Improve your Google ranking (2013 edition)

As a web designer, people often ask me how they can improve their Google ranking and it usually comes in the form of the question “Why isn’t my website on the first page of Google”? Let’s take a look.

 

The secret formula is…

Google’s formula for ranking search results is exactly that – a closely guarded secret. So how can you get to the top if no one knows the formula? Over the years a number of patterns & solutions have been found – simply by trying an idea, monitoring the results then making adjustments and seeing what happens to the results.

Rinse and repeat and you’ll eventually be able to ascertain some of the secrets to the way Google’s search algorithm works… that is, until they change it – which happens from time to time.

 

First things first – Getting your site into the results

Google will likely naturally find your website (eventually) as it’s servers are constantly crawling the web indexing links – but this could take weeks or months. To speed up the process, you can manually submit your website link to Google using this page. You only need to submit your homepage (and only once) – don’t submit every single page of your site; Google will find these from your homepage (as long as you or your web designer has linked them properly).

Then, within a few weeks, your site will likely appear somewhere in the results. To test this, try a Google search for your websiteby its domain name (eg. www.stormanau.wpengine.com is our domain name)… if it comes up, then Google has indexed your website.

 

Getting to the top

Now that your website is in the search results, you need to get it to the top of the results. How can you do this? Sadly there’s no quick & easy solution in terms of organic search results (organic refers to natural, non-paid search listings), but here’s a few proven things you can do to ensure you have the best possible chance to appear near the top of the search results…

  • Relevancy counts. Remember, Google search has one job: to provide quality search results. In other words, if you type in “self storage in Sydney”, Google’s core job is to filter out anything that has nothing to do with self storage companies in Sydney. Most of the time, it gets that job right. As such, your website needs to be relevant. If your self storage business services the suburb of Rushcutters Bay, but you only list the words “Rushcutters Bay” once, on your Contact page, Google will assume your website isn’t very relevant to people searching for “self storage in Rushcutters Bay”. That said, there is such a thing as overkill – writing the words “Rushcutters Bay” seven times on each page will likely have your site’s search ranking downgraded for keyword spamming. Google works on keyword quality, not keyword quantity.
  • Be descriptive. Not everyone uses the same phrase to describe the same thing. For example, you might say “Packaging material supplies in Rushcutters Bay”, but your customers might say “Moving materials in Rushcutters Bay”, “Boxes and bubble wrap in Rushcutters Bay” or “Moving supplies in Rushcutters Bay”. As such, describe the same thing different ways, to cover different bases. That said, it still needs to read well on the page – design your website for humans, not for Google – but by being smart in the way you do this, you can cater to both.
  • Google generally doesn’t index images. Get your web designer to use normal text when displaying words, not text insideimages. Google generally doesn’t index words written inside images. For example, don’t display a photo of your self storage facility and then write, on the photo (using Photoshop, or similar) “Self Storage in Rushcutters Bay” as the caption. Write the caption in normal text under the photo – that way it can be found & indexed by Google.
  • Ensure your website loads quickly. Test your website in a tool such as Google PageSpeed to analyse where and why it’s slowing down. If your site loads slowly, consider moving the site to a faster hosting provider or ask your web designer to compress the images & to minimise resource-intensive page-scripting and so on.
  • Ensure your website is responsive. This is a big one these days – nearly 50% of web users are on the go, so make sure your website responds to the size of their device’s screen. To test this, visit your website on a mobile phone – if you need to pinch-to-zoom your website in order to read the text, then it’s not responsive & your Google search ranking may suffer as a result.
  • Ensure you have a Google+ Page. For those unaware, Google+ is Google’s version of Facebook. It’s not as popular as Facebook as yet, but because it’s owned by Google, they will rank your site higher (in search results) if your business has a Google+ page. To get one, sign-up to Google+ (http://plus.google.com), create an account for yourself, then create a “Page” for your business. Don’t worry, the company Page isn’t linked to you personally (as far as outsiders are concerned) & you can assign multiple people as Page Managers so that you can all maintain / edit the company Page as needed. Be sure to add an address to the Page so that you also appear in Google Maps search results, too.
  • Get other websites to link to you. This is by far one of the best ways to get to the top. It’s also one of the hardest – but that’s why it’s also one of the best. Remember, I did say this wasn’t going to be easy. So why is this important? Well remember earlier when I said “Google search has one job: to provide quality search results”? This is very true in terms of “inbound links” – links that drive people into your website. In simpler terms, this means other people’s websites linking to yours. Think about it from Google’s point of view for a moment: if a lot of other websites link to you, then your website must be good. After all, if it were no good, why is everyone linking to it? It’s a known fact that Google counts inbound links in its search formula… so, again, getting people to link to your website from theirs is an excellent way to get a good Google search ranking. It’s also hard, because not everyone is going to link to you for nothing – you might have to provide business customers (who have a website) with a freebie or two in return for a link. Again, this is one of the hardest but best ways to get a better Google result & Google loves it, because it means you have to work for it!

 

Hrm, this sounds too hard. Is there a shortcut?

There is – sort of. Also, it costs money. Google AdWords is the name given to the paid advertising you see at the top of the search results – as well as to the right hand side. They appear above organic (non-paid results) and usually sit inside a light-orange box to indicate that they’re advertisements. They’re targeted towards certain keywords and these advertisers essentially “buy” keywords from Google. Of course, so do your competitors… and whoever is willing to pay more will have their advertisement shown more often.

The Google AdWords pricing model is an interesting one – and you only pay for an ad when a user clicks on it. Let’s take a look at how to setup an AdWords campaign…

  1. You tell Google AdWords what keywords you want to bid for.
  2. Then you tell Google AdWords what areas to target (eg. Sydney CBD, or CBD + greater Sydney, or all of NSW, or all of Australia, etc).
  3. Then you tell Google AdWords what devices to target (mobiles, desktops or both).
  4. Finally, you tell Google AdWords how much you’re willing to pay per month. Each time someone clicks one of your ads, it deducts the CPC (Cost Per Click) from your set monthly spending limit until that limit is reached, then your ads will stop showing until next month, when the funds are refreshed.

So how much is the CPC (Cost Per Click)? It’s too hard to guess, as it changes every second depending on your competition and the keywords. But basically Google AdWords will automatically work out what your competition is willing to pay for the same keyword (although it’ll never tell you what this figure is) and then bids your ads at 1c higher per click – as long as the funds are available (within your set monthly AdWords spend) to do so.

It’s may all sound a little confusing or daunting at first, but there are many YouTube videos & online guides to walk you through the process. Google also has some great tools on their Google AdWords website to help you setup your first campaign.

Thanks for reading & feel free to leave your comments or questions below!

 

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