If you want your website to rank higher on Google organic (not paid) search results, you need to understand the factors that determine Google ranking. Although the details frequently change whenever Google updates how its algorithm works, such changes are always in keeping with Google’s goal—giving users the most appealing and useful results for their search.

So how does Google decide which websites are the best to put on the first page of search results? Here are a few of the basics.

Website Setup

There are some things you should make sure your web developer has addressed.

Is your website responsive—does it deliver a great user experience across all screen shapes and sizes? What is your page speed—do your pages load fast enough? Do you have sitemap.xml and robots.txt files? Are there any broken links on your site? Are there any 404 errors to fix or 301 redirects to set up? Has your web developer validated your HTML and CSS coding?

Keywords and Content on Your Website

Keywords used to be enough. You could load up a page of your site with fifty repeats of the word for which you want to rank on Google and call it a day. Today, such keyword stuffing has negative effects, because search engines evaluate content and context. Google’s algorithm updates are always working hard to better weed out the spam sites, and you don’t want to be one of them.

If there is a keyword phrase for which you really want to rank higher on Google, dedicate a page of your site to that phrase. Use that phrase in the header tag and in one or more subheadings on the page. Write the content naturally, including the phrase a few times within the text, which should be at least 300 words. Include at least one relevant photo on the page, and give that photo an alt tag with the phrase. To take it a step further, on other pages of your website, use the phrase within text and have it link to that page (this is called internal linking). Then find other ways to get people to visit the page by promoting it on social media and asking your vendors to link to it on their websites (external linking).

Titles, Snippets, and Structured Data

How each page of your site looks in Google search results matters. The title tag is what appears as a bold headline in your search result entry and should be 60-65 characters long. The snippet, sometimes called a meta description, is the text beneath the title that should be around 155 characters. If you’re using a content management system (CMS) like WordPress, make sure you have an SEO plugin that allows you to write unique titles and snippets for each page of the site, and that you use the appropriate keyword phrase within each.

The structured data, sometimes called schema markup, is the additional information Google may include in the search result listing, such as operating hours, pricing, and review ratings. Setting up structured data is a way of helping search engines interpret and index both basic information (name, address, phone) and more complex information (events, products, articles). The more information Google has, the greater the chances Google will use it.

History and Other SEO to Rank Higher on Google

Two types of history are relevant here. First is your website’s history of being clicked on when Google shows it for that particular search term. The more often your site is chosen, the more often and higher Google will show it for that search in the future.

The second relevant piece of history is the user’s. Your site will show up high and often for someone who has a history of visiting your website. If people from a particular city or region tend to choose your website over your competitors’, then a searcher from that city is also more likely to be shown your site higher in search results.

SEO stands for “search engine optimization,” which is the general practice of improving your search engine ranking to maximize website visitors. To rank higher on Google, there are more aspects to SEO than what has been listed here so far.

One such factor is backlinks—how many websites and online articles out there have a link to your website? Another important factor is claiming your business on all social networks and directories, including Google My Business and Google+, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and more. Are your website address, location address, business name, and phone number consistent across all online directories?

Search engine optimization is broad and constantly developing. Having a well-written, organized, user-friendly website is only the beginning. One final factor you must overcome to rank higher on Google—the factor that is out of your control—is your competition. If your product or service is offered by many other companies in your target area, you’ll have to fight that much harder for your Google ranking. Contact RSPR for help with your SEO.

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