are called in the industry, “long tail” queries. If Plumber John has a blog post that directly answers this question, Google is incentivized to send traffic to your site, hoping you answer the user’s question, and thus leaves the user happy with the experience of searching through Google.
Make your website viewable and intractable for all people
In today’s world, there are people of all types browsing the web on all types of devices. Google is keenly aware of this fact. Going back to our motto of giving users of Google’s platform a good experience, Google wants to make sure if they send a user to your site, that they will be able to view and interact with that site without a hassle. This means your site should accommodate a few different types of situations:
- Blind users
- Deaf users
- Users on mobile devices
- Multiple languages (if your content is targeted towards people of different languages)
- Colorblind users
These seem like marginal cases but you’d be surprised at the number of users who fall into one of these categories. An Interactive Accessibility article had this to say about users with disabilities:
Consider impairments that impact accessibility of online websites, applications, and documents. This survey estimates the number of people with specific impairments as follows:
- 19.9 million (8.2%) have difficulty lifting or grasping. This could, for example impact their use of a mouse or keyboard.
- 15.2 million (6.3%) have a cognitive, mental, or emotional impairment.
- 8.1 million (3.3%) have a vision impairment. These people might rely on a screen magnifier or a screen reader, or might have a form of color blindness.
- 7.6 million (3.1%) have a hearing impairment. They might rely on transcripts and / or captions for audio and video media.
Clearly, there are more people than you’d think browsing the web that needs some sort of help viewing and digesting the content of your site. There are many different things you can do to aid users like this. Let’s go over just a few of the most important:
- Images should have alt tags to help the visually impaired
- Content should have distinguished contrast to help color blindness
- The site should be mobile friendly and have tappable elements size properly for interaction with fingers
- Videos should have transcriptions
I started this conversation around SEO by describing it as an art rather than a science. Hopefully, you see what I mean by that now. Anyone that promises you the front page of Google search results isn’t being completely transparent with you. The truth of the matter is getting to the top of Google search results is about consistently pumping out content that is helpful to users and making sure your site is ready for users/devices of all types.
If you need help with your Google rankings and your website in general, get in touch with me today. I’d love to take a look at your site and find out how together, we can improve your site’s ability to be favorable in the eyes of Google.