Looking from the outside, Google Search can seem really difficult and complex to understand.
When you look up information about SEO you're immediately bombarded with article after article telling you information that sometimes doesn't make a lot of sense.
This is because most people don't have a real grasp of what a search engine is and how it can make or break your blog or website.
We're going to dig into the basics of where it all started, how it works, and how all of these factors can help the next time you use Google Search to post an article.
Outdated Methods That No Longer Work on Google
When Google Search was launched over 20 years ago, it created a search engine that delivered results people were looking for.
Users of Google Search quickly caught onto this simple search method, by typing in keywords, and they discovered early on a really good way of utilising a library of information that tapped into hundreds of pages of information all relevant to that particular search.
Unfortunately this led to many clever webmasters hacking the system.
Sure enough, people started figuring out if they created blog posts stuffed with keywords in the title they would be ranked high. This gradually filled Google Search with spammy content that wasn't much use to anybody.
This quickly became a problem because most people only saw what they needed to see, and not what was actually fed into the system, which created havoc with the search engine.
Unaware of this problem, people would search for "shoes" and end up on a dodgy site selling fake drugs.
Google started to be known more for its spammy content than any real, relevant information.
What emerged from this internet disaster was the first Google update in November 2003, codenamed "Florida", which swiftly confounded spammers in their tracks. This cleared the field for everyone else and made blogging enjoyable again.
And the inception of Google Search helping website owners and bloggers alike to flourish online.
How to Handle Google Updates
20 years later and Google is the biggest and most popular search engine, and every blogger and website owner wants to be top of the pile.
In order for Google to stay relevant with its audience it needs to deliver the most relevant content online.
The system is always being challenged by webmasters that study the mechanics and therefore know how to manipulate it where possible to their own advantage.
For Google, this means radical thinking and innovative technology to keep their users on their toes, and not take advantage of the system.
Penguin Update 2012
In 2012 Google introduced the "Penguin" update to heavily penalise websites that were using suspicious amounts of links that were the same as the "anchor text" already pointing to a page. This left a lot of businesses and blogs without sales, and Google with unhappy people who depend on its search engine to make money.
If Google is starting to sound a little scary, don't worry there are ways to handle these updates and still make a living on the internet.
What Have We Learned So Far?
If you want to rank high on Google you need to stay focussed and choose more than one tactic.
Important note: All SEO strategies should comply with SEO best practices.
Four Strategies You Need to Survive on Google Search
Since its birth, Google has come a long way, and uses over 200 factors to decide which websites should rank highest.
These factors include:
- How users behave on your website
- How trustworthy links are to your website
- How your website ranks socially
- How relevant your site is
- How fast it loads, especially on mobile phones
This is making Google Search look like a veritable minefield, but don't let that put you off.
There are four simple principles you can use to understand how a website may rank higher than your own. These principles are a mix of both old and new methods that will help you understand Google's algorithm.
Let's take a look at those four methods.
1. User Behaviour
If you use Google Analytics you'll understand this part straight away, because it relates to your website's bounce rate. This is what tells Google how long people are staying on your site. Do people really like it, or do they click on and click off? Google likes websites that provide their users with a positive experience.
A website that contains relevant and up-to-date content is rewarded with a higher ranking. Which often means a Wikipedia article can be lower in the pile compared to a niche site or local business. That's where evergreen content comes in. If you can produce the kind of information that's always going to be relevant you'll remain at the top of the list, and can use links to relevant sites to help you rank higher.
You need to be strong in your field to rank high on Google. The websites with the most social media followers and backlinks rank higher than those with fewer.
Websites that are low-quality and untrustworthy are ranked lower in a search. That's why you need high-quality content and links to your website from reputable sources. Google is only interested in real people with information that can be traced back to them.
What Else Does Google Look at to Rank a Website?
Here's a simple list of other factors that Google takes into consideration when ranking a website.
- Website visits
- User engagement
- If HTTPS is installed
- Number of quality backlinks
- Page load Speed
- Content relevance and keyword usage
- Brand strength
- Font size
- Number of images used
If all of these are in order on your website then you should start seeing some good results, otherwise your website may need some extra work to get it up to scratch.
Google's A.I. Technology Used to Influence Search Results
Google launched its artificial-intelligence technology, RankBrain, in October of 2015 to help understand people's queries as they search online.
How Does RankBrain Work?
RankBrain uses connections between words to give it an overall understanding of what the user is searching for, when only a small amount of information is given. Delivering the most relevant answer even when they're not matched with the exact words given in the search.
The bigger Google Search becomes the more complicated searches are made, which brings new challenges to the search engine that will be solved through the introduction of new technology.
All of these changes have allowed website owners and businesses with relevant content to be top of the pile in ranking.
The Use of Mobile Version Content in Ranking a Website
Google rolled out the Mobile-First Index in March 2018, because more and more people started looking at websites on their mobile devices and phones.
This means that all websites must be mobile friendly, foremostly, then desktop friendly.
Since the invention of the Smartphone, desktop users are now in the minority. This is why you need to sign up to Google Search Console and make sure your website matches the criteria asked for by Google. If your website isn't mobile friendly you could be missing out on hundreds of new users.
Fortunately most website builders have this in hand, but it's always good to check the health of your website.
How to Stay Ahead of the Game
It's always good to keep up-to-date with any algorithm changes, as they may create havoc with your brand or business.
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