You know how you often seem to hear that Google is constantly changing things and it is a moving target? Well it’s only part of the real picture. The core of how they work has not changed and probably never will.
Like you, Google wants their customers to return and refer others to their site. That’s how they have become so enormously successful, returning and referring customers. So, to keep you returning they want the better companies to be at the top of their list. Google thinks that putting the better companies at the top of the list will help their searchers (their customers) have more rewarding results rather than putting fly-by-night companies at the top of the list.
So, how does Google know who belongs at the top of the list?
They learn it from on-site and off-site hints about each business. On-site means inside the pages and posts of your website. Off-site means from other websites around the web.
Here’s how it works. Google learns where you belong in their Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) mainly through the content found in your website. When you provide them with enough information in the right way inside of your site you’ll be in the SERPs for that desired information. Try this out to see it in action. On my home page there is a headline reading “Professional, Custom and Results-Driven Website Design.” Put that exact quote – with the quotation marks around it into Google and you’ll see my website appears at the top of the list below paid search results. That’s because that phrase is in my site. If those words were not in my site, my site would not come up in the list.
If you want to come up in the number one spot for a certain phrase that you believe people are looking for, then MAKE SURE YOU PUT THOSE KEYWORDS OR PHRASES IN YOUR CONTENT. It’s that simple. For example if you want to compete to be in the list for Simi Valley Auto Repair, then you better have those words and that phrase in your site enough that Google puts you in the list. The more frequently the words are found, the better chance you have of getting up higher in the results pages.
Some websites can be at the top from content only
I have numerous clients that are at the top of the search engines simply through my on-site content Search Engine Optimization efforts. The main reason is because they don’t have much competition and that competition is not really competing online (YET). So they don’t need to move on to off-site optimization work yet. Well sort of. They should because small business people are becoming more savvy and more able with all of this SEO work that the risk of being bumped off the top spots is growing every day.
So, let’s say that Google sees that there are ten companies that have well-optimized website for their main search keywords. How does Google decide who belongs at the top? If all things are fairly equal on each of the companies’ websites, they look off-site to make the decision.
One of the most important things they look at are links to those websites that are found on other websites. These are called inbound links. For example in my portfolio, I have links that go to my clients’ websites. Each of those links on my site to theirs is an inbound link for them.
Link Building is important, but get it wrong and it will cost you
As your business and your website matures the links to the site naturally grows too. Google reasons, that if a site has more natural inbound links, it must be a better more substantial company. Each inbound link is like a vote for your site to go up the list.
Not all links are equal though. First, there are bad links that hurt you. These are purchased links. If you are approached to pay for a link building program and you agree you are gaming the system unfairly and Google doesn’t like that. Now, there has been a period of time when Google did honor those “link farms” but not any longer.
Remember how I started this article saying that people think Google is always changing? Well this is how. When they see something that is artificially stimulating SEO they change their algorithms to stop it. Doing the right thing through natural and organic methods will always be honorable and therefore help your business. Don’t purchase links, they simply don’t like it.
So, how do you get links to your website?
Think of it this way, the next year is going to go by whether you get other sites to link to you or not, so start the process. Simply get yourself listed on other websites that you come across. This can include sites like your vendors, your customers, listing sites and more. Just look for opportunities to get your site listed. There are a million ways to get an inbound link to your site including writing such good content that people have to share it. Research it online and you’ll see a lot of great articles on the subject. But remember, organic and natural link building is the only way to go, don’t pay for links.
Social Media helps shoot you to the top
Another important off-site SEO method is using social media to help you. Google reasons that if a business is more active on social media, they must be a more substantial business therefore they belong at the top. That is, if all things on-site are equal with other like sites. In other words if you need to jump ahead of your competitors help yourself by using the social media sites like Google Plus, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and even Yelp.
The more activity you have on these and other sites, the better chance you have to out compete your competition. So, how do you do it? Well, let’s say your company provides kitchen remodels. Your social media posts can be full of articles of complete work with before and after photos. In fact, when your clients see their new kitchen on your site, they’ll share it with others in their friends lists. A new kitchen makes them proud to show it off and having it featured on your kitchen remodeling website means they have a showcase kitchen. That makes them proud and much more likely to share it with others.
When you work social media well it can grow your business. When I tell you how great I am and that you should do business with me, you tend to distrust and often are not motivated. But when a friend tells you how awesome I was and how we helped him better than anyone before, you tend to trust and are often motivated to call me. Take advantage of this off-site optimization and you’ll tell Google you’re the better company and you’ll get your clients telling others about you too.
Fully optimize your website with the content that people are using to find your type of business and you’re 80 to 90% of the way at being at the top of the list. Improve your off-site optimization and you complete the job of being at the top of the list. Start today because the next year is going to tick by whether you get started or not and next year, you’re going to wish you would have. I’m reminded of an old proverb “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second-best time is now.”