One of the first questions our clients often ask is, “how can I improve my Google ranking and make sure my website shows up at the top of Google search results?”
This is a common question with a complex answer, and one that has varied over time. We’ve been building websites since 2011. So much has changed since then in terms of the way Google and other search engines rank websites.
Back then SEO companies were stuffing keywords, putting a huge focus on back-linking, using indiscriminate guest blog posts, and many other now outdated (and very harmful) SEO tactics. These practices actually worked, but over time Google has changed its algorithm to become smarter. This has allowed truly good content and user experience-focused websites to rise to the top. Many SEO companies, and their clients in some cases, have been put out of business due to Google’s changes.
You can no longer trick Google with these types of out-of-date techniques. Ultimately, creating a great user experience – from content to the site’s technical build – is the key to improving your Google ranking.
While including keywords in your content, having both internal and external links, and guest blog posting are all still parts of search engine optimization (SEO) strategies, there are a lot of other factors to consider as well.
In determining page ranking, Google and other search engines consider how recently content has been updated on your website, the degree to which a website is mobile friendly, website accessibility considerations, page speed scores, if your site is secured with HTTPS, if coding syntax errors are present, and so much more.
There is really no one trick to move your website up in Google’s ranking, but making sure you have at least these bases covered will go a long way.
1. Content Marketing
Content marketing is widely recognized as being the key driver to better search engine rankings and website success. Well written blog posts and website pages filled with well researched keywords are the number one thing we encourage our clients to focus on within their digital marketing strategy to improve their Google ranking.
We know how important content is to the long term success of a website that we actually partner with marketing firm Zettist to provide SEO-focused content for the websites we build. Some of our larger clients even have entire departments of writers and content marketing experts on staff who are dedicated to content creation. Their purpose is to drive leads to their websites through engaging blog posts, ebooks, and other resources filled with relevant search terms.
In our own case, about 50% of our total website traffic comes from organic search and 99% of those users are using search terms found in our blog posts. They land on our blog and then click around our site, with some users eventually downloading our ebook or contacting us – and that’s our conversion goal!
Other website conversion goals may be to lead users to purchase a product, sign up for a service, request a sales call, or something else. The content marketing strategy you put in place should ultimately be based on your conversion goals.
2. Referral Links
Another big source of website traffic for us is referral links which make up between 10-20% of our total website traffic each month. This harkens back to the back-linking strategies used to improve your Google ranking. Again, it’s now a small piece of the picture, but one that can still make an impact if done the right way.
The key here is to find other websites that are bigger than yours in terms of traffic and ranking and get them to link to your website. A great way to do this could be through PR efforts in getting news or industry publications to link to your website.
One great way to start this process is to link to other websites from your own website as well. If you’re writing a blog post and use information from another website as a source, link to them (as we’ve done throughout this blog post). Perhaps you saw a great article and just want to share it with your own readers. You can write a commentary, include a quote, and then link to the full article on your blog.
From a design and user experience standpoint, ensuring your website is mobile-friendly has been a key consideration in building websites since the iPhone gained popularity. In 2015, Google announced that websites optimized to work well on mobile devices would receive a boost in their ranking.
This generated so much buzz we actually wrote a blog post about it. It seems silly now to even consider having a website that doesn’t work well on mobile devices. As of 2020, mobile website traffic accounts for far more than 50% of total traffic. So much so, many organizations take a mobile-first approach to web design.
Now, Google doesn’t improve your ranking if your website is mobile-friendly, they penalize you for not being mobile-friendly. Google is actually well underway in rolling out mobile-first indexing across the web. This means they use the mobile version of your content to determine your ranking altogether.
Here are a few key things to consider:
- Ensure the same content is available on your website to desktop and mobile users.
- Ensure the mobile and desktop sites have the same structured data.
- Make sure ads or pop-ups don’t cause a bad mobile experience.
In 2012, we built a website that had a separate mobile version that was slightly different than the desktop version. This two-version approach was a very common practice in the early days as web designers and developers struggled to accommodate new mobile users. At the time, mobile users were more of an afterthought at less than 20% of website visitors.
Back then, there were two schools of thought on the matter: the two-version approach for a completely separate desktop and mobile experience, or the responsive approach which reconfigured the same content across all devices. We adopted the responsive design approach very early on after only building one website with the two-version approach. We’re pleased to say that decision has stood the test of time, as nearly all websites created today are designed and coded responsively.
4. Website Accessibility
Website accessibility is becoming more and more of a key consideration for websites. It’s one of our favorite topics – so much so we’ve even written an ebook on it and speak about it often at industry events.
We’re so glad Google has included accessibility in their algorithm for rankings because it’s so important to create an inclusive internet that can be used by everyone.
Building accessible websites ensures usability by the broadest number of people. Beyond the ethical benefits, having an accessible website also drives business success – resulting in protection from lawsuits around ADA compliance, improving user experience, and boosting your Google ranking.
Accessibility means a website can be viewed by assistive technology devices such as screen readers, as well as viewed by people with differing abilities such as low vision or colorblindness. Small tweaks to the visual design such as color contrast and font size and placement, as well as code tweaks to ensure usability, are sometimes all you need to ensure your website is accessible and can be used by people of all abilities.
If you want to see how your website performs in terms of accessibility, Google has a great tool you can use to do so called Lighthouse. It’s free and very easy to use. Here’s a great tutorial on how you can audit your site for accessibility with Lighthouse.
If you’re interested in learning more about website accessibility, download our ebook which has tools and more resources.
5. Technical SEO Fixes
Things like page speed, HTTPS configuration, and coding and syntax errors can add up to big issues for your search engine ranking.
This handy checklist from Orbit Media, a firm we’ve looked up to for years, has a list and tips to ensure your website is optimized from a technical standpoint.
Use this great tool from Neil Patel to do a quick audit that lays out what needs to be fixed to achieve the maximum amount of SEO traffic and improve your Google ranking.
There’s so much to consider when it comes to building a website, from content to design to coding and optimizing. If you keep these 5 key things in mind as you’re creating a website strategy, you’ll have a website that will work for your business and help increase your Google ranking.
Keep in mind these strategies take time to produce results. Consider the effects of your work to be cumulative as you keep up with fresh content and stay on top of technical changes and Google’s ever-changing algorithm. The blog posts you write and other improvements you make to your website now will provide results in time as Google begins to crawl, analyze and index your content.
Ready to get started? Schedule a complimentary consultation with us today.