How to improve your rankings with Google
If you’re unsure of some of the SEO terminology you encounter, take a look at our SEO Primer page for a little help.
First things first – we need to understand what Google is doing. If we don’t fully understand that, then it’s all for naught.
In a nutshell, Google’s primary intent, and their primary money maker, is matching up your search terms with the best result…that’s it.
If you search for “attorney in Atlanta Ga”, they won’t show you results for attorneys in Alabama or Texas. And they won’t show you results for plumbers in Atlanta. They’ll show you results for attorneys in Atlanta. Doing otherwise would upset you and you might be less inclined to use Google next time. Multiply that by 3.5 billion searches performed every day and you can see how a seemingly errant search result could affect a very large number of people. 3.5 billion searches per day means approximately 40,000 searches per second. Imagine how quickly bad search results could pile up and how many upset customers that could result in in a very short amount of time. So, to restate, Google’s primary intent is to match up a Google Searcher with the a page on a website that is the very best match for the search term used.
One important thing to be aware of is that Google ranks pages, not websites. This is why we recommend building your site page by page with each page’s focus on a given topic. You would be well served to have, for example, separate pages to discuss Dental Implants and Dental Cleaning than to have both on a single page. Each page would be targeted, tagged, labeled, with the topic in mind and Google would have a very clear understanding of what each page was about. When somebody enters “Dental Cleaning” as a search term, Google will not have to decide if the page that contains info about Implants and Cleaning is a good result…they’ll reward the page (not the site!) that has the best and most focused information on “dental cleaning”.
What does Google take into account in making this decision? They don’t share the details with us but research by thousands of industry professionals have shown that there are about 200 different parameters Google uses to rank a web page for a given search term.
In order of agreed upon importance, here are the top 10:
- Content: this constitutes the quality of your content, the originality (do NOT use duplicate content) and critcally, the length of your content. The days of the 300-500 word page length are long gone. Website visitors expect detailed information and if they don’t get it, they’ll go elsewhere. Google understands this and rewards pages with long, detailed and useful content.
- Title Tag: give yourself extra credit if the keyword is at the beginning of the title tag. For example, “Dental Implants | Atlanta Georgia” instead of “Atlanta Georgia | Dental Implants”.
- Page Loading Speed: When was the last time you waited 4 seconds for a website to load? Google knows that a slow website is not a good result for their customer so they reward websites that load fast.
- Keyword optimization: Keyword stuffing is a thing of the past and Google will certainly penalize your site if you put “Dental Implants” in white text on a white background 500 times. Don’t do that. Also, don’t use “Dental Implants” 100 times in a page if it doesn’t flow naturally. But, what you can and should do is use “Dental Implants” where it counts. The title tag (#2 above), headings, your URL, in the first 100 and the last 100 words of an article, post or page, etc. So there are definite places to use it.
- Page Authority: How authoritative you website is is a result of the quality and quantity of the inbound links. How many other sites are linking to yours and are they credible and relevant. Think of these links as votes for your site and each vote elevates your site’s authority (again, if they’re credible and relevant). The more authoritative, the more likely Google will show your page in the search results. Why would they show a page that isn’t authoritative?
- Domain Authority: I made a bit deal earlier of saying that Google ranks pages, not websites. That’s true but they do look at your website’s overall authority as well. Build your website’s overall authority by creating and promoting great content. Content that other sites will want to link to. Content that your website’s visitors will find immensely useful.
- Link Relevancy: I mentioned above that Google will look at the quality and quantity of the links coming from other sites to your site. We talk about links more below but the gist of this is that you want links from credible sites but also sites that are relevant to your site. So a dental site can get links from anywhere but links from a local Plumbers website would be less relevant than links from the ADA, for example.
- Dwell time: How long does a visitor stay on your site? This goes directly to how Google interprets how accurate the search result was that the searcher went to. If they clicked on the Google results, spent 2 seconds on your site and then clicked back then Google knows that it wasn’t a good result and will penalize your site. You want your website visitors to find information they are looking for so they read it, watch a video, etc, etc. Give your website visitors useful information early (above the fold) so they see immediate value and spend more time on your page.
- Mobile Friendly: This may warrant a much higher position on this list than #9 simply because if you get this wrong, you will automatically lose out to 50% of your prospective searchers. In 2015, Google announced that they would no long serve search results to their customers for non mobile friendly websites if the search originate from a mobile device. So if I search for Dental Implants from my phone or tablet and your website isn’t mobile friendly, your site won’t show up in the search results. The corollary to this is that 2015 was also the first year that Google announced over 50% of all internet searches originated from mobile devices.
- Thin or Duplicate Content: As mentioned above, the days of the 300-500 word page or post are gone. Google recognizes that most topics cannot be fully explained in 500 words and will reward sites that take more time to explain topics more fully. If you take the page you’re reading right now as an example, it is several thousands of words long because it takes that much to explain this. Do you think Google will rank a 300 word page above this one if somebody searches for “how to improve my Google rankings”? No chance! And create unique content – do not copy and paste from other sites. Google will know if you do and penalize your site for it.
How We Rank Your Website
First, the questions:
You’ll see these four questions posted on just about every page of this site – it’s because they’re critical to your success:
- Is your business’s webpage on the first page of the Google search results?
- If no, why not?
- If yes, what keywords / search terms are you ranking for?
- Do you know how many times those keywords are searched for each month?
These four questions are critical – you cannot have effective search engine optimization without understanding the questions fully, and then getting solid answers about your website via tools and research most business owners don’t do. We find business owners are very good at running their businesses, but most are not SEO experts (nor should they be) so they either trust to luck or they let somebody unqualified handle it. And the really bad part is that the bad SEO – the type performed by somebody who is under qualified – can hurt your webpage rankings badly.
It’s important to start with an audit and this is something we’ll do at the very beginning for free.
We’ll analyze your website to check on the history, the “Domain Authority”, “Page Authority”, “Trust Flow”, “Citation flow”, the power of it’s backlinks, etc. Then we’ll do the same for your competition so we’ll know where you business stands in relation to others in the same space. From there, we’ll put together a solid game plan for improving your search rankings. If you’re already on the first page of Google, great – we’ll work to improve your ranking and to ensure you don’t drop. If you’re not on the first page, we’ll work on getting you there.
Nobody can promise the #1 Google Rank. In fact, nobody should even be promising you’ll end up on the first page. But what SnugData can do is take a critical look at your website, your competitors websites, and your company’s SEO strategy (you do have one, right?) and work with you to raise your rankings. Will you get to #1? I’d like to think so but we’ll never know until we kick the tires.
We work with global companies on the Global SEO efforts but like to focus on local companies to help improve their local SEO. If you own a business in Atlanta or one of the outlying areas and are interested in improving your Local SEO results or having us work on your reputation management, contact us and we’ll put together a solid game plan.
Of course, Search Engine Optimization begins with a web site. If you need one built, we can do that for you. Check our our Web Site Creation page.
Along with the (admittedly geeky) information above, there are a number of processes we undertake to ensure your website gets on the first page of Google.
Search Terms and Keyword Research
The first step (and please don’t let anybody tell you different) is for us to understand what words and phrases you want to rank for in the search results. Every single other thing we do hinges on this, so it’s critical to get this right up front.
We can certainly change it as we progress, but having a good handle on it at the beginning ensures we are working in the right direction. Think of the keywords as the SEO map – everything we do will be aligned to those keywords.
This also means you can’t take them lightly. Most business owners, when presented with this, are a little shocked. If you own a restaurant, for example, keyword selection must go beyond sprinkling the word “restaurant” throughout the text of your page. “Restaurant” is a highly competitive term which you have little chance (initially) to rank for and draw traffic. It’s a good start, but you must go deeper to be effective.
Let’s look at a few areas of concern with this exact scenario:
- The term “restaurant” gets about 201,000 hits per month in the United States. “Restaurants” (plural) gets about another 1.2 million hits per month. So just having that term on your site lumps you into competition for those 1.4 million monthly searches. Given how competitive that term is, it’s highly unlikely you’ll rank for it without long term and possibly expensive efforts.
- It makes much more sense to rank for a longer keyword (phrase), such as:
- “restaurants in Atlanta” = 18,100 hits
- “best restaurants in Atlanta” = 14,800 hits
- “best bbq restaurants in Atlanta” = 30 (quite a drop!!)
You will find the same information regardless of which city you are searching in. Run the same Google search for Conyers, Covington, McDonough or Stockbridge and you’ll get the same basic results, although the amount of hits will be significantly lower since you are dealing with smaller population centers.
As you can see, the longer your keyword is, the less monthly searches there are and so the less competition there is for you to rank (usually). There are tools you can use (we can help) to determine how competitive a “long tail keyword” really is. The idea behind this is to initially rank for a less competitive, longer tail keyword and then gradually increase your site’s rankability and authority and then focus on shorter keywords. Focusing on the long tail first will also help with shorter keywords later on (since they are a subset of the long tail keyword).
That’s a lot about keywords, but trust me, there is so much more to know. Again, this is the single most critical aspect to effectively ranking your site so great care must be taken.
We will look at the structure of your website, how it’s laid out and how easy it is to use. We’ll also look at the SEO specific parameters to make sure you are taking advantage of them all, that you are not over-optimized anywhere, and that every aspect of your “on page” SEO is on track.
Google, Bing and Yahoo expect your site to be laid out in a way that makes it easy for humans (and search engine robots) to traverse the site. If it is confusing, has broken links, loads slowly, etc, then your rankings will suffer.
This can be the most time consuming part as most websites have thousands of links and we like to understand them all. Links and Backlinks are both important.
Links are the hyper-text links you’re used to seeing all over the internet. Your website has many of them and some point to other pages on your site (intra-links) and some point to other sites on the internet (links).
Some links (hopefully, a lot of them) also exist all over the internet on other web sites that point to your web pages – these are called backlinks and (today at least) they are the real currency of search engine ranking. Simply put, the more backlinks you have pointing to your site from authoritative and relevant websites, the more powerful your website is and the higher the ranking will be.
Let’s break it down a bit with an example:
- Forbes.com is a very influential and powerful website. A link from Forbes to your site carries a tremendous amount of “link juice”, meaning the search engines give that link a lot of weight and, because of it, considers your website and page where the link points to as more powerful.
- IAteAPeanutButterAndJellySammyForBreakfast.com is (probably) not a very influential or powerful website, but there is absolutely nothing stopping the webmaster of that site from creating a backlink to your site. The search engines would look at this link as very poor quality and it could actually hurt your search engine rankings, even though there is technically not a thing in the world you can do to prevent the existence of that poor quality backlink.
- Two important points of these links are:
- Anchor text: The text that the link is made of – the text you would actually click on to traverse the link – brings a lot of credibility and authority with it. If you get a link to your dog training site from another dog related site with an anchor text of “dog behavior”, it carries more weight than if the anchor text read “click here” or “website” or something like that.
- Relevance: A link from a non relevant site carries less link juice / authority than from a relevant site. So if you have a dog training site and you get a link from a powerful and influential site that is about data backup and recovery, it won’t carry as much power as if it came from a site that was, for example, about dog behavior modification.
- Worst case scenario is a backlink from a weak, non-relevant site with anchor text that has no relevance.
- There are two main relevancy concepts to consider – Niche Relevance and Location Relevance
- Location Relevance has to do with where your site’s pages are targeted. Pages that are targeted at Atlanta, for example, should have location specific links from sites or pages that are about those cities.
- There are two main relevancy concepts to consider – Niche Relevance and Location Relevance
- The aggregate of the backlinks pointing to your website make up your link profile and it will be either good, bad or in the middle. This is a critical area to understand as it will show us how to proceed.
Internal linking is critical as well and can help establish interior pages credibility and authority.
We’ll also look at the link profile of your competitors as there are often some very juicy links from important web sites we can emulate for your website, thereby increasing your authority overall.