How to work with Google Search Engine Algorithm Updates
If you want to capture any Google search traffic, if you want people to find your site through web searches, then you need to understand both how the Google algorithm works and Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
Put simply, SEO is the process of optimizing your website so that it shows up in as many web searches as possible.
But it’s not quite that simple.
If you want to succeed with Google search, you need to optimize your website in very specific ways.
Here are the six most important things to optimize for.
Step #1: Optimize For Search Intent
The first thing the Google algorithm seeks to determine when someone types in a search is the search intent. In other words, the algorithm tries to figure out what they’re really after. Are they trying to book a cruise or find out more information about Tom Cruise?
Google takes numerous factors into account when trying to determine the intent behind a certain search, such as the location of searcher, the words and phrases used, whether it’s a broad or specific query, and dozens of others. Needless to say, it’s complex.
When it comes to optimizing your website for search (aka Search Engine Optimization – SEO), it’s critical that you think about how people will be arriving at your website. In other words, you want your website to line up with the proper search intent.
If you are a cruise booking company, you don’t want traffic from people who are searching for Tom Cruise. These people are unlikely to book a cruise through your site. Rather, you want to attract search traffic from people who are actively seeking to book a cruise.
So how do you optimize your site search intent? It’s all about keywords.
Step #2: Optimize For Keywords
Keywords are one of, if not the primary way that Google determines what a particular web page is about. Keywords and key phrases are words and phrases that describe the primary contents of the page. They help Google understand what your page is about and properly match it to searches.
In order for Google to understand your website and send traffic to it, you want to have search intent keywords and key phrases sprinkled (not stuffed) throughout your web pages.
For example, if you’re a web designer in San Diego, you’ll want to optimize your website around keywords such as “Web Design San Diego” and “web development San Diego”. You’ll want to include these keywords and key phrases several times, including in your header tags, body copy, and even alt tags (with photos).
By optimizing your website for search intent keywords, you’re sending signals to the broad core algorithm about what your brand is all about. You’re telling the algorithm that you’re a web design company located in San Diego, and that they should show your website in related search results.
If you don’t know what relevant keywords to include in your website, you (or an SEO expert) will need to do keyword research. Keyword research helps you find relevant keywords that have sufficient search volume every month.
But it’s not enough to just optimize for keywords. You also need to optimize your website for quality.
Step #3: Optimize For Quality
Google is in the business of returning the absolute best search results, and as such, they are increasingly favoring high-quality websites over low-quality ones.
The Google Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines is what individuals at Google use to rate web pages. These human ratings are then used to train the Google core algorithm what to show in the search results.
In the most recent version of the guidelines (and in some of the most recent Google Broadcore Algorithm updates), Google stressed the importance of three key components:
In other words, Google wants to deliver content to users that has been created by experts, demonstrates authority in a particular subject, and is trustworthy.
Of course, that raises the question: How do you demonstrate expertise, authority, and trustworthiness?
Let’s quickly look at each.
There a number of ways you can prove to Google that you are an expert in your field. All of these should be stacked on top of each other for maximum effectiveness.
First, and most obviously, your website should include an in-depth about section. In this section, include any qualifications that make you an expert in your field, such as education, awards, etc.
Second, include a detailed bio at the end of every piece of content you create. While not as in-depth as your about section, it should further strengthen your reputation.
Third, and perhaps most importantly, build your brand across the internet. Your website doesn’t operate in a vacuum. Rather, as the Google bots scour the internet, they look to see whether you show up in other places. The more Google sees these brand “signals”, the more proof it is that you’re an expert.
If you want to rank in Google searches, then you absolutely must demonstrate your authority on the given subject. Hands down, the most effective way to do that is to create absolutely amazing content.
Or as John Mueller of Google put it, the key to ranking for a particular term is “awesomeness”.
What does awesomeness look like? Your content should cover the subject in much more depth and breadth than anything out there. While length isn’t necessarily a ranking factor, the longer a piece of content is, the more likely it is to cover a subject in great detail. This, in turn, is a signal to Google that it is authority content and should be ranked higher.
In support of this, a if you provide quality content this does equate to Search Engine Optimization.
The moral of the story? Demonstrate your authority to Google by creating content that covers every angle of a subject. If you settle for mediocre, short, fluff content, you don’t stand much of a chance of ranking.
The last thing Google wants is to send their users to a deceitful or even fraudulent page. Therefore, work hard to prove that your content is absolutely trustworthy.
Thankfully with a secure site, this isn’t that difficult to do.
First and foremost, you absolutely must use HTTPS over HTTP protocol on your website. This simply shows Google that your website is secure and that user’s data won’t be stolen.
From there, make it clear who has authored the content. If you’re selling anything, prominently display the security badge on your site and use the right tools to secure your checkout, form fields, and any signed documents.
Finally, and most obviously, don’t publish anything false or misleading.
Step #4: Optimize For Backlinks
A backlink is simply a link from another website to your website. The Google algorithm treats backlinks as popularity votes, of sorts. In other words, if a number of sites link back to a web page or piece of content on your site, it’s a sign to Google that your content is important and relevant.
Generally speaking, the more backlinks you can get, the higher your ranking will be.
How do you get high-quality backlinks from other sites? The most effective way is to publish outstanding content that people will naturally want to link to. This means creating content that is simply better than everything else out there.
The best content that attracts the most backlinks:
- Goes deeper
- Covers more subjects
- Includes high-quality graphics, such as infographics
- Often includes original research
Eric Strate calls this kind of content a “linkable asset”. He says:
“I’m not sure who coined the phrase “Linkable Asset”, but it’s the perfect description of what you want to create: a high-value page that you can leverage for links over and over again.
Keep in mind that linkable asset is not “12 Things Spider Man Taught Me About Social Media Marketing” link bait nonsense.
It’s content so awesome, so incredible, and so useful that people can’t help but login to their WordPress dashboard and add a link to your site.”
In other words, it’s content so impressive that people feel compelled to link to it.
Step #5: Optimize For Speed
53% of users will abandon a site if it doesn’t load in three seconds. And unfortunately, most sites are too slow. Yikes.
With this reality in mind, Google is increasingly ranking trustworthy, faster sites ahead of slower and offline sites. If you’re an ecommerce site, they want you loading in two seconds or less. After all, they don’t want to deliver a search result, only to have the site take 10 seconds to load.
How can you speed up your site? Some simple solutions include:
- Minimize HTTP requests
- Use a fast web host
- Employ a content delivery system
- Compress large images
- Minify and combine files
To get a feel for how your current website speed, use Google PageSpeed Insights. It will score both the desktop and mobile versions of your site, as well as give you suggestions for how to improve your overall speed.
Step #6: Optimize For Click Through Rate + Dwell Time
Click Through Rate (CTR) is simply the percentage of time a user clicks on your page when it shows up in a ranking.
Dwell time is the amount of time between when a user clicks on a search result and when they return to the results page.
To be clear, there is some debate about whether CTR and Dwell Time are actually ranking factors, but the growing consensus seems to be that they are.
A newer feature of the algorithm Rank Brain (part of the Google algorithm) favors results with a high CTR, and many experts make a strong case for Dwell Time as a ranking factor.
And given what we know about Google’s increased emphasis on the SEO and quality, both CRT and Dwell Time make sense as ranking factors. When you combine them, they’re an indicator how relevant the content is to the users.
If no one clicks through on a particular search result, it probably isn’t relevant to the search and shouldn’t be ranked highly. And if a person clicks through to a page but only stays there for a few seconds, it suggests to Google that the content itself isn’t relevant.
So how do you optimize for CTR and Dwell Time? For CTR, focus on creating clickable, attractive headlines. Additionally, create meta descriptions that make the user want to want to find out more about the content itself.
Optimizing for Dwell Time isn’t particularly complicated. Really, it just comes back to creating highly valuable, highly relevant content that users want to engage with. The better the quality of your content and the deeper you dive into a particular subject, the better your dwell time will be.
Optimize and Rise In The Rankings
The more you strategically use SEO to optimize your website for the Google algorithm, the more Google search traffic you’ll attract. And the more search traffic you attract, the more leads you’ll generate and the more sales you’ll ultimately make.
Don’t wait to optimize your website. Get started now and watch the traffic and rankings rise.