I’ve updated this article in January 2017 as it was originally written 5 years earlier. It’s interesting to note that not a lot has changed over the past five years, mainly the need to optimise for mobile search and a couple of other bits,
This is the question that most website owners ask, “How do I get higher on Google” or “How do I get on page one of Google“. Ask any SEO expert worth his/ her salt and they will tell you the same thing, “Provide relevant and quality content”.
It simply isn’t enough to just launch a great website regardless of how optimised it is on launch day. You could have Matt Cutts himself (head of Google web spam and considered to be somewhat of an SEO Jedi) design your website but unless you then provide constant care and attention it’s not going to climb up the results pages simply because page one is a desirable bit of real estate that everybody wants to be on. Rest assured that 99% of search terms that exist in the world are being targeted by other website owners every day.
So how do you get your website to rank higher on Google?
Your circumstances and budget will affect if you hire a professional or do it yourself, at the risk of repeating myself however these are the basic do’s and don’ts of ranking higher on Google. I’ve assumed at this point that you’ve already ensured that your existing content is optimised before starting, that you have submitted a sitemap to Google and have checked that your website has been indexed. See my article “Why isn’t my website showing on Google” for more information.
Create new, original and interesting content at regular intervals
This is perhaps the most important thing you can do. New content if created and published correctly should add more relevancy to your website, so for instance if your website is about red widgets then you could add a variety of content such as comparison of dark red widgets and bright red widgets, photos of interesting red widgets, video reviews, latest news about widgets and so on.
If you have a static website then you may struggle with adding content, if however you already have a CMS (Content Management System) such as WordPress then congratulate yourself on your choice as you can easily add many different types of content with no programming skills. To read more about what type of website you might need click here. If you don’t have a CMS website then consider starting a blog on an external platform. Click here to read more about blogging for business.
Optimise your content
It’s often not enough to just add content, If you’re going to go to the trouble of creating original content then you should ensure that you get the most from it by presenting it in such a way as to get as much benefit as possible. Not only will this give your readers a better experience but will also allow the search engines to fully understand what your website is about and in turn this will see you appear higher in the search results.
There has been much talk in the SEO world about writing for the reader and not for the search engines and whilst this is true it is still important to find a balance, Think of a sports personality, it’s important that they play to the crowd, their fans but also vital that they are competitive. It’s a balance and website maintenance or SEO is no different.
The phrase that you wish to rank for should appear in the Title of your content, it should ideally appear in the first paragraph on the page. Feel free to use synonyms as not only will this make your content easier to read but will also allow you to cover similar search phrases. so for instance if you were writing an article about repairing red widgets then you could use such synonyms as fixing, mending, broken, functional, repair, refurbish and so on. If you are a Web Designer in Liverpool then say so but find a few other synonyms to include throughout your text, maybe mention SEO in Liverpool and Internet Marketing in Merseyside. You get the picture?
One important point to consider is keyphrase research. For arguments sake, If you were looking for me what would you type into Google? If you were looking for your business what would you search Google for? Personally I’d think that you’d search for SEO St Helens or Web Designer St Helens. You’d be surprised at what people actually type. If you can find phrases relevant to your business that are commonly searched for but that your industry generally overlooks then you’ll be amazed at the enquiries that you generate once you incorporate them into your content and start to rank high in the search results. Often you’ll see me ask questions on Facebook amongst friends to find out what they’d search for if they were looking for a particular thing. Generally I then feed them into a piece of software and analyse the results. Take a look at the keyphrase software here, there’s a free trial available.
Optimise your images
Ensure any photographs are optimised in size so that they load quickly. Each image should have a relevant alt tag. When Google indexes your page it can read text and also knows that you have images on your page. It can’t however determine what the image depicts and so it relies on the alt tag. So be descriptive, if you have a photo of a broken red widget then make that your alt tag, If you have several images then mix them up a bit and cover all the bases.
Optimise your layout
Your content should be broken down into manageable and readable paragraphs. Not only is this easier to read but also allows you to effectively use headings. There are no hard and fast rules here (simply because nobody knows what the Google algorithm prefers) but it is generally accepted that each page should whenever practical contain at least one H1 tag and then if needed h2 and h3 tags. These tags together not only make for an easy to read page but also send further confirmation signals to the search engines about the subject matter of your content.
Optimise For Mobile Devices
What’s important in 2017 is to ensure that your website is mobile friendly. The percentage of people accessing the internet by a mobile device, such as a smart phone or tablet now exceeds those who are using a traditional computer or laptop, Google can detect if your site isn’t mobile friendly and will adjust your position in the search results if the search is being performed from a mobile device.
Some industries such as the beauty industry can see over 80% of its traffic coming from a mobile device, Can you imagine the business that you’d be missing if you were in this industry with a non mobile friendly website?
Wherever possible you should mix it up a bit. Use diagrams, videos, photographs and charts. Link to other relevant topics both internally and externally if you think it will enhance your readers experience. If it helps your reader then use it. Google is far more advanced than we can imagine, if your readers find it useful then you can bet your bottom dollar that Google will figure out the relevance too.
Apply the finishing touch
Depending on how your website is structured you can choose in which category your post should appear. In addition you will also be able to apply tags to your post to further fine tune it’s relevancy and also aid your readers navigation. Complete all the meta tags ensuring that you aren’t keyword stuffing and then publish your content. Post to any relevant sources such as your Facebook page, your Google+ page, Twitter, Linked in etc.
From 2017, Google will be giving preference to websites that have an SSL certificate. You’ll have seen this on the internet. It’s the little padlock that you see on the address bar along with https instead of http. If you’re serious about ranking as high as possible, get an SSL certificate from your hosts.
What you shouldn’t do
If you forget to do any of the above then it wont be the end of the world, your content will still improve the overall relevance of your website for your chosen topic. Optimising just gives you that bit more bang for your buck, it’s the icing on the cake, the brandy butter on your mince pie, the chocolate sprinkle on your cappuccino. If however you do any of the following then it can have a negative impact on your search performance.
- Never copy someone else’s content, Google can detect content that has been lifted from someone else’s website and it simply wont give you any credit for this, Worst still this is plagiarism.
- Never “spin” someone else’s content. If you don’t know what this means then that’s not a bad thing, move on.
- If you want to use someone else’s quote, image etc then give them the credit for it.
- Don’t keyword stuff, If you are talking about red widgets then fine, mention them freely throughout your content, use the phrase when appropriate in your titles and subtitles but read the article back to yourself before publishing it to check that it reads naturally. If you like you can highlight or bold the odd relevant phrase here and there. I’ve done it higher up this page.
- Never try to trick the search engines, if you can’t imagine how you would possibly do this then I’m not going to go into detail as you’re better off not knowing. Google is smart and is constantly tweaking it’s algorithm to catch out webmasters who try to game the system.
How about back links?
Back links are something that i’ve never subscribed to, let me explain further. I’ve never got hung up about them, I’ve not actively seeked them in volume and luckily for me my laziness has paid off. Early in 2012 Google started to release many updates to it’s algorithm that amongst other things aimed to target the websites that had abused the backlink system. If all this confuses you then just bear this in mind. Natural links are fine. If you want to register on the red widget association website then go ahead, If you are a member of the red widget forum then go ahead and use your website link in your signature. These are all natural links. Don’t however be tempted to buy hundreds of dodgy links from an Ebay seller in darkest Peru, adverts like this should start to ring alarm bells immediately. Back links are still valuable but only from relevant and trusted sources. Allow your back links to grow naturally, it’s not about quantity, it’s about quality.
How To Rank Higher On Google
To summarise, hopefully you’ve seen that it isn’t rocket science to get higher on Google, that said, it isn’t easy, some search phrases have less competition than others, it’s about doing your keyword research, knowing your market and spending hours creating original and engaging content. You can learn to do it yourself and I have many clients who have taken the time to learn. As a result their websites rank well and their websites create a constant stream of new and returning visitors. I have clients who simply don’t have the time or inclination to update their website or blogs, they do however understand the value of this and so they pay me to do it on their behalf.
I also have clients who don’t fall into any of the above and it is these clients who simply aren’t getting any benefit from their website. It’s a bit like buying a new dishwasher but refusing to buy dishwasher tablets. As the photo suggests – It ain’t gonna SEO itself!