By: Katie Shore Aug 22/2019

When you create a website for your business, you want it to be easy for everyone to find you online. More than ever, users are taking to Google to research products, services and businesses. If you have your website up and running, it should be easy for your customers to find you on Google, right?

Wrong. There is a lot more to ranking on Google than simply maintaining your website. Continual search engine optimization – better known as SEO – is essential for any website to rank highly on Google. One of the reasons that SEO is not easy, and in such high demand, is because websites need to be optimized in order to align with Google’s algorithm. With every search query, Google’s algorithm scans its index of sites and ranks the most relevant sites in a fraction of a second.

So, what does Google’s algorithm use to rank websites, how can it impact your website, and what are the best practices for optimizing your website for Google’s algorithm?

Google’s Algorithm

So, we know that Google’s search algorithm scours the web, finds what it thinks are the best results to users’ search queries, and ranks them in order of importance. However, how does it determine what is the “best” result? Google says that its Search algorithm is primarily based on five factors.

  1. Freshness: Google favours timely content. This is why when you Google something like “Who will be the next Bachelor?”, the corresponding results have nothing to do with the first 23 seasons of the Bachelor; it’s all speculation for season 24. With so much content on the internet, Google wants users to find the most up-to-date information, as that is most likely to answer the question that they are looking for.
  2. Relevance: Users make search queries in order to answer questions or research topics. Google’s algorithm evaluates your website to determine whether your content contains the most relevant information for the user. If your website answers their question, you’re more likely to rank highly for this query.
  3. Quality: Quality is a bit of a deceiving component of the algorithm. This does not mean that you have the best-written, most beautiful website out there. Google explains the “quality of content” component as giving signals that your website is trustworthy so that they don’t end up posting spam sites. One of the biggest indicators of quality are backlinks from websites that have a considerable amount of authority. This is often why small businesses find it more difficult to outrank big brands; Coca-Cola is going to have way more links from a variety of trustworthy sites than a local Craft Cream Soda shop is.
  4. Usability: While Google, at least for the time being, doesn’t rank your website based on how beautiful it is, it does take the on-page experience into account. This is why sites that have a great user experience – some notable components include mobile usability, a fast loading time, and compatibility with all search engines – are favoured by the almighty algorithm.
  5. Context: Different users will experience different results within the Search Engine Results page. Google takes things like your physical location into account when they rank searches. This is why the results for “craft cream soda” will be different in Vancouver than they are in Chicago. As search has grown, people rely on search more for finding things in their area. According to Search Engine Land, 82% of mobile users used search queries that included “near me” in 2018. Other things that contribute to context are search settings and recent queries that the user has conducted.

Why should you care?

Okay, so now you know the basics of what Google looks for when it’s ranking websites in the search results. However, your website has fresh, relevant content and was designed by experienced professionals. You’ve got some trustworthy sites linking to you, and you’ve made it pretty obvious where you’re located so that you can pop up in near me searches. “There you go,” you think. “My site is algorithm optimized! My work here is done!”

Here’s the thing – this is a very basic overview of what makes up Google’s ranking factors. The Google algorithm is constantly being changed and updated. According to Search Engine Journal, the Algorithm updates thousands of times a year. While most of these updates are minor tweaks and adjustments, there have been changes over the years that have thrown even the most experienced SEOs for a loop and majorly impacted the rankings of reputable sites.

One of the major updates that have impacted search as we know it is the “mobile-first” update to the algorithm. Statista reports that mobile web traffic accounts for approximately half of the online traffic worldwide. In March 2018, Google changed its indexing to read the mobile version of your website in order to accommodate the growing number of mobile searches. A business with a website that may have been perfectly optimized for February 2018’s algorithm but did not have a mobile-friendly version of the site would have been dramatically affected by this update. This is why it is always so important to stay on top of changes in the algorithm.

Another reason that you should care is the fact that Google itself has changed over the years and ranking organically is harder than ever. This is mostly due to the large amount of real estate that Google properties take up on their own results pages. While ten years ago, you would just be worried about outranking the competition, you now must account for Google Ads on the top and bottom of results pages, as well as maps and business pages for local searches. Any site that is not fully optimized has less of a chance of getting on the first page of results; you must pay attention to the ever-changing algorithm to increase your chance of showing up.

Best practices

Never fear – you can stay on top of Google’s algorithm and have a successful organic search campaign that brings in new and exciting business. Search engine optimization is not a “set it and forget it” endeavour. It requires continual updates to keep that high-quality traffic visiting your site. If you’re unsure of where to start, here are a few places you can begin.

  • Think of the questions that your customers routinely ask you and develop your website so that it clearly and simply answers those questions. Let’s go back to our craft cream soda example. People might be asking what flavours you carry, the price of your products, and about any dietary restrictions. Keeping up-to-date answers to these questions will keep your website fresh and relevant.
  • Optimize for Google platforms. Now, I’m not saying that you should run an entire Google Ads campaign. However, developing a Google My Business profile and having your location visible in Google Maps increases the amount of real estate your business could take up on the search results page for a local search.
  • Make sure that your website is mobile-friendly when it is designed. Since the “mobile-first” update has come into effect, your website should work on any phone, tablet, or laptop.

All of these things can be a lot to keep on top of, especially when you’re running your own business. Working with an experienced agency like Snaptech, with SEO specialists who know how to execute effective organic campaigns, can help. Contact us today to learn more about how we can optimize your website so that it ranks highly on any search engine results page.