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Have you ever wondered why Google ranking was important? Of course not! You just accept it for a fact: if you want your website to be popular, you have to improve its position in the search engine results regarding the common keywords your target audience uses.
According to a study published by Chitika in 2013, the page that ranks first in Google’s results gets an average traffic share of 32.5%. The second page gets 17.6%, and the number of visits continues decreasing from there on. The 15th page in the results gets only 0.4% of the traffic.
If you get to the first page of results when your target audience searches for a relevant keyword, you know your SEO strategy is already successful. Basically it’s free promotion for your brand. However, you can’t rest until you get to the first position. In fact, you can’t rest even there; since that status is a huge challenge to maintain.
What happens if you craft the perfect search engine optimization strategy, but Google still doesn’t rank your site? You’ve done everything by the book, but you can’t see any progress in the rankings? Well, it means you were less than perfect.
First, you need to understand how Google determines your rank in its results. Then, you have to recognize the flaws in your methods and fix them. The results will follow.
The full list of factors that Google uses to rank sites is quite extensive. There are about 200 factors that determine your visibility in the list of results. Some of those factors have been proven, while others are mere speculations. The only fact we come down to is that Google is not as predictable as marketers would like it to be.
Nevertheless, there are certain factors that have definite influence over the rank of your site. Here are the top 10 things to pay attention to:
1. The length of the content
Google loves long-form content, since it gives more value to its users. If you thought that the online audience doesn’t have great attention span, you’re in for a surprise: people prefer getting in-depth solutions to the issues they have. They prefer getting all information they need from a single source, since that would reduce the time spent in research.
The data provided by the serpIQ blog shows that the average length of the content that ranks on the first position of Google’s results is around 2500 words. As the user makes progress through the list of results, they find shorter pieces of content. Still, the average length of the content ranked on the first 10 positions is above 2000 words.
2. Keyword in the title tag, description tag and H1 tag
The title tag is an important on-page SEO factor, which Google considers when listing websites upon a user’s quest. According to the data published by Moz, title tags that begin with a keyword perform better than those with the keyword in another position. The description and H1 tags also make a difference, since they determine how relevant your content is to the user’s search.
3. Keyword frequency
When a certain keyword appears more frequently than all others, it serves as a relevancy factor for your content.
4. Image optimization
You’re mostly concerned about optimizing the content in general, but what happens with image descriptions? You should make sure to optimize images, since people also use Google to find visual content. Thus, the descriptions of on-page images send important signals of relevance to the search engine.
5. Multimedia content
It’s what online users want, so Google wants to give it to them. Videos, images, infographics, and other multimedia elements may indicate greater quality, so Google will take it as a signal for ranking the content higher.
6. The number and quality of inbound links
Google wants to see many links from other sites towards your pages, but it also pays attention to the quality of the links. In other words – the links should come from authority websites.
7. Loading speed
All pages should load faster not only for the sake of improving the users’ experience, but also for the purpose of SEO. Google confirmed the importance of speed in an official blog post from 2010:
“You may have heard that here at Google we’re obsessed with speed, in our products and on the web. As part of that effort, today we’re including a new signal in our search ranking algorithms: site speed. Site speed reflects how quickly a website responds to web requests.”
8. Time of content updates
Google’s Caffeine search index is focused on introducing recently updated content to its users, especially when it comes to time-sensitive searches. This means that the user finds fresh information through the queries. The date of the last update matters, but the frequency of page updates is also important.
9. Broken links
Too many broken links on a site indicate poor maintenance. Google discriminates neglected or abandoned sites, no matter how great the content they serve may be. Google’s Search Quality Rating Guidelines emphasize the fact that poor maintenance of the website (which is visible through spammy content, broken links, and lack of moderation in the comment section) signals an untrustworthy source of information.
Google’s Webmaster Guidelines advice webmasters to create sites with original content that bring value for the users. That’s exactly why affiliate websites, which don’t provide additional value for the search engine users, have a hard time getting high ranking.
So you made sure to follow all SEO tips: you use all the right keywords, produce high-quality content, update the site as frequently as possible, and do everything else to engage not just the audience, but the search engine as well. Still, you can’t achieve the results you expected to see. There might be several reasons behind that situation:
1. Poor spelling and grammar
Spelling and grammatical errors do affect the ranking of your site. If you’ve been using article spinners to create more content for your site without wasting time on crafting unique articles, you can’t expect Google to appreciate the efforts. Most of those tools result with unreadable versions of the original content, and we already know that Google puts quality above all.
2. Google hasn’t found your site
Have you asked Google to re-crawl your URLs? If you’ve recently made changes to the URL on your site, you should inform the search engine about it. You’ll find the instructions for the procedure on Google’s support site.
If your site is new, you need to give Google some time to index it. Sometimes it takes a week or more for the search engine to update its results. Check the sitemap and make sure it works impeccably.
3. Your niche is extremely competitive
You used the most common keywords your target audience relies on? Guess what: your competition has already done the same. When you’re targeting a competitive keyword market, you need to extend your SEO strategies further than using the most common search words and phrases in your content.
If the site has 403, 404, or other errors, it won’t reach the top positions in the results no matter how great some of its pages are.
Keyword stuffing is not okay. You might think that elevating the number and frequency of the keywords in your text will signal Google to list your site, but the reality is different: the search engine will recognize such ‘strategy’ as spamming. Too many keywords compressed within a short text inevitably affect the quality and lead to repetitiveness. That’s a good enough reason for a Google penalty.
6. You accidently turned on the privacy settings
This is a common situation for WordPress sites: maybe you’ve accidentally kept the privacy settings on. You can easily check if that’s the case in the Privacy settings.
7. Your content lacks depth
The deeper your content gets into the issues it tackles, the better rank it will achieve. If you’ve been focusing on the frequency of the posts, that policy probably led you to publishing shorter pieces of content. If you take a look at the first page of the results targeting the keywords you used, you’ll notice that Google pays attention to longer, in-depth publications.
8. The site is not mobile-friendly
Google made it clear: it wants your site to be ready for mobile-friendly search results. If you still haven’t altered the design to make it suitable for mobile users, that negligence will affect its overall rankings.
9. Bad site architecture
If the architecture of your site is not great, Google will have trouble to thematically organize your content. As a result, it won’t list it among the top results.
10. You paid for advertorials
Advertorials are designed to appear as simple editorials that recommend certain products or services, so the readers won’t realize they are looking at paid promotion. When a UK flower site got banned from Google for its advertorial campaign in 2013, it became obvious that Google had its eye on these practices.
11. Duplicate content
If your website features the same content on several pages, the search engine won’t index it. Plagiarism is a serial rank killer, even if the duplicate content is solely found on your site.
12. Hosting down
The crawlers won’t index your site if they can’t access it. But, what happens if your website goes up and down all the time? If the host has frequent connectivity fails, your site won’t get crawled at all.
13. High bounce rates
Are the visitors leaving your website with the speed of light? Poor user experience indicates a low-quality website. The search engine will do the same thing your users do: pass on your website and continue looking for something better.
14. Links to suspicious websites
You should make sure to include high-quality links to your website. If they point out to payday loans or online casino sites, Google will put your site in that same rank and it won’t index it. Make sure to check all links and make sure they point out to authority websites. If you notice suspicious links you haven’t added, fix the damage and improve the security system of the site. It’s been hacked.
15. You haven’t outlined a clear keyword strategy
SEO is confusing for many people, so you shouldn’t blame yourself too much for not mastering it. However, you should still notice your mistakes. Your keyword strategy has to be very clear. Do you have primary keywords? You cannot pick random keywords without optimizing the page. Google will look for them in the page title, page link, subheaders, image descriptions, and page description.
Did you recognize any of the problems listed above? If your answer is yes, then you should do everything to fix that. If, for example, you don’t have a clear keyword strategy, you should immediately start getting deeper into SEO and put all the right keywords in the right places. If you’re guilty of paying for advertorials, you need to abandon that practice.
Fix the errors, get rid of the suspicious links, do everything in your power to reduce the bounce rates, add depth to the content, make the sitemap perfect… you get it: fix the mistakes!
Here are few more tips that will help you get your site indexed:
1. Submit the sitemap to Google Webmaster Tools
If you still haven’t started using Google Webmaster Tools, now is the perfect time to create a profile. Make sure to add the link to the sitemap in the settings (Optimization > Sitemaps). That will notify Google about the pages you’ve published.
2. Keep the social profiles updated
Links that lead to your website are very important for the search engine’s crawlers. Your social media profiles give you a nice and easy opportunity to share links to your website. Add the link to the homepage to all profiles, including Google+, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and whatever other social media platform you use for promotional purposes.
3. Get incoming links from influential sites
Write guest blogs for the most authoritative sites in your niche, as well as for article directories. Creating high-quality offsite content is important for improving the reputation and rankings of your site. Remember: no spammy websites with spammy links. You can also get more inbound links through email marketing tactics.
4. Request manual link removal from spammy sites
Use Open Site Explorer or a similar tool to discover the links that lead to your website. If you notice that your competition played a dirty trick and produced tons of unnatural links for your site, contact the owners of those websites and ask for link removal.
Before doing that, think: maybe a freelancer you hired placed those links? If that was the case, the webmaster might ignore your request for removing the links. You need to go back to the source: contact the backlink service, SEO company, or freelancer you hired and request the links to be removed.
5. Update the website with great content… all the time!
The content you promote on the website has to be trustworthy, deep, reliable, and relevant. Update the pages with fresh information, so Google will notice your sharp maintenance. It doesn’t hurt to mention this once again: always write resourceful and detailed content, and launch as many data-driven articles as you can. They will increase the overall quality of the website, and the increased quality will lead to better rankings.
What’s the biggest takeaway from all these tips? Instead of paying attention to following all common SEO practices, maybe you should be concerned about the mistakes you’ve already made during the site’s creation, maintenance, and promotion. Now that you’ve got the tools to identify and fix the flaws, you’ll be on your way to improved rankings.