Remember when the key to running a successful business was based on the age-old adage that “cash is king?” Over the past couple of years, that concept has been turned on its head, as success for many brands is now determined by Google search rankings—when customers and prospects are able to easily find their products, services, and organizations online—which ultimately drives revenue and profit.
Content is King
In the past year, Google, in an attempt at leveling the playing field of marketing and advertising, has changed its algorithms for displaying search results. It used to be that “optimizing” a website for keyword searches (often by loading the site’s content with those words, having them as metatags within the site code, and using them within page and image titles) was the best way to leap-frog the competition and be displayed higher within search rankings. Not anymore—now to rank higher in Google organic search results, brands must be relevant to what users are searching for.
So what does Google look for when ranking websites?
In order to be ranked as relevant to searches, Google scans websites for many different factors. Simply using keywords is not enough; now content must be “rich,” link to other sites (and have sites that link to it), and be constantly updated. Rich content includes video, animations, and blog posts; things that are engaging to users and keep them on your site. Linking blog posts from Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, and linking to other content also raise the relevance of your website through the lens of Google’s search algorithms. Updating your website requires posting blogs, articles, or other useful information to your website at least twice per month.
Get Mobile or Get Passed Over on Mobile Search
Improving user experience across all types of devices is now something that Google is paying particular attention to when ranking websites. In a November 2014 blog post Google made it clear that if websites were not mobile friendly, your search rankings would suffer.
What qualifies a site as mobile friendly, or unfriendly? Some of the specific things mentioned in the post include the use of Flash on a website, having to pinch and zoom to view a website, and a lot of small links as being detrimental to the mobile viewing experience. In other words, your website should be built using “responsive” design, meaning that the site will resize to fit the width of a tablet or smartphone, and content will be re-prioritized so that the most relevant information appears first.
The days of simply loading up a site with keywords are over. Getting a grip on Google search is not as complicated or mysterious as one may think. It does require diligence in maintaining your website with relevant and “rich” content that engages with your customers and prospects. This may require building the site using a content management platform such as WordPress, or hiring a professional to help ensure it is built responsively for a pleasant user experience on all devices.
By: Ryan Hembree, Principal | Brand & Creative Strategy