Business people discussing local seo together in conference

Five Factors to Consider When Ranking Your Site On Google

Most business owners already know that the holy grail of search engine optimization (SEO) is landing on the first page of Google and being the number one result for their target keywords. But did you know that over a hundred ranking factors exist? Google is one of the most popular, if not the most popular, search engines today, processing nearly 63,000 search queries every second of each day. (1)

Unfortunately, trying to rank your website high on Google can be a challenge. Why? Because nobody knows exactly which factors Google uses to rank websites. Even in the modern era, the exact Google search algorithm remains a top, closely guarded secret. The search engine also releases updates regularly, which either add new considerations to a marketer’s optimization efforts or shift the weight of existing factors, adding to the mystery of it all.

The SEO community, though, has spent many years studying the different factors. They found that some elements are much more critical when ranking a website as high as possible than others. But before delving into these crucial Google ranking factors, this post will define a few basic concepts influencing search engine optimization first. Read on to learn more.

Why does Google rank web pages?

Business people discussing local seo together in conference

Google said that it has a ranking system for web pages to help its users sort through a significant amount of information it generates regarding a particular search query. The ranking system enables Google to present the most relevant and useful results to people. 

But how does Google rank web pages? To rank websites, Google uses web crawlers. The web crawlers scan and index pages, then Google rates every page according to various factors that influence a page’s authority and usefulness to end-users.

The search engine then lists the websites on a search results page using different ranking factors. Therefore, if you appear higher on Google’s search results pages, you’re the most authoritative and relevant result for a given search query.

It’s essential to note that Google’s AI-powered (artificial intelligence) algorithm is called Natural Language Processing (NLP) for a reason. It actually works similarly to the human brain when understanding and processing human language. It means that it can process queries in concept rather than individual words. And that’s why Google can understand the true meaning or intent behind every query, which significantly influences how it ranks websites. (2) 

The good news is that Google takes steps to support and guide web admins to rank higher. For example, the search engine’s representatives hold regular talks with web admins to help them understand the algorithm better. Google even has an official blog where people can find the latest news on algorithmic updates.

Does Google’s algorithm change?

As previously mentioned, Google releases algorithmic updates. A Google algorithmic update is a change Google makes to its search engine to improve the quality of search results and relevance and enhance overall user experience.

So, how often does the algorithm change? Google updates the search engine’s algorithm quite often. In fact, in 2018 alone, 3,200 algorithmic updates took place. Some experts believe that the frequency of these changes has only grown since then. However, most updates go unnoticed, except for significant changes, which Google publicly announces in advance. (3)

Google’s E-A-T concept

Google claims that it considers over 200 factors in ranking websites. It also includes the user’s past search history and location. Web admins are well aware of these things. However, there’s one concept in Google’s ranking system that many web admins and marketers miss—the E-A-T concept. Let’s talk about E-A-T.

Google uses E-A-T to evaluate the quality of web pages. E in E-A-T stands for expertise, A for authority, and T stands for trustworthiness. Although E-A-T is only a principle where algorithm updates are based on rather than an algorithm by itself, it derives from the Search Quality Rating Guidelines of Google designed to establish how a website can be of good quality and rank well. (4)

Here’s a closer look at each of E-A-T’s elements:

  • Expertise: This element establishes whether the author possesses the right qualifications or skills to answer a particular question. Take a medical website as an example: Is the page’s author a qualified physician with the necessary license? If the author claims to be someone he isn’t, the web page’s ranking performance can be affected significantly.
  • Authoritativeness: A page’s authority becomes higher when other bloggers and experts in an industry or niche start citing that page or blog. It’s synonymous with reputation. It’s essential to note that authority applies to both the company or individual that the website represents and the site itself.
  • Trustworthiness: This element is how it sounds exactly. It’s about how trustworthy a site is. Positive customer reviews and having a secure domain for protecting user’s personal information are some of the things that demonstrate the trustworthiness of a website. That’s why receiving too many negative reviews will impact your search engine results page (SERP) position.

If you want to really improve your position on the SERP, your website has to demonstrate E-A-T.

Ranking factors every SEO campaign must consider

Business young man in the modern startup office.

Now that you already have an idea of the several basic concepts that influence search engine optimization and Google rankings in general, it’s time to look at the factors that can help you ensure that your website gets maximum visibility online.

Check them out below:

  1. Security

Many web admins might be thinking that security only matters when their websites are transferring credit cards, passwords, email addresses, and other sensitive information. Well, it was the case until Google started really prioritizing website security in 2018. (5)

  • Why it matters: Google will recommend only web pages that it’s sure will be useful to users. For the search engine, being useful also means being secured. That’s why you can bet that between a secure website and a non-secure one with similar search points, the former will win every time!
    Google doesn’t like seeing web admins lose control of their sites. That said, it will see cybersecurity breaches as a reason to lower your website’s rank.
    Also, as previously mentioned, having a secure website demonstrates trustworthiness, which is an essential element of Google’s E-A-T concept. However, security isn’t only a crucial factor for ranking your website on Google’s SERP, but it’s an essential factor every web admin must consider regardless. That’s because a secure site reassures your website’s visitors that their sensitive personal information is in good hands, which will impact your business in one way or another.
  • How to get secure: You can follow several practices to improve your website’s security. They include finding a secure hosting option, using an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate, enforcing a strong password policy, choosing plugins and add-ons carefully, and getting expert support.
  1. Page speed

Page load time may not be one of the first things that come into a web admin’s mind when thinking about SEO, but it certainly shouldn’t be ignored. Not only Google but also page visitors expect a responsive website. Google’s PageSpeed tool can help you test your site’s speed and gain insights on what needs to be done for overall improvement.

  • Why it matters: Page speed has been one of the leading ranking factors for years. Google will penalize websites with excessively long load times. It makes sense because Google, once again, wants to improve web users’ experience. Therefore, it favors fast-loading web pages over slow ones. It’s essential to note that Google also looks into your page’s loading speed when accessed via mobile devices since more than half of traffic online comes from smartphones and tablets. (6)
  • How to boost website load time: Some of the things you can do to make your web page’s speed faster are improving time to first byte (TTFB), reducing your server’s response time, enabling caching, and eliminating unnecessary redirects.
  1. Content quality

They say content is king in search engine optimization and digital marketing in general. It’s still true today. It means that your website’s pages must carry well-researched content that adds value to Google’s users. 

  • Why it matters: There’s no doubt that Google loves good content. That’s because it wants to offer its users the best possible results. It’s true whether your content is a blog post, image, or video. In fact, to prioritize content’s relevance, quality, and presentation, algorithms were rewritten in a way that link and keyword-stuffing are now penalized.
  • How to produce quality content: Understanding the definition of good quality content is key to producing and publishing quality content on your site. So, what’s high-quality content? It solves a problem, and it’s written for humans, not search engines. Also, good content is interesting and informative.
  1. Backlinks

Backlinks are another important Google ranking factor. It’s essential to target quality over quantity when it comes to links. Note that link-building is something that you can incorporate into your overall content strategy:

  • Why it matters: Backlinks matter for three primary reasons: It elevates your domain authority, boosts traffic to your website, and builds your online reputation. Google essentially views each of your backlinks as a significant vote of confidence in your content’s quality level. That’s why the number of high-quality links to your site that you can generate will determine your website’s popularity in Google and other search engines.
  • How to get quality backlinks: Some ways to earn good backlinks today are writing unique and competitive content (quality links to your website will come naturally this way), building strong public relations, and guest posting.
  1. On-page SEO

No one should disregard on-page SEO when it comes to ranking with Google. What’s on-page SEO? They’re the measures a web admin employs on his website to gain better organic search performance.

  • Why it matters: Google better understands what your web page is all about by making simple on-page changes like updating old content, including header tags, and cleaning up your metadata, thus, improving your organic search ranking.
  • How to perform on-page SEO: As already mentioned, things that you can do to improve your website’s organic search performance include updating old content, including header tags, and cleaning up your metadata. Fixing broken links and optimizing your URL structure can also help.

Final Thoughts

Considering and incorporating the ranking factors mentioned and discussed above into your overall SEO strategy will help you have a website that Google will love to reward with a high SERP rank to satisfy its users. Note, however, that there are many factors out there to consider.

The most important thing here is to keep trying different strategies and see what works and what doesn’t for your website. Also, if you’re unsure how to implement the abovementioned factors, don’t hesitate to work with a reliable SEO agency.

References:

  1. “25 Google Search Statistics To Bookmark ASAP”, Source: https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/google-search-statistics
  2. “How Search Algorithm Works”, Source: https://www.google.com/search/howsearchworks/algorithms/
  3. “Google Made 3,200 Changes To Search In The Past Year”, Source: https://searchengineland.com/google-made-3200-changes-to-search-in-the-past-year-319506
  4. “Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines”, Source: https://static.googleusercontent.com/media/guidelines.raterhub.com/en//searchqualityevaluatorguidelines.pdf
  5. “A Secure Web Is Here To Stay”, Source: https://security.googleblog.com/2018/02/a-secure-web-is-here-to-stay.html
  6. “What Percentage Of Searches Are Performed On Mobile Devices?”, Source: https://www.thesearchreview.com/60-percent-online-searches-mobile-devices-07212/

6 Ways to Improve Your Small Business Website SEO

As an SEO agency, one of the most frequent questions we get from our clients is: “What can I do to improve my website’s search engine rankings?” There are many factors that determine how well a website ranks in search engines, but there are some SEO best practices that will undoubtedly help your ranking, no matter what industry or niche you are in. Here are six easy changes you can make to your website that will help improve your SEO rankings.

Section 1. What is Search Engine Optimization?

SEO is a long and complex subject that requires a lot of research and continual adjustments for the long term. In order to better understand how to optimize your website for search engines, you must first know what SEO is and how search engines work. If you want to know more about how SEO works, there are several free resources available online. A quick Google search for “SEO Basics” will provide you with a plethora of information to help you learn how to make SEO work for you. As a way of improving your website visibility in the search result pages, search engine optimization is, analogically speaking, the creation and polishing of your business’ online identity in order to be favored by search engines such as Google and Bing.

While many an seo expert focuses on search engine ranking, the effective seo strategy must seek to increase the online visibility of the small business WHILE increasing the conversion rate of potential customers. SEO services can be further distinguished between national SEO a local seo. National SEO simply means search engine optimization for national brands that provide products on a larger s

Section 2. Research Your Competitors

When you have a website, it can be really difficult to monitor its traffic and performance for success. By comparison, it’s much easier to do this with competitors. Who are they ranking for, and how are they ranking? When you monitor their websites, you will be able to quickly spot issues and problems and correct them, and you can also see what’s working for them and what isn’t. Find a competitor that seems to be doing really well and compare its site to yours. Look at the site’s keywords, competitors, meta descriptions, backlinks, website location and other vital information. This will allow you to understand the keywords they are ranking for and see which ones are driving the most traffic to their site. It also gives you a peak at

Section 3. Understand How Search Engines Rank Websites

SEO best practices can be highly time-consuming, which is why many small businesses don’t bother to do it. However, ignoring best practices can have severe consequences for your site’s ranking in the search engines. Search engines work with many different factors in order to serve to the visitor the best information to answer their question or keyword used. While this is not a guide as to how search engines work, there are many resources online that delve into this topic further.  

Section 4. Create Valuable Content for Your Ideal Customer

Search engines are all about content. A search engine can’t deliver the best possible results if it doesn’t have access to the most relevant and useful content. All other SEO tactics, including headings, meta description, anchor text and so on, are all just extra items on the page. Only valuable content makes it through to your site’s SERP (search engine results page). This doesn’t mean that you have to create the same exact content on your homepage, or that you can’t change it to better fit your needs. As a rule of thumb- always attempt to create content which your ideal customer will find valuable. Content marketing is, like SEO, a subsection of digital marketing. Once you have posted new blog articles or pages to your site, it is important to market that content via social media and other methods. 

Section 5. Utilize a CDN and server caching to speed up your website

This is a major SEO best practice, and one that should be implemented in any website design. CDNs are a collection of servers that provide an efficient networked caching solution for the web. A content delivery network (CDN) is a specialized form of network that applies dynamic properties of an end-to-end domain name system (DNS). Using a CDN allows your web server to store in a central location all of your website’s assets (CSS, Javascript, images, etc.) and sends the resulting content, such as a webpage, over the internet. Without a CDN, your website would have to request every single page asset from your server in order to serve each request. CDNs are often used by large corporations to reduce server space costs by storing all assets on multiple servers around the world. CDNs are much more affordable than they were previously and many website hosting companies offer them at little to no additional cost. 

Section 6. Improve Your Backlink Profile

The first SEO best practice that should come to mind is building a solid backlink profile. Start with an audit of all the backlinks to your site, then verify that they are legitimate and of high quality. When I say legitimate and high quality, I am referring to links that were not paid for but instead EARNED. Buying links as an SEO technique is against most search engines’ terms of service and can result in penalization. Instead, marketing the valuable content on your website for other websites to trust and link to should be a staple of your local seo strategy. Local SEO Tip: sponsoring local events, sports teams, and volunteering are all effective ways of potentially earning high quality and relevant backlinks as a result of doing good in the community.

You should also carefully scrutinize your website for any broken links and external site pages that link to your site without attribution. While broken links can still influence your search ranking, the impact is far less significant than the alteration of a link that was not working properly. Backlink analysis can take a lot of time and patience, but the information you are able to gather from an audit can be invaluable for any website.

Section 7. Measure Results and Adapt

Before you jump into each of the SEO tips listed below, we recommend you create a report that details each query that your website has been able to rank for, and what the site’s average time to rank has been. This will allow you to see the quantitative and qualitative elements of your website’s SEO and determine what changes are necessary to improve your results. The first SEO best practice you should implement is to use unbiased search engine optimization (SEO) tools. By using SEO tools that are backed by unbiased results and genuine human-reviewed data, you will be able to start to automate the SEO process and get more value for your budget. These tools will also allow you to see what is working and what is not working. Once you are able to distinguish the behaviors that led to the results, it is important to then adapt your small business website to improve upon those results. This may mean that you should implement a specific SEO technique to help overcome specific hurdles. An example may be the usage and implementation of specific topics you previously uncovered during your keyword research.

Section 8. Conclusion

As a business owner, you should try to learn more about search engine optimization and how it works. Bettering your understanding of SEO will empower you to play a larger role in the success of your business. When you are busier as a result of the extra business, it may be time to hire a local seo consultant to take over and expand your search visibility. Prior to hiring a local seo expert, it is important that you have at least a fundamental understanding of search engine optimization and seo techniques normally utilized by ethical seo consultants. After all, how do you hire someone to do a job effectively if you do not understand the fundamentals of the work needing to be done.

local seo cost

How Much Should Local SEO Cost?

local seo cost

Local SEO costs vary based on numerous factors, but the most significant factor is the profit margin desired by the local SEO expert. The same is said for all SEO. There is extensive time that goes into optimizing your business listing, link outreach campaigns, optimization, and drafting of content, etc. Does that mean that you should be paying a crazy amount of money per month on your search optimization campaign? No. The truth of the matter is that the overhead (or lack thereof) maintained by the SEO expert or agency plays a significant role in the pricing of their services. After all, they have to have the capital to pay for those expenses. (psst- that’s why we charge less than many other agencies- we don’t need to flaunt a shiny office)

Many SEO agencies follow a pricing model that looks at how competitive your area of business is, the amount of time and resources needed to compete with your competitors in the search rankings, etc. Others follow an ROI model wherein they charge based upon how much money your business can make with the extra clients they bring in for you. I do not agree with this model, and I am often criticized in the SEO community for it. Search optimization is a method of increasing website visitors and business contacts. Just because an attorney makes more money from a client than say a plumber, it does not mean that the EXACT SAME SERVICES should cost more. The amount of profit you make from a client should have no bearing on the prices of SEO services but instead should serve as a deciding factor for you as to whether you might see a positive return on investment. With that said, an attorney may need more work as it is a hyper-competitive market place, but that pricing would consider that as a prominent factor and not how much a business can pay.

Expensive is not always better

It is often true that you get what you pay for. This is especially true for products. Cheaper materials often lead to a product that is less than desirable based upon the expectations of the product. SEO, in our opinion, is a service. We are doing the work to improve the online search visibility of information that our clients rely on to enhance their client/customer base. Because it is a service, it stands to reason that we can charge what we value our services at, but, like above, many in the industry inflates their margin for the sole purpose of monetary gain. The scary part- I’ve been in the SEO and Web Design field now for more than a decade. I’ve done my own work, talked to others in the field, and taken tons of courses from self-professed SEO “gurus,” and the topic that always comes up is the pricing of services.

Too often in courses, I have heard people say that they should charge as much as possible while doing as little work as possible. This makes me scratch my head at the motivation of others. Don’t get me wrong- money is a beautiful thing to have, but that’s not our only motivation here. We are here to HELP businesses increase their revenue and accelerate their growth. How does charging as much as possible for our services help our clients?!

Also, in the many courses I have taken, it became apparent early on that many participants were there with dollar signs in their eyes rather than having a goal of helping others. Guru after guru, I would hear them say, “once you deposit the check, go to XXXXXXXX.com, buy this service, or these backlinks and then have that be your work for the month for that client. “Often the service they were recommending people buy was $100 or less, and they were promoting the idea of charging the client $1000/month, netting the SEO at least $900 in profit that month. So, the question for me then became, what were my own goals?

My Goals:

1.       Have fun helping others

2.       Make a positive impact on those who trust my services to help them

3.       Provide as much value as possible

4.       Make a living doing all of the above

You see, the goal for my own business was never to grow too large that I would be unable to work with clients personally. I never wanted a Lamborghini, I already have my dream house, and frankly, I don’t want to deal with managing tons of employees. (Been there, done that, no thank you). Instead, we have a small team, and I consult with all clients- there’s no go-between. Wherein some other SEOs charge a ton because they can, I charge as little as I can realistically while providing real value. When I talk to others about this they often are in disbelief, I mean, everyone wants to scale their business, right? Within reason, sure, but for the sake of making more money? Not if that means that the value that my clients rely on is diminished and not if that means that I do not have the time to work personally with my clients.

Too Cheap to be Good?

On the other end of the spectrum are the SEO agencies that undercut prices for the sake of getting more clients. The question I think of when I see this is how effective and efficient are these services? Are these search engine optimization companies able to keep up with their client acquisition? What are the services they are providing at such a cheap price point? Are they able to deliver quality results with the limited work budget they have available to them?

If you are paying very little compared to your expectations, you MUST keep in mind that SEO is forever, and if your SEO is utilizing cheap black hat tactics, they are risking your long-term success. I can imagine that having your entire business website become almost useless overnight would be frustrating for a lack of better words. That is the type of risk you run when you hire companies that are seemingly much cheaper than most others out there.

Ill-informed link building tactics will have your site on the fast track to being blacklisted by the search engines, and they, unfortunately, are often the hallmark of bad SEO. I’ve had the privilege of cleaning up the messes and Google Manual Penalties that result from cheap and lousy SEO, and to say that it being blacklisted can be disastrous is an understatement. Do not shop for the most inexpensive SEO unless you can uncover WHY it is so cheap.

affordable mesa seo

What is Local SEO?

affordable mesa seo

Many small business owners are bombarded by search engine optimization (SEO) “experts” via phone, email, or advertisement, but they have yet to hear of local SEO. Local SEO may not appear to be as flashy on the service as national or international SEO as people have come to know it, but it pays the bills for local business owners. In this article, we discuss local search engine optimization and how it benefits small business owners worldwide. We also delve into some best practices that you can use for your small business to improve your search visibility in your community. Lastly, we delve into how much local SEO should cost so you have a better idea as to when SEO can be affordable while effective.

LOCAL SEO

If you have ever searched Google or Bing for a local business, the chances are that you have stumbled upon business listings showing you nearby companies that offer the product or service you are searching for. Search for “doctor” or “handyman,” and you will find listings along with a map toward the right side of Google usually. How those listings appeared ahead of other local businesses on that search page is local search engine optimization.

FACTORS OF LOCAL SEARCH RESULTS

Google is the most used search engine by a large margin. Since this is most likely what your potential customers are using to search for your services, we will talk about Google Local search factors.

Proximity

Have you ever noticed that when you search, the local results are often close by? That is because Google takes into account the distance of the searcher to the business. After all, it would not make sense to show you results for Thai Food Restaurants that are an hour’s drive away. Well, if I were craving good Thai food, I might be willing to drive that far for it, but that doesn’t happen often. With that said, Google takes into account proximity because it values convenience to the searcher.

Proximity is a hard factor to control or influence. You cannot just up and move your physical office to accommodate every searcher. DO NOT try to “game” or outsmart Google when it comes to your business proximity. There are tactics that some search consultants use to try to game the system, but the results are not long-lasting, and the methods could actually HURT your search ranking or even earn you a spot on Google’s Blacklist.

Relevance

When it comes to SEO, relevance is HUGE. Google will try only to show you search results featuring local businesses that are relevant to your search term. This one is a no-brainer. Google is not (usually) going to show you a local business that provides HVAC services when you are searching for a doctor or lawyer nearby.

How do you, as a business owner, influence the relevance of your business to what the searcher is looking for? The most natural and most effective manner of proving your relevancy to Google is by including content on your website and Google My Business (GMB) listing and posts that is relevant to the audience or potential customers you want to attract.

Example:

You own a business in Mesa, Arizona, selling widgets to customers from your store and want to attract more customers to your store location and/or your website where online orders for said widgets can be placed. To improve your relevance, you would include content about widgets on your site as well as content about Mesa because that is where you are located.

Prominence (Authority)

Is your website/business listing considered authoritative on the keywords you search locally? Okay, this once is VERY dumbed down as there is a lot that goes into the authority of a web page, but let’s save that for another day. You have enough going on right now, and the last thing you need is a detailed explanation regarding ALL of the factors that go into the scoring/grading of this factor. Just know that the most common way for a site to show that it is an authority on the subject is the quality of backlinks (links from another website to yours) it has. Usually referred to as a backlink graph, your backlinks are your votes of confidence to the search engines that you know what you are doing. After all, no one is going to link to a website that has inadequate information on the subject.

In local SEO, you will see the term “business citations” thrown around consistently. Business Citations are listings on local and national business directories found on the internet that refer back to the proper Name, Address, and Phone Number (NAP) of your small business, as seen on your GMB profile and website. An authoritative website/business would have consistent information across all directories they are found in.

Link building for local results is slightly different than that of “regular” SEO because you want to look for local link building opportunities. For the previous example, an effective link outreach campaign may seek opportunities with local chambers of commerce, local bloggers, local event sponsorship opportunities, etc. Other link building opportunities can be niche specific to show that you are an authority in your line of work. Attorneys would list their businesses in prominent legal directories, plumbers in directories featuring home improvement service providers, and so on. Some business directories require payment for the business listing while others do not.

How much should Local SEO Cost?

Local SEO costs vary based upon numerous factors, but the most significant factor is the profit margin desired by the local SEO expert. The same is said for all SEO. There is extensive time that goes into optimizing your business listing, link outreach campaigns, optimization, and drafting of content, etc. Does that mean that you should be paying a crazy amount of money per month on your search optimization campaign? No. The truth of the matter is that the overhead (or lack thereof) maintained by the SEO expert or agency plays a significant role in the pricing of their services. After all, they have to have the capital to pay for those expenses. (psst- that’s why we charge less than many other agencies- we don’t need to flaunt a shiny office

Many SEO agencies follow a pricing model that looks at how competitive your area of business is, the amount of time and resources needed to compete with your competitors in the search rankings, etc. Others follow an ROI model wherein they charge based upon how much money your business can make with the extra clients they bring in for you. I do not agree with this model, and I am often criticized in the SEO community for it. Search optimization is a method of increasing website visitors and business contacts. Just because an attorney makes more money from a client than say a plumber, it does not mean that the EXACT SAME SERVICES should cost more. The amount of profit you make from a client should have no bearing on the prices of SEO services but instead should serve as a deciding factor for you as to whether you might see a positive return on investment. With that said, an attorney may need more work as it is a hyper-competitive market place, but that pricing would consider that as a prominent factor and not how much a business can