A 4-Step Guide to Improving Your Google Ranking

Google processes more than 40,000 search queries per second, on average, translating to more than 3.5 billion searches per day.

If improving search engine optimization (SEO) wasn’t on your 2018 website checklist already, it definitely should be.

With so many ranking factors out there, and an ever-changing digital landscape, it can be difficult to navigate the already-muddy waters of SEO.

Here’s what you absolutely need to know about Google’s expectations for your website and how to optimize accordingly.

Mobile-first indexing

Google officially announced in November 2016 that they’d begin rolling out mobile-first indexing. In short, this means that Google will rank its search listings based on the mobile version of a website, even if the search engine results are shown on a desktop.

Why does this matter?

Just a few years ago, the term “mobile responsive” as it relates to websites was virtually unheard of and very few brands had separate mobile versions of their websites. Today, on the other hand, the lack of a well-designed, responsive website or mobile website could mean major penalties when it comes to organic search.

If you don’t have a mobile website or responsive website at all, Google will still crawl your desktop version, but this could potentially impact your ranking compared to mobile-friendly sites.

If you have a separate mobile website that is lacking on content or usability, you could be in some trouble. Google will likely only see the mobile version of your website that is not as comprehensive and determine your page rank accordingly.

Google’s recommended approach? Opt for a fully mobile-responsive site design in which there is little to no variation of content on a page-by-page basis from your desktop version to your mobile version.

PRO TIP: On the bright side, Google made it easy to determine if your site meets their standards for being mobile-friendly. Test it out here.

Page speed

Have you ever tried to visit a website and been greeted with the dreaded spinning wheel?

You probably clicked off after a few agonizing seconds, right? You’re not alone.

Website with high page load times are penalized in search results for that exact reason.

Remember: Google is a company that wants to best serve its customers. If those customers won’t hang around to visit a website that takes more than five seconds to load, Google doesn’t want to show it in search results.

Consider Google’s latest research on the subject: Increasing the page load time for a site from one second to three seconds increases the bounce rate 32 percent. A page load time of five seconds increases it even further, to 90 percent! That’s too big an impact to ignore.

Moral of the story: Make sure your website loads quickly. It creates a better experience for your users and will help with your search ranking.

PRO TIP: If you’re not sure how your website stacks up when it comes to page speed, check out this tool from Google Developers to test it out.

Quality content

Most marketers are familiar with the cliche phrase “content is king” by now, but did you know it applies to more than just your social media feed or brand campaign?

Your website should be full of useful information, laid out in a way that is both thoughtful and user-friendly.

Long gone are the days where you could keyword stuff your landing pages to help improve your rank in search.

Search engines like Google have become highly sophisticated. They’re reading the content on your website to determine whether its useful to a web user. Context is extremely important.

PRO TIP: A good rule of thumb: Write content for people, not robots. Get a more in-depth on Google’s quality guidelines here.

Easy to navigate

How does a search engine crawler find your website? Much like its name implies, it crawls the world wide web, jumping from page to page via the hyperlinks that connect them.

Make sure that your website is accessible by a search engine and that each of your pages connects to one another in a clean, easy-to-navigate manner.

This means regularly checking your site for broken links that could hinder this process.

It’s also a good idea to regularly monitor backlinks to your website. Backlinks are basically a link to your website from another website. It could be from an industry partner, an agency you work with, a blog or news website.

You should be aware of all the backlinks to your website, keeping a close eye on where they’re coming from and if they are functional.

Not all backlinks are created equal so you want to be sure yours are coming from reputable websites that are viewed highly by search engines like Google.

PRO TIP: Not sure how to check for backlinks or broken links on your site? Use a tool like SEO SiteCheckup, which offers several of its services completely free.

Search engines like Google are constantly evolving and altering their algorithm, which can make it difficult to keep up.

Working with a professional SEO team with a comprehensive understanding of optimization techniques can help you to ensure your website has the best chance of ranking on priority keyword searches. Learn more about how we could work together to improve your website’s SEO.

What would you add to this list? Let us know on Twitter.

Photo by rawpixel.com on Unsplash

Rachel Pluck
About Rachel Pluck
Rachel Pluck is a communications specialist for Jessica Lawlor & Company (JL&Co), focusing on content and digital marketing. She previously spent four years in the marketing world, working in-house at a tourism bureau before joining a full-service marketing agency and is currently the Digital Marketing Coordinator at Clark Associates Inc. In addition to her 9-to-5 responsibilities, Rachel is a photographer specializing in landscapes and family portraits.