How to Make Google Fall in Love with Your Website

A Complete Guide to Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

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Image by Marco2811 on Adobe Stock

How Does Google Work?

To understand SEO, it’s important to have an understanding of how Google works. The search engine is incredibly complex, and Google is notoriously secretive about exactly how it works, but over the years they’ve revealed a fair amount of key information.

Ranking Factors

The Google algorithm uses over 200 different factors when evaluating pages. These factors help Google determine which pages to return in search results. You enter a search term and Google evaluates millions of pages by their ranking factors to find the results that best match your search.

  • Backlinks
  • Page speed
  • User experience
  • Content freshness, depth, and accuracy
  • Site authority
  • Security
  • Mobile friendliness
  • Structured data
  • Optimized for voice search

SEO Factor #1: Search Intent

One of the most important Google ranking factors is search intent. Behind every search there is intent. In other words, when you type a search into Google, you’re looking for something specific. You want to know how to make a certain recipe, the height of the Eiffel tower, or the most recent soccer scores.

Keyword Research

Keyword research is the process of finding relevant keywords and phrases that have a high monthly search volume and then including those words and phrases throughout a page. When you include relevant keywords in your content, it helps Google understand the content more effectively.

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Optimizing Your Content

Once you’ve identified a number of relevant keywords and phrases, spread them appropriately and naturally throughout your page.

  • Within the first 100 words
  • In a subheading
  • Naturally sprinkled throughout the body

SEO Factor #2: Backlinks

Backlinks are another important search ranking factor. When a website links to your website, that’s a backlink. Generally speaking, the more backlinks a page has, the more authoritative and trustworthy it is. Authoritative pages are shown higher in search results.

Create Great Content

The starting place for getting backlinks is creating outstanding content on your website. There are literally millions of new pages published on the Internet each day. If you want people to link to your pages, it’s important to give them a good reason. Create valuable content that people actually want to link to.

  • It’s authoritative (facts, studies)
  • It’s easy to consume (easy to read, well-designed)
  • It’s up to date

Promote Your Content

At its core, link-building is all about finding strategic ways to promote your content. After all, if you want people to link to your content, they need to see it first.

  • Guest post. Find relevant sites that allow guest posts. In your post, include one link back to your own site. Be sure to carefully follow any provided instructions.
  • Appear on podcasts. Find relevant podcasts that welcome guests. You’ll probably get a backlink in the show notes.
  • Find broken links. Use an SEO tool like Ahrefs to find links on relevant websites that don’t work anymore. Email the site owner and offer your own content as a replacement for the broken link. Check out this Broken Link Building Guide for more details.
  • Find resource pages. Many websites put together large lists of links to helpful resources. Find relevant resource pages and ask if your content might be added to the page.

SEO Factor #3: Page Speed

Page speed is how fast a page loads in the browser. Fast pages can be viewed almost immediately while slow pages take longer to appear. These days, page speed increasingly matters to Google.

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Compress Images

Large images on web pages dramatically increase the time it takes them to load. A very simple way to increase your page speed is to automatically compress all your images. If you use WordPress, the WP Smush Image plugin will handle all the compression duties for you.

Implement Browser Caching

When a person visits your site, all the elements of your website, such as images and HTML code, need to be loaded into their browser. This process requires a lot of resources and slows down the loading process.

Minify HTML

When a person visits your site, the HTML code must be loaded into and interpreted by their browser. Decreasing the amount of HTML that must be loaded increases page speed. Minification decreases the HTML by cleaning it up: removing unnecessary lines, erasing duplicate information, and more.

Remove Unnecessary Plugins and Scripts

Plugins and scripts are a great way to improve the functionality of your website.

Use A Content Delivery Network (CDN)

A Content Delivery Network (CDN) puts the files to your website on a large number of servers around the world (as opposed to servers in a central location). When a person visits your site, they’re getting the files from a server that’s relatively close to them.

SEO Factor #4: User Experience (UX)

In recent years, Google has started using a machine learning algorithm called RankBrain to determine whether users are satisfied with search results. Pages that show high user satisfaction are ranked higher in the search results.

Click Through Rate (CTR)

Click through rate (CTR) is the percentage of people who see your site in the search results and actually click through to your site. If 100 people see your site and 3 click through, your CTR is 3%. If a page has a high CTR, it’s a signal to Google that the page is important and should be high in the search results.

  • If you struggle to come up with good titles, use CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer. It will examine your proposed title and make suggestions for how it can be improved.
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  • Third, optimize the URL of your page. The best way to do this is to make the URL short and include the primary keyword in it. Something like this: www.example.com/primary-keyword. Avoid using long keywords with lots of random characters. Keep them short and sweet.

Dwell Time

Dwell time is how long someone stays on your site after clicking on the search result. If they stay for a long time, it’s a sign to Google that the content on the page is valuable and should be placed higher in the search results. Higher dwell time equals higher rankings.

  • Long form content. Longer, more in-depth content tends to perform better than short content. Long content provides much fuller answers than short content, which leads people to stay on the page longer, which increases overall dwell time.
  • Easy to read. If you’re going to create long-form content, it has to be easy to read. Large blocks of text are overwhelming and will turn people off. Use plenty of subheadings, paragraph breaks, bullet points, and more to break up the text.
  • Embed videos. Embedded videos can be a helpful supplement to text on your pages. An additional benefit is that they keep people on your pages longer, which boosts your dwell time.
  • Internal links. Linking to other, highly relevant pages on your website causes people to explore your site more, which increases the overall dwell time on your website.

SEO Factor #5: Content Freshness, Accuracy & Depth

All content is not created equal, and Google cares very much about giving searchers the right content. To ensure they deliver the best results, they look at several different things.

Content Freshness

If a search is time-sensitive, it’s important that it be fresh and updated. For example, if someone searches for “current NFL standings”, they want the most recent information. They don’t want NFL standings from six months ago.

Content Accuracy

Google does their best to ensure that the information they show in search results is accurate. They do this in several different ways. They compare information against something called the “knowledge graph”, which is a huge information repository containing data on all kinds of things.

Content Depth

The more thoroughly you cover a subject, the greater the odds of ranking in top search results. Now, to be clear, thoroughness is different than length.

SEO Factor #6: Site Authority

Some websites carry more authority than others. When it comes to medical issues, the Mayo Clinic’s website is much more authoritative than some random person’s blog. Major news outlets carry more weight than websites run by a single person.

SEO Factor #7: Security and Mobile Friendliness

Two more ranking factors that you may have already implemented are security and mobile friendliness. If these things aren’t in place on your site, it’s going to be really tough for you to rank highly.

Security

Google takes the security of its users seriously. They don’t want to send people to an unsecured site where data could be breached.

Mobile Friendliness

In addition to being secure, your site also needs to be mobile-friendly, meaning that it looks good on a smartphone. Sites and pages that aren’t mobile-friendly won’t perform well in search results.

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SEO Factor #8: Use Structured Data

Many web pages have text on them that’s easy for people to understand but tough for the Google algorithm to make sense of. For example, you may have a product page that features things like prices, availability, ratings, and more. Google can’t easily understand that information unless you structure it in a specific way.

  • Movies
  • Courses
  • Ratings
  • Events
  • Local business info
  • Recipes
  • And much more
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SEO Factor #9: Optimize for Voice Search

Since the introduction of voice assistants like Siri, Alexa, and Google Home, voice search has exploded. Instead of typing in their searches, people can just speak them now.

  • What time is the movie playing?
  • Is ice water good for dogs?
  • When did the Beatles break up?
  • Shoot for the featured snippet. The featured snippet often shows up before any other search results and is often given as answers to voice searches. For strategies on how to get the featured snippet, check out this guide by HubSpot.
  • Write naturally. Google wants voice search results to sound natural, so they tend to favor content that’s written naturally. In other words, write like you talk. Avoid being stiff and formal.
  • Keep it simple. On average, voice search results tend to be at around a 9th grade reading level. This is one reason why you don’t want to use overly technical jargon or complex words.
  • Boost your site speed. Google wants to deliver voice search results fast, which means they favor faster websites. The faster your site, the better the chances of you ranking for voice searches.

Playing the Long Game

SEO is a long game that you don’t win overnight. It takes time to create great content that’s optimized for search intent and user experience. Getting backlinks to your site takes consistent, concerted effort.

  • Get backlinks
  • Improve your page speed
  • Create a good user experience
  • Create content that’s fresh, accurate, and in-depth
  • Build the authority of your site
  • Ensure that your site is secure and mobile-friendly
  • Use structured data
  • Optimize for voice search

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I come from a land down under | Manners will take you where money won’t | HR Consultant | OHS Specialist | Personal Trainer

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