There are over 1.5 billion websites on the internet. Even though only a portion of these—200 million—are active, this number represents a lot of competition.
And if your site doesn’t show up on the first page of Google, potential customers may never find you. That’s because the first page of Google results gets between 71-92% of all the traffic.
That’s a lot of business directed at just a handful of results. These figures also make it seem like getting your website to the top of Google results is practically impossible.
Luckily, this isn’t the case.
By studying strategic page optimization strategies, you’ll learn how to increase your Google search ranking for free or with a minimal investment.
All it takes is a little bit of effort combined with some of the know-how we’ve provided in this post.
Interested? Let’s dive right in.
Expert ways to improve your Google search rankings through page optimization
If you want to know how to improve Google search results, you’ll need a good understanding of what the search engine is looking for on your web pages. We’ll go through the basics point-by-point along with illustrations to help you visualize what you’ll need.
1. Google wants high-quality content
Content ranks #1 here, because when it comes to ranking, content is still king. You’ll want lots of long-form, high-quality content specific to your target audience on your site.
Not only will strong content benefit your ranking in Google, but it’s the perfect way to market your brand, pairing perfectly with an email marketing strategy.
How can you create the valuable content Google—and your audience—craves? Use the following liberally on your site:
- Blog posts
- Case studies
With such a wide variety of ways to create great content, feel free to get creative. New and interesting pieces will likely appeal to a wider set of demographics.
But what defines great content? Besides checking the quality of your content, Google also measures the amount of time spent on your pages and your bounce rate (the number of people who immediately leave your page after checking in).
To keep visitors on your site, concentrate on using targeted keywords in your content to move that high-value traffic your way. In the past, keywords were almost exclusively one or two words in length. For example:
In addition to short-tail keywords like the one above, you can now optimize your site for long-tail keywords or keyword phrases, like:
How to optimize your website
Choosing the correct long-tail keywords comes from knowing your target audience through market research and understanding their persona.
Don’t forget to do some competitor research to see what keywords your competition has been using.
Since we like the idea of free tools, we’d like to mention that Google has a free Keyword Planner Tool that can help you gauge the competition.
To check in on your competition:
- Search for new keywords using a phrase, website, or category
- Find your competitor’s URL and click “get ideas.”
- Enjoy viewing your competitor’s keywords!
While data mining like this can be useful, it shouldn’t be the only reason for your keyword choices. Know your audience. Know what they’re looking for, and provide answers with compelling content.
Finally, when thinking about keywords, don’t forget to optimize for voice search. Because more people are browsing the web via mobile devices, voice search or semantic search terms are essential in your research.
To come up with some good semantic keywords for your content, think about how you’d naturally ask questions about the topic you’re writing on.
While a searcher might type “Walmart hours” into a browser, if they’re searching via voice, they might be more likely to say, “What time does Walmart open?” or even “store hours for the Walmart near me.”
2. Google wants rich snippets
Rich snippets, information-rich details added in HTML, help Google understand the intent and content of your pages. Here’s an example of what rich snippets look like on a search results page:
As a bonus, rich snippets also give readers a heads-up on what to expect from that page of your site. That heads-up can lower your bounce rate since people “buy in” to what your page is offering before they click through. A lower bounce rate can mean higher rankings.
Since your snippet can also draw readers to your site, rich snippets also increase click-through rate—another way to boost your rankings.
An easy way to create rich snippets is with Schema.org.
If you’ve got a WordPress website, there are various plug-ins like All-in-One Schema.org and WP Rich Snippets to help you create the schema. Non-WordPress sites can use tools like the Schema App and Schema Generator for SEO to get started with rich snippets.
3. Google wants security
Security is becoming a notable buzzword on the web, especially as more news of privacy infractions and stolen data surfaces.
That’s why back in 2017, Google’s Chrome browser started flagging sites that didn’t use HTTPS as “not secure” in the URL bar. Here’s an example of what a correctly secured site looks like in the URL search bar:
Source: Campaign Monitor
Having your site flagged by Google can contribute to higher bounce rates, which we’ve already talked about in terms of rankings.
4. Google wants mobile-friendly pages
Our digital society is always on the go, and statistics even show 52% of all website traffic was through mobile devices in 2018. With that in mind, it’s not a far leap to think that 68% of emails are opened on a mobile device.
Since many digital marketing strategies include email marketing, optimize both your website pages and your emails for mobile. This way, you can create a fully-integrated marketing experience for your customers.
Concerned whether your current design is mobile-friendly? Use Google’s aptly-named Mobile-Friendly Test.
Source: Google Mobile-Friendly Test
Simply input your website’s URL into the search bar, and Google will let you know how your page scores on their mobile-friendly rating scorecard.
If you find your site isn’t as mobile friendly as it needs to be, there are easy ways you can make your site more compliant, including:
- Have a reliable web host
- Improve your site’s loading time (compress images, run updates, use caching, etc.)
- Use a responsive theme
- Redesign pop-ups for mobile devices
If you really want to up your game, you can even create a mobile app for your website that customers can download and use to connect with your site.
5. Google wants fast-loading pages
Page speed is a Google ranking factor that directly impacts user experience (UX). In other words, if you want to improve your Google rankings, you need to have fast-generating pages.
While faster-loading pages definitely contribute to better UX, they also contribute to your bottom line. In fact, for retail giant Amazon, just one second of page delay costs them $1.6 billion in revenue each year.
Fortunately, Google makes it easy for you to test page speed with its PageSpeed Insights tool.
Source: Google Developers
Just drop your URL into the search bar, and Google will calculate speed. Here’s Amazon’s current results.
Source: Google Developers
Time is money, and this is true for all businesses, even ones that aren’t behemoths like Amazon. If your website is getting low-speed results, here are some typical ways to boost page speeds:
- Minify HTML
- Optimize images
- Prioritize above-the-fold content
- Reduce server response time
- Enable caching and compression
The good news is, your Google PageSpeed Insights tool will run a report for you and tell you which of these methods (among others) you should utilize, as well as how to implement them step by step.
There are so many ways you can improve your Google search ranking through page optimization that it’s just a matter of choosing where to begin.
Our suggestion? Start with a secure website, then add outstanding content, backed by keyword research and SEO to give Google a strong base of content to work with. Don’t forget to make your pages more rank-worthy by embedding rich snippets that outline high-quality content.
Finally, adjust your mobile design, page speeds, and other factors if you haven’t already. These factors contribute to better user experience for your visitors, and the better the experience, the more Google will like your page. And hopefully, you’ll land on that coveted first page of results.
Want more tips to help you maximize your website’s marketing potential? Campaign Monitor’s got ten of the most important SEO strategies of 2019, curated just for you!