There’s no denying it, Google Search is a big deal. When we say big, we are talking about an index that weighs in at a whopping 100,000,000 gigabytes. That’s hundreds of billions of web pages stored in Google’s brain, all searchable in a moment’s notice.
But how, with so many web pages out there, can you get yours front and centre (or rather page one and top) in a Google search? Here’s a list of nine Google ranking factors that you just can’t ignore in 2018.
To see how your site is currently ranking, have a look at our search ranking tool that is optimised for Google New Zealand.
More than anything else, Google exists to help searchers have a positive experience, so content it believes provides genuine value is key. Don’t confuse quantity (of words) with quality – long content doesn’t equate to good content. It’s far better for your users, for Google and ultimately your website if you think more about intent rather than hitting a keyword milestone. Thin content just won’t do it these days, so make sure you are offering something that serves a purpose, and consider related areas that might be of interest to someone landing on your page.
Back in 2016, the number of people surfing the web on a mobile device overtook those on desktops. Take a look around next time you’re waiting for a train, queueing in a shop or even watching a film – everyone is on a smartphone. Sure, they might be listening to music, posting a picture or looking for love, but the point is they expect to be able to access content with immediate effect. If your offering isn’t mobile-friendly then you are essentially burying your head in the sand at a time when more than half of internet users are looking for you. And in case you needed more persuading, this year Google rolled out its mobile-first indexing strategy, which means the mobile version of a web page is what’s used for indexing and ranking, rather than the previously used desktop version.
A bespoke page title
Any content management system worth its salt will give you full control over key backend fields that can be fully optimised. In particular, Google pays special attention to your page title and URL. A page title, sometimes called a window title, appears in your browser tab as well as on Google’s results pages. The search engine uses page titles to understand what information the article contains, so this is where your primary keywords need to be – without keyword stuffing, of course.
An optimised URL
Using much the same logic, URLs are usually the first thing that Google will see when looking at your article, and one of the first things a prospective user will see on Google’s results page. URLs should use natural language and replicate your page title as best they can. Think of these fields as the top-most level of optimisation, before feeding down to your headline, intro and so on.
Apart from adding styling, H tags provide a sense of hierarchy within an article, helping readers better navigate and search engines further understand the page.
An H1 tag should be attributed only to the headline of a piece – this is the most important section on the page. Further down the pecking order, an H2 tag supports the H1 tag in the way an introduction supports a headline, so use it to highlight your standfirst. In an ideal world, you’ll also only have one H2 tag on your page.
H3 tags are perfect for tagging optimised subheadings, typically on listicle pages. So there’s no reason you can’t have multiple H3 tags on your page.
If you’ve ever written a blog, run a website or posted something online, you’ll know the sheer joy that comes with the discovery that someone else has linked to your work. In the all-seeing eyes of Google, a backlink from a reputable source is essentially a vote of trust, confidence and authority. It is this linking structure that Google first used when ranking web pages and, as the old saying goes, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. So Google hasn’t “fixed” this metric, but rather added around 200 additional factors that influence a page’s ranking to create the complex algorithm it uses today, with inbound links still playing a big part.
Optimising images is just as important as optimising text. With three key opportunities to take advantage of, in-article images don’t just break up copy, they can also improve ranking. A well thought-out image title, alt text and caption are where you should be focusing your efforts.
An engaging meta description
Enticing a user to click through to your content from Google’s results pages is one of the most important parts of SEO. Imagine putting all that work into creating quality content and getting a top-ranking position only to find that no one is clicking on your entry because your meta description is too dull. Using an active voice and call to action, don’t just summarise your page, but think about what would encourage a user to click through.
Social media signals
The do they/don’t they discussion about social media signals affecting search rankings is a surefire way to divide any room full of SEO enthusiasts. Google’s official line on this is that they are not a direct ranking factor, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t influence rankings.
Social shares don’t count as individual links, but the more popular your post is and the more traction it gains, the wider your audience becomes, increasing the potential for genuine links. If you have the opportunity to write bespoke, snappy headlines for various social platforms then do so and, who knows, you might just see your page creeping up the rankings.
Have a look at our Search Ranking tool for Google NZ if you haven’t tried it yet and bookmark now to test your site periodically.