How does Google rank my website?

It’s complicated

Understanding the different factors which influence an organisations website’s position on Google’s search results is complicated. We’re often asked by local businesses how they can get better search rankings than competitors and our responses always start with “Are you sitting comfortably, as this could take some time?”.

Google, and other search engines, are increasingly using sophisticated methods to rank sites based on factors. To help people understand what goes into deciding the order to show on a search results page, SEOBook have created an infographic detailing all the known influences on page positioning. If you have the time, it’s worth working through the whole diagram, for those of you wanting a quick overview, the main considerations are:

The searcher

Google don’t just respond to the search query, they try and anticipate what the searcher is really looking for:

  • Where is the searcher — People tend to prefer results from websites close to their geographic location. This is very important for local businesses and highlights the need to promote location via their website when attracting new customers.
  • Previous searches — A search isn’t isolated, it’s part of a chain of searches over time. If a person clicks a website one day, then the same site will be boosted the next time that person searches for something similar.
  • Device — People don’t like navigating desktop sites on mobile devices. Google will boost sites offering a mobile version to searchers using phones, etc.

The website

Google use a mix of on-site and off-site factors when to decide page positioning:

  • On-page content — Do the page keywords match what the searcher is looking for. Tailoring content to match search queries will boost SEO.
  • Link authority — High quality links to a website provide a page position boost. Not all links are equal though and those from poor sites have the opposite effect.
  • Reputation — Sites are graded for how reputable they are. For business sites this means making sure Google see you as a ‘real’ business not a fake website. Ways of achieving this are including a full postal address and contact details on your site, registering with Google My Business, and taking listings on recognised business directories such as Yell.
  • Page freshness — Google prefers new content over pages that have been online longer. Regular updates to a website will help.

The penalties

Google looks at a website to boost its page position. They look at penalties to bring it back down again:

  • Lots of adverts — Sites carrying advertising need to make sure adverts are not excessively used.
  • Keyword stuffing — Clear examples of content which are just lists of keywords, with little worthwhile content, will be down-ranked.
  • Duplicate content — If the same content appears on different pages, or even worse different websites, Google will probably only show one link, and choose whichever they see as the original content.

You can see the full infographic on this page.

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