Google’s algorithm is proprietary. That means we don’t know exactly how Google determines rank. They’ve shared some of the bits and pieces but not the entire picture. Marketing & SEO pro’s make a living reading between the lines connecting the dots to help their clients get the highest rank possible.
Here are the 5 things you need to know to improve your site’s rank and rise to the top (or as close as possible) on Google’s SERP.
#1: Backlinks to Quality Sites Still Carry Weight
In a Q & A session from March of 2017, Google revealed their top three ranking factors. Backlinks were number one. Since Google rarely comments publicly about their algorithm, we can’t say for certain that backlinks are still number one, but it’s safe to assume they’re very close to the top.
A backlink is any link that leads from another site to yours. If you want backlinks to have a positive impact on your Google rank, they must be from authority sites. Multiple links from the same site won’t help you since Google evaluates backlinks based on domains, not volume.
Remember that spammy backlinks won’t help you. In fact, they may hurt you. When a low-quality site links to yours, Google may associate your quality site with their low-quality content or practices. Instead of buying links or engaging in other “black hat” practices, focus on organically building quality links.
#2: Content is Still King
The next most important ranking factor is your content. Google’s aim is to provide highly relevant, quality content to searchers. The better your content is, the more likely it is that your site will rise to the top of the SERP.
Not all quality is created equal. You can signal quality to Google by doing the following things:
#3: Mobile Responsiveness is a Must
The next thing to consider is whether your site is mobile-friendly. As of 2017, more than half of all Google searches were conducted on mobile devices. That’s not something you can ignore.
If you’ve been paying any attention to developments at Google, you know that their Mobilegeddon update in 2015 penalized sites that weren’t mobile friendly. As of 2018, not being mobile friendly will have a negative impact on your Google rank.
Mobile users expect the sites they visit to be easy to use – whether they’re accessing them on a smartphone or a tablet. They’re not going to frequent your site if:
#4: Slow Loading Pages Will Drive Users Away & Affect Rankings
Web users are notoriously impatient. People who visit your site will expect it load quickly. If it doesn’t, they’ll find another site, instead.
Since “quickly” is a relative word, let’s talk about what it means. One study found that 47% of web users expect a site to load in two seconds. Of those, 40% will navigate away if the site takes longer than that to load.
You can test your site’s speed with Google’s Page Speed Insights tool. If it’s too slow to load, you’ll need to address the situation. Some things that may affect your loading speed are:
#5: HTTPS is a Must
You probably know that, as of 2017, Google is penalizing sites that aren’t secure. That means that if you aren’t already using HTTPS, you should be.
HTTPS provides a secure user experience for your site. Sites that use HTTPS display a webicon of a lock. Those that aren’t secure get a message stating that the site isn’t secure, instead.
Switching to HTTPS requires buying a security certificate, installing it, and rerouting traffic from your HTTP site to the new HTTPS site. Once you do, your site will display the lock icon and you may get a boost in your Google rank, too.
Google’s Algorithm is Proprietary…
But that doesn’t mean that you can’t take steps to improve your site’s rank. The five ranking factors listed here are key to moving up the SERP – and getting the search traffic you deserve.