How to hit top spot on Google

Image of some aspects of SEO

Search engine optimisation (SEO) is the process of optimising your website to achieve good rankings for your website on Google. But because Google continually refines the algorithm that determines rankings, optimising your site is like trying to hit a moving target. The trick is to keep on top of SEO trends so your site is optimised and has the best chance of ranking well

The basics of SEO for Google

Google's job is to find and deliver the best content in response to any search request. So, the first step to getting ranked on Google is to forget about Google and focus on the user.

Ask yourself: "Would my customers find this content interesting? Is it better than information elsewhere?" That's not to say that if you write it, people will come. You will also need to consider these SEO basics:

  • Write content that uses the same language people use when typing their search requests. It's no good having a page about 'carbonated beverages' if everyone searches for 'fizzy drinks'. Keyword research using online services such as SEMrush and SE Ranking helps you zero in on the best terms to use on your pages.
  • Work those words into your page. Don't go overboard, but make sure your target search terms appear in the page heading and some subheadings. Try and use them when you link between pages, too.
  • Write a good title and description. These elements usually appear in Google's search results, so they need to entice people to click. Google also shows the user's search term in bold, so be sure to incorporate your target terms.

Make sure any changes you make to your content put your users first. It's about delivering the information that users are searching for. Google's algorythm's are good at spotting sites and content do that best.

Go for quality

Like people, Google prioritises quality content over the volume of content on your site. The Google algorithm will filter out poor or low quality information as well as sites that contain duplicate content. Content that is designed purely for the sake of keyword stuffing and affiliate links will also be penalised.

This plays into the hands of smaller websites that may not have the resources to churn out hundreds of pages of content but who can deliver their own high quality, relevant and helpful information. Make sure your site contains information specific to what your business does. If you operate in a market niche, focus on authoritative content that demonstrates your expertise within that niche.

Build links gradually

When determining how to rank your website, Google also examines which sites are linking to it. This 'link juice' is important.

"Link building needs to be a gradual, ongoing process," explains Danielle Haley, Director of Indy Consultancy. "Paying for hundreds of links from an unknown website won't get you where you need to be."

"You can find linking opportunities in every aspect of your PR and marketing," she continues. "Try hosting Q&A sessions on your blog, or let journalists know they can contact you for quotes. That can get you links from important sites."

A great way of doing this is by hiring a marketing specialist who can take care of your link building strategy. They will know which SEO strategies work and which can help your site achieve better rankings. Remember, your goal is to get relevant and quality links.

Go mobile and think local

The rise of smart phones has changed how we use Google.
More than half of all web traffic is now comes from mobile devices. Google prioritises sites that display properly on small screens. Businesses should make sure their sites are optimised for this ever growing volume of search traffic. Google can detect what device a search request is coming from. If your website causes errors on mobile devices, you might find you are penalised when people search from a smart phone. To counter this risk, you should make sure your site has a responsive website design or a dedicated mobile version of the site.

This increase in mobile devices is also fuelling growth in local searches, as people hunt for businesses while they're out and about. To help them, Google shows a map of results when it thinks an enquiry is looking for a local business:

As this map appears near the top of the page, it's vital your business is listed in this important space.

Start by creating your listing on Google My Business.

Answer questions

Google has been getting better at interpreting questions. This is partly driven by the increase in voice searches made through services like Alexa and Siri. People often type questions into Google too - like 'how do I wire a plug?' - so Google keeps looking for ways to provide better, more accurate answers.

Keep this in mind when creating web pages. Certain types of content - like helpful articles - can work well as a set of frequently asked questions (FAQs). Because these include the questions on the page, they help Google recognise what answers you're providing.

Use reviews and rich snippets Reviews in search results

Google sometimes shows extra information alongside the search results. These 'rich snippets' include star ratings, which can really influence whether people click your listing.

You might need to make technical changes to your website to enable this. Before doing so, keep in mind that Google shows a score aggregated from a variety of sources. All reviews are taken into account - both good and bad.

Get there first and keep doing it

SEO is an ongoing job, although it needn't consume a vast amount of your time. "Set aside half an hour a week and plan how to use that time in advance," advises Danielle.

"You could spend 30 minutes scheduling posts on your social media accounts or writing a blog for your website. A little time spent seeking out new opportunities will have a positive impact on your search engine presence."

Finally, remember that emerging topics offer good opportunities to get one over the competition. It's easier to claim your spot on Google if you're in there first. Keeping your ears open and monitoring trends is something everyone can do - not just your SEO manager.

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