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How does Google rank sites

How Does Google Rank Websites? Inside the Algorithm


Elizabeth Sowden

Since the moment Google rolled out its page ranking system, website creators have tried to game it. They filled their pages with white text so that they could cram as many keywords (and repetitions thereof) into the content as possible without making it unreadable. They stuffed tiny type into footers, hoping to catch searches for every nearby geographic location. They spammed directories and discussion forums.

It its battle against these practices, Google has refined its algorithm over and over again. While on the whole the algorithm and the amendments to it are complex, the goal is very simple: make Google think more like a person. If users find a webpage helpful, Google gives it priority and it rises in the ranks. For pages that aren’t useful, the opposite is true; this is how Google ensures that it serves up the best content first.

How does Google rank sites
Photo by Kevin Ku from Pexels

Keywords

You may have heard that keywords aren’t as important as they used to be. While there’s an element of truth to this, it’s not completely accurate. Keywords are essential. No one will find your webpage without them. However, keywords are just one of many components that Google looks at when ranking pages. Your content needs to strike the right balance. Google actively punishes pages for “keyword stuffing,” which is their term for cramming as many keywords as possible into the text. When it comes to keywords, you need enough to make your page easy to find but not so many that your content becomes unreadable or nonsensical.

Backlinks

Backlinks — when another site links to yours — are a signal that your content is high quality. For example, if you write a blog post and a well-known influencer links to it, your page should rise in the rankings. However, not every backlink is a good one. Many less-than-scrupulous search engine marketers gamed the systems by getting backlinks everywhere they could. Now, the algorithm recognizes bad backlinks and requires SEMs to disavow them to avoid penalties. The algorithm rewards sites that earn quality backlinks. Keep in mind that you might not earn the quality backlinks that you want even if your content is great. It is possible to get links via other means (such as paying for them). You just have to be smart about it.

Relevance

Your content might rank well for a certain keyword, but if your finding that you’re not getting the conversions you want in spite of traffic, it could be because your content isn’t reaching the right audience. If you sell paint and want to reach interior decorators, your content must address the needs and goals that interior decorators have. If all you do is talk about how great your paint is, don’t be surprised when a lot of the traffic you get is from people trying to buy watercolor palettes.

Usefulness

Users are more likely to spend time on a page if it a) answers a question; b) solves a problem; c) is entertaining; d) is informative; or e) some combination of all of the above. If your content does at least one of these things, it is more likely to do well in the rankings. Conversely, if your content is boring, confusing or unhelpful to the end user, the algorithm will banish your page to the Siberian recesses of the SERPs.

Usability

Your webpage should be easy to use. Users should have no trouble finding what they need when they land on your site. They should not have to deal with broken links, images that don’t load, videos that don’t play, buttons that don’t work. When users land on pages like this they tend to jump ship quickly, causing the pages to sink in the rankings.

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Images

When optimized correctly, images show up in Google Image searches. When users click on the image, Google takes them to the site. Because a third of all searches performed on Google are image searches, having images on your site is a smart way to boost traffic.

Videos

The benefits of videos are similar to those of images, but with some added bonuses. When you upload a video, you can also embed a transcript in the code, which gives your site additional text and keywords to feed to the web crawlers. One note of caution: people will put up with low-image quality as long as the audio is good. If your video has poor audio, consider re-recording the audio track before uploading the video to your site.

Social Media

While social media shares don’t have a direct impact on your pagerank, they can increase the likelihood that someone who sees your content on social media will link to it on their site. In other words, social media shares can help you earn the kind of backlinks you need to get your content to move up in the rankings. Social media can also help you build your audience, which in turn can lead to more traffic.

By now, you’ve probably concluded that creating a site that ranks well in Google’s search engine results pages takes a lot of time, hard work, and patience. If you have, you’re right, but you don’t have to do all that hard work by yourself. We’re here to help.

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Elizabeth Sowden

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