Where Does Your Business Rank In Search Engines?
If you want to be successful online, people must be able to find you. When they type information related to your products and services into search engines, where your page comes up in the results often decides whether or not you get their business. To help you achieve this, I’ve put together 5 Ways to Improve Website Rankings.
Web design is a crucial part of drawing in leads because of its connection to search engine optimization (SEO). There’s a lot of incorrect and outdated information out there about what matters, and a lot of social media agencies that say they know SEO. Spade Design provides straight talk on what search engines are looking for and how to improve your website’s ranking.
Why Web Page Ranking Matters
Marketers and business owners across the nation are dedicating large chunks of their marketing budgets to improving website ranking, which means you face more competition. Search engine optimization is more important than ever before.
The best way to make your website come up higher on search engine results pages (SERPs) is to offer value to your target audience. A huge part of that audience conducts their search on mobile, so prioritizing mobile performance is also key. Check out these statistics:
- In 2017, 79 percent of desktop searches went through Google. In contrast, the next most popular site received only 10.94 percent. To change your ranking, it’s important to know what matters to Google.
- Every second of every day, Google processes more than 63,000 Your buyer doesn’t want ads. They want to feel like they’re in charge of their search. When you offer information you go from being spammy to being helpful.
- “Near me” searches have doubled over the past 12 months. If you receive revenue from East Texas shoppers, a local ranking is extremely important.
- 72 percent of consumers who searched locally then went to a store within five miles of their search location. When you rank high for a local search, you’re at the top of their list for places to visit.
- Web Strategies polled reliable Chief Marketing Officers, research groups, and digital marketing firms. They found in 2018, the average company is spending 41 percent of their overall marketing budget for online. That amount is expected to reach 45 percent in the next two years. If you’re not prioritizing search engine ranking, your competitor probably is.
Simply put, pages at the top get more traffic.
Just how much more? According to a recent micro-study, around 20.5 percent of traffic went to the number one position.
Positions two and three received just over 13 percent each. Results in the fourth position got less than nine percent of the flow, and things went downhill from there.
In other words, the closer you are to the top on search, the more likely people are to visit your website. When they visit your site due to search engine optimization, they often then turn into customers.
The Chicken or Egg Dilemma
Sometimes it’s hard to tell the cause. Does ranking position create traffic or does traffic create position?
The two are closely connected and it’s not really important to determine which came first. If your goal is to grow your business, ranking near the top in search engine results pages helps more customers find you online and in person.
Algorithms and Search Engine Optimization
Search engine optimization has its own language, and an algorithm is a word you’ll hear a lot. An algorithm is a formula, procedure or equation for solving a problem. With computers, it’s a series of steps used to complete a task.
For example, when you search on Google for a term like web designer, search engines process all the possible matches on the world wide web and give you the top results.
It happens very quickly, and most of the time the results are pretty close to what you’re looking for. Google and other search engines use complex algorithms that provide steps for matching results with your query.
Scoring involves looking at page titles, header tags and meta descriptions for keywords. Crawlers add up organic links, analyze how your website performs on mobile and tally a number of other factors. Multiple algorithms very quickly process on-page SEO and off-page SEO factors to create a ranking.
Boosting is moving a page up because search engines discover factors that basically give a page bonus points. Fast mobile sites, for example, get a boost.
Dampening is the opposite of boosting. It’s not a penalty, but it is an element that could make you rank lower than sites with similar content.
Related Article: Improving Your Local SEO Ranking with Directory Listings & Reviews
Google is Constantly Changing SEO
Remember those 63,000 searches a second? Just in the time you’ve been reading this, Google has processed hundreds of thousands of searches.
As users indicate their preference and crawlers index site performance, rankings have changed. Google itself changes its algorithm countless times a year. In an interview, last March, Google’s Gary Illes said on average they make two or three updates to the search and ranking algorithm every single day.
The most popular search engine uses more than 200 signals to calculate page ranking. Google makes algorithm and ranking signal changes thousands of times a year. Most of the time website owners and SEO experts don’t know the changes are coming or what they involve until they suddenly see an inexplicable change in ranking.
In the last two years alone there were nine major updates. Here are a few examples of how updates drastically impact search results.
- Panda – This update was one of the biggest updates ever. In 2011, Google set out to reduce the number of thin websites that provided poor results for users. Before Panda, webmasters created sites targeted at making money on just a handful of keywords. They clogged up search engines and provided little of value, which frustrated users.
- Penguin – In 2012, Google rolled out Penguin to punish websites using black hat SEO. Penguin penalizes sites for activities like keyword stuffing, using misleading redirects, paying for links and scraping content from other sites.
- Hummingbird – On Google’s 15th birthday, the search engine announced a massive update that impacted 90 percent of sites around the world. The change meant Google started looking at searches more like a human instead of analyzing individual words in a search. Hummingbird increased personalization to provide more relevant results.
- Possum – This 2016 update changed the way Google filtered local results.
- Fred – This isn’t just an algorithm or a set of processes, but basically any unnamed update Google decides to make. All quality updates are Fred.
At this point, you may be starting to feel frustration. Search engine optimization is imperative to your long-term success, but the bar is constantly moving.
At Spade Design we’ve been doing this for years, and we can help you improve rankings no matter how often search engines update. Keep calm and read on.
Related Article: 7 Google Business Updates in 2017
Important Google Ranking Signals in 2018
You don’t have to get every single ranking signal right all the time for search engine optimization. There are a few heavily weighted elements that don’t continually fluctuate.
Google’s Search Quality Senior Strategist Andrey Lipattsev says high-quality content and link building are the top two signals Google uses for ranking. Here’s a list of what search engines are looking for.
Backlinks — These are links to your page from an outside source. Google evaluates them according to the following:
- Link score – Each score is calculated based on where the link comes from and how many you have overall. Quality is more important than quantity.
- Anchor text relevance — Anchor text is the text that is a different color to indicate a link. In the above section, do you see how the name “Andrey Lippattsev” is a different color? Search engines will look at the site to which that text links and check to see if that page is connected to that person and also to the topic of this page.
Content – Search engines evaluate content quality by looking at these things:
- Keyword usage
- Content length and comprehensiveness
Your site’s technical foundation – Search engines optimization involves how your site performs assesses the following:
- Page speed – Yours needs to load in two seconds or less.
- Mobile optimization – If you don’t optimize for mobile, you won’t rank at all.
User Experience (UX) – Google exists to provide users with the most relevant information and uses data to determine how they feel about your site.
Related Article: SEO Basics: Why Your Site Needs Ongoing Maintenance
What About Other Search Engines?
Most traffic goes through Google, but there are other options. With each, the ranking factors are similar. When we talk about search engine optimization, what works with Google also applies to other search engines like Bing, Dogpile and Yahoo.
With each, top brands rank higher. Signals from social media and other sources drive rankings. Backlinks improve your page’s SERP position. Quality content is indispensable and on-page factors significantly influence ranking.
You may not know what search engine future traffic will use, but there are elements that will boost your ranking with all of them. Let’s get into specifics with five ways to improve your website ranking. We’ll explore improved UX, faster performance, on-page SEO, off-page optimization and consistent NAP.
Improve Ranking When You Provide Better UX
When search engines assign rank, every factor they evaluate relates to the user journey. According to Google, online user experiences should feel like part of their device, not like “having to reach through a browser window.”
No matter how frequently or drastically algorithms update, at the core will be a desire to provide the user with exactly what they’re looking for.
User Experience (UX) design is the process that makes websites more usable, immersive and engaging for visitors. A good web designer doesn’t start a new site or website redesign thinking about search engine optimization, buttons or conversions. They start with the person who will interact with what they’re creating.
Google Analytics decides what users think about you based on what happens during interactions. One important factor for search engine optimization is your page’s bounce rates.
A bounce rate counts the people who click once on a page, then navigate away. They don’t engage with your landing page or click on menu options to see what’s available.
That tells search engines they either chose your link by mistake or, when they got there, the page didn’t match what they were looking for. There’s nothing on your page that tempts them to engage. That’s a problem with your web design UX.
If your page’s sole purpose is to deliver information, like to tell the time and temperature, high bounce rates aren’t terrible. If, however you want to capture leads, build relationships, intrigue potential donors or encourage sales, high bounce rates mean you’re not meeting your web design goals.
When visitors arrive on your site they ask the following questions:
- Did this link take me where it said it would and where I intended to go?
- Do I see what I’m looking for?
- Is there anything else here I want?
- How do I accomplish what I came here for?
Your website architecture should make each question so easy to answer visitors aren’t even aware they asked them. Mobile friendly web design is also directly tied to conversion rates.
Backlinks and content are the two most important of Google’s ranking factors. The third most important signal comes from Rankbrain. Rankbrain is a method of evaluating search queries that use machine learning to decide if your page fits the user’s query.
It looks at whole phrases on your page and compares them to what the user actually types or speaks into search. It also weighs how many users click on your link and how long they spend looking at information on your page. Lots of clicks and users who spend a long time looking around becomes search engine optimization.
We’ll cover common UX mistakes and explain how to improve your website in our article “How UX Impacts Website Ranking.”
Prioritize Page Load Speed for Better Ranking
In July of this year, mobile page speed becomes an official ranking factor, but don’t wait until then to start worrying about it. Load time is important to UX, and it has a direct impact on your bottom line. Mobile friendly web design will make a huge difference in online success.
Several recent surveys underscore the importance of fast page loading speed.
- According to Kissmetrics, 79 percent of customers say when they choose a site and it performs poorly, they won’t buy from that source. Poor performance means it loads slowly, crashes, freezes or results in an error message.
- 64 percent of smartphone users, almost two-thirds of them expect your page to be completely finished loading in four seconds or less.
- One second might seem like a brief span, but it causes page views to drop by 11 percent. Rankings drop accordingly.
- Just one second slower load times yield seven percent fewer conversions, directly impacting sales.
In our post “How Load Speed Can Make or Break SEO” we’ll go into detail about the factors that have the greatest impact on load speed and what you can do to get your site in front of users as fast as possible.
Related Article: How Load Speed Can Make or Break SEO and Website Rankings
Optimize On-Site SEO Factors
On-site or on-page ranking factors are the ones over which you have the most control. You can’t force users to click on a link or watch a video, but your web designer can optimize important elements of each page to make it more search engine friendly.
Your website developer knows each page’s content is what search engines explore and factor in with other ranking signals. If a user searched for “moonlight encore azalea,” and clicked on your link with a title containing those words, that should be what they find on your page.
If your page is the choice most relevant to their search and it provides the most comprehensive, relevant information on moonlight encore azaleas in a way users and search engines can understand, your page will rank.
Good content provides the best resources to fill a need. It also can be linked to. Search engine optimization involves examining the following features to see how well your page stacks up.
- URL – This is the complete online address for your page. It’s what you would type into the browser to go directly to its location.
- Title tag – This HTML element tells the page title. It’s what you click on from search engine results pages.
- Heading tags – Within your page, there are words in bold to indicate what each section is about.
- Image alt. text – This HTML element tells search engines what the images on your site contain. Web crawlers don’t see photos and graphics the way humans do, so alt. text helps them understand.
- Keywords – Searchers enter these words and phrases into search engines, and search engines look for them in page content.
- Internal links – Pages within your site should link to other pages to create a hierarchy.
Our SEO Checker is a tool that allows you to almost instantly evaluate what’s on your page and even compare your site to that of a competitor. For more information on improving site ranking, see the article “On-Site Factors That Influence SEO.”
Related Article: The Difference Between One Time SEO & Ongoing SEO
Improve Off-Site SEO
On-page SEO involves everything you do on your website. It’s implemented by your web development team. Off-site SEO is everything else. It involves techniques that make your website more visible and popular to improve your SERP position.
Backlinks are the most important signal for search engines optimization. Long ago search engines basically just counted how many links tied to your site. A website with more links ranked higher. Now the process is much more complex. Ranking algorithms evaluate quality and diversity.
Links must be natural and come from relevant websites. Some links are more valuable than others. Just like you’re more likely to take medical advice from someone with a medical degree than a second grader, search engines give more value to links from an authority.
Diversity matters. If you work out a deal with an associate to give your site 20 links from his, that doesn’t count the same as links from 20 distinct websites.
Search engines process a variety of factors to decide how trustworthy a site is. Low-quality links may hurt your trustworthiness both with users and search. Search engine optimization becomes difficult.
Since crawlers are constantly indexing, they develop an idea of what makes up normal links and contents for your site. Whether or not you have secure SSL encryption also impacts trust.
Social signals let search engines know how popular your page is. While likes and shares don’t do a thing for your SERP position, social is part of off-page SEO. When people share your content, more users click on or link to it.
You reach a larger audience, which increases your click-through rates. Social signals also give search engines reputation indicators that let them know what your site is mostly about and how many users think it’s the best resource.
We cover off-site SEO in much greater depth along with black hat SEO in our article, “Off-Site Elements that Improve Site Ranking.”
Verify and Correct NAP
NAP stands for Name, Address, Phone number. That sounds so simple most people wonder how it could possibly be on the same level of importance as UX in web design and search engine optimization. You’d be amazed how many problems those small details can create for businesses trying to improve their website’s rank, especially locally.
Search engines look for that data to process geo-targeted search results. Here’s an example – Bob started a painting company in East Texas and hired a buddy to build a website he called www.wecanfixit.com.
Bob used his home address and cell number because that’s where he worked from. He registered with Angie’s List and Yelp to get the word out about his services. He got a number wrong when he entered his address on Yelp.
Bob was excellent at his work, and before long he rented a space, hired employees and got an official business line. Eventually, he had a website developer build a professional site with a web address that reflected his business name, “Bob’s Handyman Services.”
Now when search engines evaluate Bob, he has more than one website and at least three variations of his address. Customers don’t know which number to call or what site to choose. Search engines don’t know which site belongs to the real Bob.
Incorrect NAP is caused by the following:
- Address or phone number duplications
- Incomplete entries
They hurt your ranking because users feel confusion and click on another choice. Business goes to competitors because they seem more trustworthy. Search engines can’t tell for sure which listing is correct, so they give users results they know are consistent.
It’s a problem that seems simple, but it’s very hard to correct. Find out more in “How NAP Can Cause Your Website Ranking to Nosedive.”
Search Engine Optimization Experts
Website ranking has a significant impact on the traffic that flows to your website. Traffic affects the revenue that streams through your business. On-page and off-page factors, UX, load speed and NAP all make a difference in ranking.
Spade Design helps clients evaluate every aspect of their online presence to optimize for search engines so more clients can find you, and it all starts with a conversation. Get in touch with our experts today.