In the same way that Facebook is the name most people associate with social media, so Google is the search engine most people are likely to think of, and it’s Google that we all spend our time trying to please when it comes to climbing up the SERPs (search engine results pages).
The problem is, Google is constantly updating its search algorithms, effectively changing the rules of SEO and page rankings. For example, back in July 2014 Google started pulling back from a focus on Brand. That’s Brand with a capital ‘B’ (as in “Big Brand Names” across multiple sites) and not “brand” as in your business’s unique identity.
In other words, too many searches were being interpreted as enquiries about brand names and that was skewing the results in favour of those big brands and to the detriment of smaller, more local businesses.
The good news is that more recent updates may be seeing the pendulum swing the other way a little, with a greater focus on locality, as well as name-matching, keywords, and backlinks (links to other websites that suggest that your site is regarded as an authority).
Of course, your site’s ranking based on a particular keyword search will still depend on its authority and content quality and that’s the important point: content. Your business website may have a large quantity of content – all those pages, blog posts, surveys, reports, white papers, etc. – but it has to be the right kind of content to appeal to Google’s algorithms which, more and more, are being designed to mimic the reactions of human beings when deciding how relevant you are.
So, the big question is, what is Google actually looking for when it decides just how high up the rankings to put you?
By all means drop a ton of keyword phrases into your HTML but the days when Google could be fooled by that are long gone. Keywords are still important (crucial, even) but a more complex approach is needed. Firstly, they need to be consistent with the subject matter of your website. Secondly, they must be seamlessly used in a grammatical (and relevant) structure, and not just dumped in a pile somewhere. In other words, if the content doesn’t look smooth to a human reader then it probably won’t impress Google’s search programs.
These include internal links (weaving the different pages of your site together) and most importantly, external or backlinks (links on other people’s sites pointing visitors towards you).
Length of visit
This is a slightly more subtle point… the longer people stay browsing your website, the higher up the rankings Google puts it, because it assumes it will be attractive to other people searching for such sites. How do you extend visitor time? By posting content that is so interesting or useful or relevant (or all three) that they won’t be able to leave.
Finally, with an understanding of the basics, it’s time to get a little creative.
Paragraphs of text on the page, while valuable, aren’t always the most fascinating of content. Experiment with layout, bite-sized information in call-out boxes, combinations of text and image… It can also be worth submitting some short pieces to external sites such as article hubs; and then using the published articles to link back to your own site (backlinks, remember?)
Try posting videos that are linked to your products and services; if they are original and humorous, so much the better – you have a better chance of going ‘viral’ and seeing your traffic levels explode.
Blogs are always a good way for you to show a different side to your business – a little personality, individuality, approachability, etc. Try adding a magazine flavour to your commercial site and see what happens.
Finally, why not use a hybrid channel? – a print brochure or catalogue that can also be shared online, using hyperlinks where visitors are taken straight to exclusive online discounts and offers on your website.
Content is a crucial pillar of your online business strategy and should be one (or all) of three things: entertaining, interesting or useful. If your content incorporates all of these then your website should soon be climbing the charts!