Google didn’t get to be the world’s number one search engine by chance, it did so by being useful.

It focussed on the users’ needs, aiming to be as helpful as possible. Tirelessly checking to see that the websites suggested to its users are the most valuable available.

That’s why they’re so good at it. They continually make adjustments to their algorithms, ensuring they stay way ahead of the game. With a staggering multi-billion turnover, it’s a lucrative business.

We’re often asked the question – ‘So how do you feature higher in search results?’ the answer is simple; you provide the most value. The best in-depth content, the most intuitive and responsive website experience. Anything you can do to improve your visitors’ journey, makes Google view you more favourably. They want the best, so you have to create quality in everything you do.

Why do businesses want to be at the top of Google?

We no longer reach for the Yellow Pages when we want a tradesperson, we enlist Google.

The coveted first position on Google attracts a whopping 32.5% of all searches.

To amass 32.5% of people who are actively searching for your products and services is immense. These are hot sales leads, looking for the services you offer. No newspaper advertisement, leaflet, or traditional marketing method could ever deliver such a large number of high-quality leads.

SEO leads have a 14.6% close rate. Compared with an average of 1.7% in print advertising. – Hubspot*

Therefore to rank higher up on Google, it’s worth addressing the following aspects of your website…

1. Content

To perform well you need good quality, well researched and in-depth copy that users will enjoy reading.

It would be unwise to use duplicate content which has been copied from elsewhere on the web. There’s a high chance Google would penalise you for it.

A great way to increase traffic and improve SEO on a website is by adding a blog. According to Hubspot, a blog, on average increases traffic by 55%.

15% of Google queries have never been made before. Therefore keywords and search terms would be ineffective. The only way to reach these searchers is by featuring in-depth content of over 2000 words in length, a blog is a perfect platform for this.

The average content length for a page which ranks in the top 10 for any keyword on Google is above 2000 words. – Quicksprout

Grammatically incorrect text which is difficult to read and doesn’t include any keywords will not only impact the performance of your website but will also harm credibility. In a survey, 74% of visitors openly admitted to looking for spelling and grammatical errors and 59% said they would not buy from a company with obvious spelling mistakes on their website.

For more information on how to create great content for your website, have a read of this blog from Google on building high-quality sites.

2. User experience

A poorly laid out website will feel difficult to navigate, not creating the best experience for its users. Search engines look for value, if your website provides value for visitors then they view it as more important and relevant too.

The best layout is instinctive, with navigational text standing out from the rest of the page. It’s best to avoid a cluttered main menu, instead, having intuitive ‘drop downs’. As a rule of thumb where you want to be, should never be more than three clicks away.

Bounce rates show the percentage of users reaching a site and then choosing to not go any further than beyond the first page. A high bounce rate suggests that your website is difficult to navigate or isn’t relevant or valuable to your audience. It’s a key performance indicator.

Nobel prize winner, Daniel Kahneman explained simplicity correlates strongly with trust. Anything too complicated gets the user asking questions, which in turn makes them suspicious. Simplicity is key to any positive website experience. Easy navigation is crucial for SEO and successful buyer journeys.

3. Pictures to content ratio

Whilst search engine bots view images, they aren’t able to recognise what they are. If your website is photo heavy, with very little written content, it’s possible that Google will view your website as poor quality. It’s best to have a good balance between written content and images on every page.

4. Low click-through rate

Meta descriptions are the snippet of text which appear on search engine results pages.

A well-written meta description, accurately describing and selling the associated webpage encourages lots of ‘click-throughs’. Telling Google that your site is more important than the ones listed higher than it. Which therefore encourages Google to adjust its ranking positions. Pushing you up the list of search results, making your website more visible to searchers.

5. Black hat SEO

There was and still is a lucrative black market for blatantly manipulating search engines. It turns out search engines are much more sophisticated than spammers. But over the course of two notorious major Google algorithm updates, Panda and Penguin, the high-flying spammers sunk to the bottom and those with user-focused content rose to the top. Businesses went bankrupt, finding out the hard way that human users should always be a top priority, not search engines. Shortcuts have short-term effects and ultimately result in the damage of a company’s search engine positioning.

6. Link-building

A link refers to an external website that connects to yours. If well-respected websites are linking to yours then it adds to your credibility and therefore search engines deem you more important.

Link-building has changed, gone are the days when just any link will do, you now need quality links from established and well-respected websites. Low-quality links have a negative impact and in high number, can even get your website blacklisted by Google. Spammy SEO techniques go hand in hand with poor user experience and Google have a very dim view of such practices.

If you use an SEO company, always ensure they are reputable, as quick gains can quickly turn sour. Potentially resulting in websites disappearing from search results pages overnight.

It is never a good idea to try and be cleverer than Google.

7. Mobilegeddon

A website that does not work properly on mobile phones and tablets, frustrates users. They tend to leave and go elsewhere, pushing up the dreaded bounce rates. Which in turn tells Google, people think your website isn’t user-friendly.

In 1996 the mouse wheel was introduced, meaning people could scroll effortlessly. Touch screens encouraged the trend of extending websites beneath the fold of the screen even further.

Users no longer expect to be overwhelmed with all the content at once. Meaning you can create a lovely looking website with a layout that suits your visitors viewing device and style. Guiding users to the parts of the website you want them to see…

By creating an easy and intuitive user experience, visitors are more likely to spend time on your website.

To find out if your current website is optimised for smartphones visit Google’s mobile-friendly test.

50% of all mobile searches are conducted in the hopes of finding local results. 61% of which result in a purchase – Quicksproat

8. Unhealthy website

From time to time websites can become hacked or targeted by spammers aiming to promote traffic to low-quality, dodgy websites. Keep an eye on your site, make sure comments need to be approved before going live. Keep on top of website updates, make passwords difficult to guess and limit incorrect logins. Spammy content can undo your SEO efforts. It’s important to do everything you can to ensure your website is not vulnerable to cyber-attacks. It’s also worth monitoring your businesses extended online presence (e.g, TripAdvisor), reporting anything untoward.

9. Takes too long to load…

Slow websites are irritating. 40% of users abandon a site after waiting just three seconds. Which will send your bounce rate skyrocketing, seriously hampering your SEO efforts.

Flash-based websites, animations, auto-loading videos and advertisements all slow down a website. Outdated code and poor hosting platforms can have an effect too.

10. Advertisements

If your website is loaded with heavy advertisements, (especially towards the top of the screen) it can prevent users from reaching the content they’re looking for, impacting user experience and therefore SEO. Only a website with an impressive domain authority figure should ever commence any form of heavy advertising. Newspapers can get away with it, small and medium-sized websites, can not.

11. Error codes

Dead links can seriously hamper your SEO efforts. It’s well worth using a broken link checker.

There are a broad range of tweaks that are required to ensure optimal performance, from title tags to image tags. Ensuring the correct page title elements are in place, whilst avoiding common pitfalls like not using any keywords or using too many.

Small efforts can make a difference, if you’d like to find out more, please contact us.

12. It takes time…

A brand new website can take six months to become visible on search engines. With an established website, it would take at least a couple of months for your SEO efforts to bear fruit.

What can we expect in the future?

The future of SEO appears to be in machine learning. Late in 2015 Google unveiled RankBrain.

Despite its apparent newness, it has already become the third most important ranking factor.

RankBrain is a component of the Hummingbird algorithm update. Which was created mainly with search queries in mind. To allow users to speak to a search engine like they would a person.

The aim of RankBrain is to better understand searcher’s queries by looking at alternative spellings and the use of words. Creating patterns so that the websites ranked match the searchers intent not specifically the keywords used. The best websites, with the most in-depth content and intuitive user experience, are ranked highest.

RankBrain is likely to become more and more sophisticated.

It is therefore more important than ever to ensure your website is optimised for humans not search engines. Machine learning has allowed Google to create an algorithm that predicts the ranking of a website just like a person would.

It will ultimately spell the end of black hat SEO.

To find out more about our SEO services, please call 01900 821628 or email: hello@wombatcreative.co.uk

References: *www.hubspot.com/marketing-statistics, **www.quicksprout.com/2012/12/20/the-science-behind-long-copy-how-more-content-increases-rankings-and-conversions/