We all crave the coveted No.1 spot in Google for our business – every company at some point (we would surmise) has had a Director, Manager or staff member do a representative search in Google for their own brand name or a service they provide to establish their current online status.
It is very probable that the results are favourable – especially for a company name or brand as this is your ‘low hanging fruit’ in SERPS (search engine results pages).
Google’s main task is to return a set of results for any given request and variable relevant results alongside, so, if you ask for your company, guess what – you are at the No.1 spot! Hang on, there’s a but coming.
Google will present you with a set of results that caters for your search patterns, if you keep asking for a brand name (to keep checking your SERPS status) – the engine will provide you with the low hanging results as well as results based on previous searches you have performed. Then add this to the mix – your personal results will also be catering for related links you have clicked on in previous searches. So, are you seeing a true picture of your websites rankings?
We doubt very much that a company’s representatives constantly searching and clicking on their own results will have any beneficial impact on a website ranking in Google or any other search engine.
What is important is benchmarking your current website ranking and focusing on the factors that can have a positive impact on your websites visibility in SERPS.
So, what determines website rankings and what’s important to consider when developing an SEO strategy?
Note: If you’re not familiar with SEO – this is the practice of making websites search engine friendly. The key objective is to gain high positions in SERPS for terms that are relevant to your business. You can find more information about SEO here.
During our time practicing SEO, we have learnt that it simply isn’t possible to know everything there is to know about SEO – but it is vital to keep abreast of developments, studies, updates and news on this demanding discipline.
Over the past few years we have been monitoring industry white papers, content downloads and releases and compiled for your benefit an at-a-glance overview of what factors affect website rankings. It is said there are over 200 components (or signals), we’re not going to cover them all that’s for sure but we are going to share with you our findings and research.
Please be aware Part 1 below is not definitive or is it in any order or priority. Part 2 is out next month.
1. HTTPS Security
Migrate to HTTPS – (http://yourdomain.com to https://yourdomain.com) Google has been promoting a safer web for years and a move towards securing your domain is a must. Not only are you protecting the user’s security you will also be strengthening your website’s authority. Note this can be an expensive exercise but it is one you should not overlook. You have been warned, the clock is ticking on this, Google announced HTTPS as a ranking signal in August 2014 There is only a small percentage of sites that are HTTPS – make a move now, it might give you an advantage in your niche.
2. Keyword Research
This one might at first seem obvious but it’s all about ranking for your targeted keywords in your niche. It’s not about getting tones of traffic to your website, it’s about getting the right ones for the right targeted keywords. It is vital that keyword research is done correctly and a list of a markets keyword demand has been established before any terms or phrases are chosen. We use a method commonly known as the ‘Goldilocks’ philosophy: when researching keywords that you want your website to be found for there is often high competition keywords (too hot) and some that are too cold, or just don’t have the traffic numbers required – the one’s you choose should be just right, relevant but preferably with low competition. This will give you a better chance of success in SERPS. Never enter a ring you can’t compete in, focus on the opportunities.
3. Content Length
The length of an article or landing page content forms an opinion to the user. On first impression, a page shouldn’t be thin and low on content as it will make less of an impression and would provide an unfulfilling and untrustworthy user experience. No-one really knows the answer to ‘how long should my content be?’ and there are debatable answers to this. Our view is a minimum of 250 words and a maximum of 1000. In general studies have indicated more content on a page will rank higher than a page with little content, but, the quality of the content as well as its relevance are very important.
4. Manage Your On-Page SEO
Do not, we repeat do not stuff your content with keywords to rank well in SERPS. It is commonly accepted that your targeted keywords will need to be in your content but it needs to be done with care and with the user in mind, not an algorithm – which none of us know the full details to. Titles, descriptions, image alts tags and other meta data remain critical ingredients to ranking your website or landing page and you should take full advantage of them. Think about how you can use video to your advantage – widely considered to be advantageous to your website for user experience but it does not necessarily rank your page higher.
There is no doubt that backlinks are important, these are the number of unique links to your website. The quality of these referring links is a major factor – we advise regular audits of links that point to your website, you should be aware that bad links (toxic links), as the name suggests, are not a good metric to have in your website ranking. These can be spotted in a variety of techniques – the most common is via Google’s Console (Webmaster Tools).