With Google updating its algorithm once or twice every day, it’s challenging to stay abreast of it. Improving your Google rankings is vital for you to do well in search engine results pages (SERPs) so you need to know what factors the algorithm uses to determine your position. The good news is that there are some tried-and-tested ways to improve Google rankings, regardless of the miniscule changes they keep making.
#1: Stop Gaming the System
Following best practices is the only real way to benefit your rankings. If anyone is wise to “gaming” the system it’s Google, so avoid anything that could be considered “black hat” SEO. Methods used in the past to try and fool the algorithm include keyword stuffing, link farming, the use of hidden or tiny text, and duplicate content. None of these benefit your Google ranking, and other “tricks” are likely to be dealt with just as ruthlessly.
The latest gaming practice to fall under the hammer is doorway pages, which are used to help websites rank for keywords that don’t appear often on the site. They are created specifically for search and typically don’t link to anything useful on the site. Google announced in March 2015 that doorway pages would be penalized, because they don’t add value to websites.
#2: Get an Audit
One of the mistakes marketers make is using the wrong keywords on websites. If you’ve randomly chosen keywords based on what you think people are searching for, chances are good you’ve picked the wrong ones. Even if they are moderately on track, if you’re using highly-competitive keywords and avoiding “long-tailed” phrases, your results are only going to be half as good. An SEO audit will identify keywords that are working and weed out ones that aren’t.
#3: Use Good Design Protocols
An audit will also highlight where you could improve usability for search engines through optimizing design protocols. According to SEO experts Backlinko, the position and prominence of keywords is as important for improving Google rankings as your use of fundamentals such as:
- Title tags
- SEO titles
- Meta descriptions
- Alt tags
- Images and image naming conventions
- Ratio of text to HTML
- Length of copy on pages
- Number of indexed pages
- Canonical URL structure
- Domain age
- Site loading speed
With Google using more than 200 factors to determine your site’s ranking, you can’t afford to overlook the basics.
#4: Improve Site Security
With all the hype about identity theft, hacking, and cyber-crime, it’s no wonder that Google recently included site security in its ranking criteria. As of August 2014, the search giant announced that sites using security certification and HTTPS encryption would get a rankings boost. If you implement this, however, it’s important to let Google know about it or your traffic could suffer.
#5: Publish Quality Content – Regularly
Ever since the watershed Panda update, quality content has been in the spotlight as ranking criteria. Since “quality” is measured in terms of human engagement as well as what the algorithm predicts would be judged “low quality,” it’s vital to ensure that whatever you post is good enough to attract your users—and keep them there.
#6: Do Strategic Link Building
There are various ways of link building, and some are more successful than others. Simply linking for the sake of it won’t do anything for your rankings. Create internal links that go to relevant pages on your own site, as well as linking to authoritative external sites. If your content is high-quality external sites will link to it, which means they consider it good enough to “quote” you. According to Search Engine Land that adds to your site’s credibility, which is important to Google. It must be done using appropriate methods, though; buying reciprocal links for mutual benefit will get picked up really quickly by the algorithm, and you’re likely to get penalized heavily for it.
The number of links you have also counts, as does the anchor text the links use, but not as much as the quality of the sites you’re linked to.
#7: Make Your Site Mobile-Friendly
The latest development in Google’s ranking criteria is the inclusion of “mobile friendly” as a ranking signal. From April 21, any sites that don’t have a mobile version or a responsive site will find it harder to rank in search. In addition, this update applies worldwide, not just in the U.S., and each page of your site will be evaluated individually for this. So if a quick fix for your rankings is in order, that’s an area you might want to focus on right now.
Your ranking in search engines is only going to get more important over time, so focus on getting your site in order—before you get left behind.