Nearly every small business owner out there uses Google on a daily basis, but a lot of us don’t know how Google actually finds our business website and displays it in their search results. So in today’s blog I’m going to give a brief overview of how Google search works, using one of the services pages from my own website as a quick example.
REMEMBER: the reason you want to know this stuff is so you can tweak the 10 search factors I’ve listed below and (hopefully) improve the rankings of your own business website.
Google Search Results Example
Let’s imagine you are an Australian small business and looking for a technical writer to help you document a safety audit and risk assessment — then write up some safe work procedures. You type in the keywords ‘WHS writer Australia‘ and the WHS and Compliance Writing page from my website appears at the top of the page.
How did that happen?
The way Google found my website was by simply applying a math formula (also known as the Google algorithm) that pulls in about 200 different pieces of data (or search factors). Let’s take a look at 10 of them below:
ALSO: if you noticed the typo in image above (Australian instead of Australia), I’ve already changed that on my webpage but it can take a few days — or even a week or so — for Google to update how your webpage appears in their search results.
One of the first things Google’s algorithm looks for is how many times the ‘keywords’ appear on the page — and whether they are also contained in headings, subtitles and image captions.
Google also looks to see if the keywords are contained in the webpage’s URL. You can see my URL for this page does actually contain some of the keywords.
3. Page title
Google’s algorithm looks at the title of the webpage to see if it contains the keywords. The tab above the URL bar displays the page title, in my example you will see it is called ‘WHS and Compliance Writing Australia | Melinda J. Irvine | Technical Writer‘.
Google displays a snippet of text with every listing in the search results. You can create your own snippet using plugins like Yoast SEO (see image below), otherwise Google will just grab the first few lines of text from the main page. It’s good to write your own snippet so it appears as a full sentence and contains your keyword phrase.
NOTE: At the time of writing the ideal length of a web snippet is between 125-160 characters (December 2019).
Google also considers when you published the content on the webpage and if there have been any updates. The algorithm usually gives priority to newer content.
Google search is sophisticated. It recognises synonyms and looks on your webpage for words and phrases that have the same meaning as original search search. In my case (and I’m just speculating here) the search term was WHS writer Australia, so Google may also look for replacements for WHS writer, like:
- OHS writer
- Work health and safety writer
- Safety writer
- Occupational health and safety writer
7. Site quality
Google gives priority to high quality websites and tends to disregard (or give lower rankings) to sites they consider low quality. Website quality is based on the following factors:
- Content – is the content well written, and mostly free of grammatical errors or spelling mistakes?
- Advertising – is the webpage filled with banner ads or popups that make the actual text seem secondary — and almost unreadable?
- Navigation – does the site have a clear site navigation system that is easy to follow?
- Authority – is it clear who has written the content (or owns the site) and does the site include recognised methods of referencing and quality links?
- Accessibility – can the website be viewed easily on different devices?
8. Page rank
Page rank refers to the amount of other websites that have a link that points to your webpage. Google favours webpages that have lots of these incoming links, provided they are from reputable websites.
For example: you won’t improve your search term rankings with links from:
- Low quality and spam sites. eg, links from these sites are often ignored by Google, but (depending on the site and how you came to acquire the link) may actually hurt your search engine rankings.
- Paid link schemes. eg, Google may block you from search results if they find out you are buying links.
- Unrelated websites – eg, getting a link from a Scandinavian poetry site isn’t going to help me rank for WHS writer Australia.
Google gives priority to websites which load quickly. if your website gets bogged down loading a lot of big images or plugins it may send you to the bottom of the search pile.
10. Mobile friendliness
Does your website use a responsive design theme that automatically adjusts the display to suit the device loading the webpage? Google now indexes to mobile search results and your website will rank better if it lays out perfectly on mobile, as well as tablet and desktop.
Like some help with your SEO
I hope this quick blog has given you a better idea of how Google finds your business website in a Google search. If you’d like some help tweaking these 10 search factors on your own website or blog please get in touch today.