Imagine being Google and having to organize, sort, and rank 1.5 BILLION websites. In order to do that, Google has established algorithms that are used to prioritize websites. These algorithms are based on a variety of things and are ever-changing. If your website doesn’t play nicely with Google’s rules, it can be like not having a website at all.
Not super fair, right? You may pay the same exact amount for your website as your competitor, but if you don’t follow Google’s prescription for online success, your site may as well be invisible.
Here are just a few of the things your website needs to order to be competitive…
- A solid user experience
- A solid mobile experience
- Strong content, structured correctly
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Search Engine Optimization is a must if you want your website to compete. SEO is a complex topic and is constantly evolving.
Here are a few key SEO best practices:
- Load time. Your website needs to run like a sports car. If it runs like more like a golf cart going uphill, Google will rank a faster loading website higher than yours.
- SSL Certificate. An SSL Certificate encrypts the data that is exchanged between websites. Having one on your site, especially a site that has some sort of payment gateway, shows Google that you take the security of your website – and your visitors – seriously.
- Local SEO. Because so many searches include the words, “near me,” it’s vital that website content is optimized with your business’s location. It is also crucial that you claim all of your business’s local listings (ex: Google My Business) and that the name, address, and phone number is consistent across all listings. To learn more about local SEO, click here.
- GDPR compliance. The General Data Protection Regulation mandates that any website doing business with the EU inform visitors what data is being collected. Since the web is worldwide, you may get visitors from the EU without necessarily “doing business” with visitors from the EU. Additionally, nearly every site has a Google Analytics tracking code on it, which collects data. California has followed suit with a similar mandate, and it’s not outrageous to assume that GDPR will be coming to the U.S. on a more national scale eventually. To read more about GDPR compliance and how it affects SEO, click here.
- Image alt and title tags. ADA compliance is becoming increasingly important for websites, as more and more people are using screen readers for web content. Adding title and alt tags to images tells the screen reader user what the image is about.
- Optimized content. Content is such a cornerstone of ranking, which we will explain in greater detail below. At a minimum, content should be optimized with keywords that your end-user is searching for BUT keyword optimization is a dance. You have to have enough keyword optimization for Google to determine what your site is about, but if you overdo it, Google will penalize your site for “keyword stuffing.”
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A SOLID USER EXPERIENCE
The remaining items on this list are a subset of SEO best practices. In order for Google to decide where to rank your site, it itemizes many of the aforementioned items to determine overall user experience. Things like poor load times, content that is not as strong as the competition’s, and the architecture of how that content is delivered are all things that help to define user experience. When deciding what information to deliver in search engine results, Google will rank a superb user experience over a bad one.
A SOLID MOBILE EXPERIENCE
Google estimates that over half of all searches take place on a mobile device. Let that sink in for a minute. This means that half of your customers are searching for you on a hand-held device, and are processing the information on your website in mere seconds. Convenience rules these kinds of searches. If you have a website that is not mobile-friendly, has slow load times, and does not give the end-user the information they need in record time, Google will not favor your website in search engine results.
STRONG, STRUCTURED CONTENT
Volumes have been written about the importance of content as it pertains to websites and ranking on search engines. With the significant number of websites Google has to process in less than a second for search results, the question is, “Who knows the most about this topic?” and “Who is delivering that information the best?” No pressure there!
Content needs to adhere to things like headline structure (semantic tags), keyword optimization, word count, relevance, and abundance of information. Abundance of information can be determined by asking yourself these types of questions:
- Am I blogging?
- If so, am I doing it in a consistent manner? (Google penalizes sites with sporadic blog posting or a significant amount of blog posting in a short period of time.)
- If I have a blogging schedule, are my blogs portraying me as an authority? Are they reasonably lengthy, informative, keyword optimized, hyperlinked, and do they feature properly labeled images?
- Are my blogs organized in one place, like a pillar page on my site?
This is where ranking can become really frustrating, because you need to do all of the above to get traffic. A steady stream of traffic to your website tells Google, “I know what I’m talking about, visitors are finding my site through my optimization efforts, I’m secure and reliable, and I’m here to stay.”
As web developers, we hear all the time from clients what a pain in the neck it can be to play nicely with Google in order to rank organically. It’s not easy! It takes a lot of work and it takes a lot of time. Just remember that Google and other search engines are trying to figure out where to squeeze you in with over a billion other websites. Hire a trusted web partner, be willing to commit to ongoing optimization efforts, and be patient. Just like Rome, highly performing websites were not built in a day.