Google accounts for more than 85 per cent of all search traffic in the UK – not quite as high as in the US, but still utterly dominant. There’s a need, therefore, for small businesses to find ways of rising through the ranks and at least getting on the first page of results for their chosen search terms. Being ranked number one is the dream.
But how do you get there? What are the mechanisms? What does Google’s ranking algorithm reward, and what does it punish?
Just leaving your ranking to chance is a bad policy. Without taking specific steps to boost your visibility online, you’ll get buried under the mountain of media out there right now, never reaching your target audience. Firms need to be proactive, take advantage of how the system works, and use their knowledge to get a leg up on their competitors. It’s a steep learning curve, but worth it.
In this article, we’re going to look at the strategies your firm can use to get to the number one spot. There’s no way to absolutely guarantee a high ranking, but by following certain rules, you’ll get closer to the top than you would otherwise. And with a bit of luck, rank number one.
Find Ways To Build Links To Your Site
Google and other search engines discovered early on that they could rank internet search results by using the links between pages. The more links that a particular page had, the higher the quality, or so the reasoning went. The reason for this was simple: if other web hosts linked to a page, then it must be offering value.
In 2019, ranking well is no longer a matter of creating lots of backlinks to your pages: that doesn’t work anymore. Google realised that it needed to tweak its linking algorithm to preferentially rank those pages with links from “authority” websites – or sites that are widely known and trusted, like Forbes, Business Insider, BBC and so on. A company with a link from a site like this gets a more significant boost up the rankings than a company with a link from a relatively unknown website.
On a practical level, though, what can the average company do to create quality backlinks to their pages?
- Work with bloggers. Bloggers with large audiences have reasonably high site authority – Google knows that their sites contain quality content and so is prepared to send its users in their direction. You could work with a blogger to create how-to or tutorial videos, or offer expert content on topics related to your industry, gaining a valuable backlink in return.
- Add your site to local directories. If you’re just starting, it’s a good idea to list your site on online directories. Google My Business, Trip Advisor and Yelp all allow backlinks.
- Look for sites with broken links. Many so-called “authority” sites have broken links to informative articles on company blogs. If you can find these broken links with the help of a tool, you can contact the webmaster and ask them to replace the link with one to relevant content on your blog.
Add Rich Media To Your Site
Content creation is currently a booming industry. Thanks to the way that Google’s algorithms work, firms with lots of videos, blogs, infographics, and images on their sites are more likely to rank number one than those that don’t.
Google wants firms to create content that not only appeals to its algorithms but also the people who use its search platform. When a user types a question into the search bar, the search giant wants them to find a real answer, not just a page of keyword-stuffed text.
Companies that can create genuinely engaging content, therefore, will be rewarded: remember Google aims to keep people on its platform for as long as possible to generate as much advertising revenue as it can. If your site encourages people to use Google more, then Google will use that information in your ranking calculation.
Content creation is currently in an arms race: if you want to get to the top of results, you have to beat the next best person. Doing that is a challenge, but the key appears to be originality: if you can add new information that isn’t already out there, you stand an excellent chance of being the source that people use as the authority in the future, linking to the information you provide.
Optimise Your Content For A Range Of Factors
Google would like webmasters to believe that its ranking algorithm is as smart as a person and can tell the difference between genuinely useful content and keyword-stuffed dross. But the truth is that, despite the company’s best efforts, it’s not quite there yet, and probably won’t be for some time.
Because of this, companies still need to do some “procedural” tasks that aren’t particularly interesting, but that grab the attention of mindless web trawlers. These include:
- Choosing keyword-related H1 and H2 titles
- Choosing a suitable, readable URL, such as www.goodbyeexcess.com/car-excess-insurance/
- Creating longer content indicating the potential for more informative value
- Tagging titles
- Including lots of video and images throughout the content, services such as Pixabay is a good place to start.
Your goal should always be to communicate as effectively as possible with your audience. Following a set of rules will help, but you want to be the firm that has THE go-to source of information for a particular topic.
Stop Competing For Popular Terms
The internet is now a quarter-century old. In that time, big players have vacuumed up most of the business-related short keywords out there. What it means to rank number one on Google, therefore, is changing. Sure, you might like to rank number one for “bathrooms” if you sell home renovations, but that’s not realistic. Your best bet is to try to rank number one for something niche, like “bathrooms in Ashford” or “toilets in Bath.”
Most small businesses try to build ranking performance by focusing on these so-called “long-tail” keywords. The trick is to choose keywords customers are searching for that are related to your business and likely to result in a sale but are not yet on the radar of larger players.