When it comes to search engine optimisation, there is no ignoring the almighty power of Google. It is the source of over 86% of all internet search engine queries, well ahead of rivals such as Yahoo and Bing. Therefore it’s worth keeping up to date with how it prioritises website rankings.
The methods used by Google for rankings are not always transparent, and their algorithms are in continuous development, so it is impossible to be completely precise. However, there are some core ranking factors that are well known and well worth paying attention to if you want to improve your website’s visibility and drive traffic.
The relevance and quality of the content
Google looks for unique content that is up to date and relevant to the user. This is why it is important to avoid artificially stuffing keywords into your content in an attempt to boost rankings. Google algorithms are now highly sophisticated and can quickly assess how recent and useful the content is in relation to the search engine query.
The easier the website is to navigate and how long visitors stay on and engage with the site is important to its ranking. If users have to make several clicks to find what they are looking for, or click away from the site quickly, this will affect the rankings.
Therefore it’s worth making sure that your most popular products or most searched for pages are easy to find and clearly labelled with link buttons or calls to action.
Google assesses how responsive a website design is, which means how easy it is to navigate across a range of devices. This doesn’t simply mean a website that shrinks to fit onto the size of the screen, but one that has a fluid layout for optimal display and usability for all screen sizes.
Security is now a priority when it comes to ranking factors, as Google wants to be sure that your website will not spread viruses or lead to the theft of sensitive data. All sites should use the HTTPS protocol and have SSL certificates.
Take care that all external links from your site are secure as well, which you can check by looking for the padlock symbol on the left hand side of the address bar.
Page load speeds
Google Analytics now includes a Site Speed report which tracks how quickly users can access the content. Slow loading sites are penalised by the ranking system, so it’s worth checking out how your site performs.
The Site Speed reports breaks down details such as average page load time and average server response time to help you identify areas for improvement. For example, there may just be one page with a large high-resolution image that is causing a slow load time. This can easily be corrected by using a smaller or lower resolution image instead.
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