When you search online for a certain book, why does Google first show you its Amazon page? When you look for an explanation of a scientific term, why does Google direct you to the word’s Wikipedia entry?
The answer is simple: these sites have mastered SEO, or search engine optimization. As the leading search engine online, Google is the gatekeeper for internet visibility – or invisibility. And although the details of Google’s search algorithm is top secret, we do know how it works.
This article will give you a sneak peek behind the secretive veil that hides Google’s holy grail.
You’ll learn which criteria determine search rankings and how you, to boost your business, can use SEO to boost your site’s rankings and help customers find your products faster.
Establish Both Trust And Online Authority
In just a few decades, the vast web of information that is the internet has expanded exponentially, and it isn’t showing signs of letting up anytime soon.
But while the wealth of information online is incredible, it is also problematic. So much content is scattered like islands in a massive sea. If you manage a website for your company – your personal internet island – your challenge is visibility, or how to get visitors across the vast sea to your shores.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is your tool. Effective SEO helps you bring your website closer to the top of search results on search engines like Google. A top ranking, however, is based on two main points.
First, Google prefers and gives a higher ranking to websites that are “trusted” and that enjoy a good reputation. This means if you’ve built a high-quality site, Google will trust it more and rank it higher.
But what exactly is a high-quality site? For Google, this is a site with content that is both informative and precise. You’ll need to make sure you’ve fixed spelling errors, and ensure content is easy to read and written in a style that is accessible.
Remember: the easier it is for a larger audience to consume your well-written, clear content, the higher Google will rank your site.
But while quality is important, reputation is even more so. A good way to build your online reputation is to have other respected sites to link to your site.
For example, you might get an established news site like that of the New York Times or Guardian to run an article about your business and include a link to your website. Such links are known as backlinks.
The second key point is the more authority your website has, the higher it will rank in search.
Authority is measured by the number of backlinks you earn and the number of followers you have on social media. Simply put, if you have 10,000 Facebook followers and 550 backlinks, many of which come from respected sources, you’ll rank higher than a competitor with just 100 Facebook followers and 20 backlinks.
Here we’ve covered the basics of SEO; now it’s time to dive into more specific strategies.
Good Keywords Are Crucial For Search Engine Visibility
How Google search ranks your website has a significant effect on your online visibility. But for Google to find your site in the first place, you’ve got to give the engine good directions, or keywords.
Good keywords reflect your site’s content while anticipating possible terms a person might type into the Google search bar when looking for a business like yours.
So how do you read the minds of internet surfers? When choosing keywords, stick to words that describe your site accurately but aren’t too competitive, that is, too common.
If you run a secondhand bookstore, for example, you’ll want the words book and store as keywords, but plenty of other larger competitors – such as Amazon – use those same keywords, too. As a little guy, you really can’t outrank the largest online bookseller in the world!
A better idea, then, is to be more specific. Choose keywords such as online antique book store. This will increase your visibility as fewer businesses will use these exact keywords – which conveniently describe your site perfectly!
A good tool to help you with this process is Google AdWords. This tool tells you how much traffic any given keyword generates and therefore, how common that word is. Try to find keywords that generate sufficient traffic, but that aren’t too competitive.
Once you’ve chosen your keywords, complement them with other related words. Working from our example above, you might add words like literature, ancient, used or secondhand.
If you’re having a hard time coming up with examples, try using Ubersuggest, an online tool that provides you with potential complementary words to selected keywords.
Be sure to make your keywords visible on your site, so they’re easy for Google’s search engine to find. You’ll want to weave keywords into your content as well as use them in the names of image and video files, for an added SEO boost.
In the next section, we’ll learn about yet another factor that influences your site’s ranking: loading speed.
Avoid Memory-heavy Images
Did you know that Google will rank a website higher in search results if the site provides a positive user experience? As Google itself is known for its focus on user friendliness, that it requires the same with SEO is no surprise.
In short, if your website loads slowly, potentially making a user lose patience and go elsewhere, Google will push your site lower in search rankings.
Just think about it: if a site was taking ages to load, would you sit around and wait? Probably not.
In fact, studies have shown that every extra second it takes for a page to load translates into a 7 percent conversion loss. So for every second of wait time, about 7 percent fewer users complete a purchase, click on an ad, fill out a form or interact with your site in a productive way.
The bottom line is that Google rewards sites that load quickly. If you want a higher rank in search, you need to increase your page loading speeds.
Luckily, there are tons of online tools to help you tease out areas for improvement.
Online service Pingdom tells you how long it takes your site to load in various parts of the world and also shows you which files are slowing your site down.
With this information, you can examine the offending files to see if you can make them smaller and thus quicker to load.
Large images or videos can often be reformatted into smaller files with positive effects. Check your site for images larger than 200 kilobytes, make a list of the larger files and send that list to your web developer. Your developer can then compress those files into smaller files without losing image quality.
While a short load time is key, what’s even more helpful in the world of SEO is a clever link-building strategy that points to your site from other desirable pages.
Build Relevant Backlinks To Your Site
Every savvy businessperson knows that the more reputable people speak positively about your business, the more phone calls, the more emails, the more business overall your company will enjoy.
The same connections apply in the digital world. Good recommendations come in the form of links. Thus the more respectable sites that link to your site, the more traffic it will receive and the higher it will rank in search, and the more visible it will become.
One way to increase your site’s authority and relevance is by placing links to your site in trusted business directories.
These directories contain information about businesses in your area. You’re probably familiar with some of the most popular directories, such as LinkedIn and Yelp.
Simply register your company in a popular directory, and include as much information as you can. Don’t forget to leave links to your site!
But don’t overdo it – only 10 to 20 percent of your backlinks should come from directories. Spammers have a history of generating vast quantities of links through low-level directories; Google will penalize your site for going over this percentage.
Another good link-building tool is video. The latest Google algorithm doesn’t just look for images but also videos, especially from YouTube, an online video service which Google owns.
So to boost your SEO strategy, get out your video camera. You might want to consider shooting some straightforward how-to videos or do a few video reviews about your product.
Be sure the videos link to the corresponding pages on your site and, most importantly, include keywords and related keywords in the video name and description.
If you run a personal training business, for example, you might post a video called, “10 Tips to Getting Perfect Six-Pack Abs.”
In the video’s description, you could put a link to the core training section of your website and include keywords such as toned abs, fitness and six-pack.
Posting To Popular Social Media
Google’s search engine ranking system is a mirror image of how people use the internet. Over the past several years, social media networks like Facebook have dominated online conversations.
That means that you can boost your site’s SEO rank by participating on social media sites.
Through social media, your content isn’t just shared and liked, but it’s also linked. You thus can use social media to secure more backlinks and increase your referral traffic, or visits to your site generated by backlinks.
Since social media sites like Facebook are considered reputable pages, they present an excellent opportunity to create valuable backlinks!
Social media also lets you increase your online authority by building a larger audience. Industry reports show that activity on social media has a positive effect on a site’s SEO rank.
So writing interesting content that “friends” will like and share with other friends could be just the thing you need for a search ranking boost.
If your time is limited, stick with Facebook for SEO. As Facebook is the largest social network, it holds a lot of sway in Google’s ranking algorithm.
To start, share content from your site to Facebook. If you post a tutorial video on your website, for example, post it on Facebook as well, linking back to the corresponding page on your site.
It’s also a good idea to include a link to your Facebook page in as many places as possible. Put it on your website, on the confirmation page after a user makes a purchase and even in your email signature.
The Rules Of Seo Change When It Comes To Local Business
Connecting your business to the internet’s global network is one path to better visibility, but if you’re a local business, you’ll want to drill down to make sure customers know exactly where you are.
You are already familiar with how Google does this: when you search for a local wine store or restaurant, search results often serve up a map with a red pin, marking exactly where the business is located.
This is what local SEO is all about. Google’s search engine handles local searches differently; in addition to all the other SEO tricks we’ve pointed out, another element crucial for local businesses is mentions.
In short, mentions or citations are to local SEO what backlinks are to standard SEO.
Every time your company’s name, address and phone number are cited anywhere online, it constitutes a mention. The more mentions you have, the higher you’ll rank in search. To boost your local SEO, make sure your company’s name, address and phone number are listed accurately in local directories.
Reviews of your business in local directories such as Yelp help improve local search rankings, too. So in addition to mentions, it’s essential that your business collects some positive online reviews.
Unfortunately, soliciting this sort of customer feedback is challenging. People are often too lazy to leave a few words online, and it’s up to you to make writing a review an easy process. Doing so is the key to getting more reviews and, in turn, a higher local search ranking.
Here are two ways to do this. First, after a user completes a sale online, have your site launch a pop-up window that prompts the user to leave a review. And second, add a link in your email signature that asks people for reviews.
Now that you’ve gone from the basics of SEO to the expert level, you’re ready to harness this powerful and necessary tool to boost your online business. So get out there and make it to the top of the list!
Google’s page-ranking algorithm produces search engine results that reflect how people use the internet in real-time.
To secure and maintain your place in the Google pecking order, you need to understand how Google’s algorithm “thinks” and in response, implement a strong SEO strategy.