Understanding The Google Algorithm
The precise functionality of the Google algorithm is possibly one of the most guarded secrets on our planet. What is known definitively is that the algorithm takes into consideration over 200 different factors to rank websites on its search engine. Many factors contribute positively to your ranking while others can have a negative impact.
Google is constantly tweaking its algorithm to try and provide users with the best possible experience. They basically do this by placing more or less weight on factors at various times (for example Google recently placed more weight on site performance which means slow loading websites may suffer a negative penalty). As a safety net there are also manual overrides to protect the integrity of the system.
Google now also has a major focus on providing personalised results for the most relevant answer to queries. To do this they use a plethora of data from both search history and location. In essence this means that results may differ when different people search for the same key terms, particularly if they have vastly different geographic locations.
Through our years of experience and experimentation Google SEO has identified several factors which do have a substantial impact on where your site ranks both negatively and positively. Please read below for further details on some of our findings in no particular order. Our list is in no way conclusive
One true constant with EVERY website is that on page search engine optimization is an absolute must and a critical component of getting your site ranked and ranked well. For more detailed info about what is involved follow the link above
Quality of Content
Understanding what “quality content” means is not as straight forward as it seems as search engines and human beings have different requirements. As a general rule we can say that writing for humans is the best strategy as this will keep users interested and on site. On the other hand we must make it as easy as possible for the search engines to identify what the content is describing. Check out our content writing section for a more detailed description of this extremely important component that the Google algorithm considers when ranking sites
Google recently added more weight to this factor, although we have not noticed significant changes. We believe that this will only be a factor in particularly poor performing sites and is not as significant as some initially feared when the announcement was made. It is still a consideration however. Look at it like this, Google wants the best experience possible for its users and if websites take an eternity to load or have several broken links, then they are not worthy of a high ranking. Further considerations under this rubric include site navigation and crawlability. The site must be both easy for users to navigate and the Google bots to spider
Google does believe in giving new sites a chance in our experience. In saying that, if people arrive at your site and then immediately navigate away, you can be sure Google won’t be offering a cat’s existence. It is important to use good analytic tools to track this data so your site does not suffer negatively
As mentioned above geographical location of both the user and the website come into the equation when ranking on search engines. In addition which Google is used has an effect. Try searching for the same terms in google.com, google.co.nz, google.co.uk for the same terms from the same IP address and you will see variations in the results. This is as it should be as localized results are generally more relevant to users.
By checking results using different IP addresses in different countries you will notice even bigger fluctuations in results. As a webmaster, if your business is located in New Zealand for example and you are trying to attract New Zealand customers, you may want to consider having a NZ host to reinforce that fact to Google.
Keyword in URL
How important having your keyword in the URL is open to debate so here I will simply describe our experience. It definitely is advantageous however it is still absolutely possible to obtain a #1 ranking without this. It all comes down to the competitiveness of the keyword and other factors listed here such as on page SEO and age or popularity of the website. Would I exchange a 5 year old site with 200 quality backlinks and a non relevant URL for a new domain with an exact match? No I certainly wouldn’t, however if I was making a new site I would absolutely target a relevant URL.
Age and maturity of Site
In Google as in life, there is no substitute for experience. Simply put, the older a website, the more credibility it has in the eyes of a search engine. Again this must be considered in conjunction with other factors as a well aged site which correspondingly has outdated technology and a frustrating browsing experience is no use to anyone.
How often is the content on the site updated?
Google has a love affair with fresh and unique content. This is particularly important for new sites. The more work you put in here the bigger the rewards.
Quantity AND Quality of Back links
As everyone knows, besides on page SEO factors, link popularity is mission critical for a well ranking site. Follow the link for more detailed information about how internet marketing can significantly improve your SERP. In general it is very good to have links from relevant authority sites with clear link descriptions (anchor texts).
Not to be confused with SERP (search engine ranking position), page rank is basically a credibility score given to sites by search engines. A high page rank will only offer value to your site if it is properly optimized. Generally speaking improving page rank involves obtaining high quality back links from relevant authority sites; having an older domain name; attracting decent volumes of traffic to site; and keeping users on sites for longer periods of time.
These few words which describe your site are important because if you manage to rank your site well and no one feels compelled to click on it, you will not be staying there for long
Meta tags still have a role to play however please don’t listen to any of these so called “gurus” who tell you that you must list your keywords in the meta data. In fact if anyone does tell you this, then you should consider that as a clear signal that they don’t have the foggiest idea what they are talking about. They are ignored by search engines! This has been publically stated by Google and I see no reason why they would lie about it. Furthermore our own experiments confirm this. It is valuable to fill in the site description, title, image and H1 tags however. Diligence here will pay dividends.
Our experience has demonstrated time and again that attention to the above details will result in substantial increases in your SERP for even the most competitive keywords. However you will notice that if you don’t persist with your campaigns you will slide back down again. The key once you get to the top is consistency if you want to stay there.