Are you popular on Google? Irrespective of your current status on the search engines, do you actually know what needs to be put in place to get a good ranking? The problem is there's so much conjecture, speculation, misinformation, and in some cases outright lies, that it's difficult to know who or what to believe!
Let me clarify our position! Unlike many others we do not offer additional SEO services. We just build websites properly, rather than put something together than sell a range of payable add-on services to maximise profit and generate perpetual income. We have no vested financial interest in advising you in this area.....so we just give you the truth!
That being established, you'll see by the wealth of information on this site that I've advised people on best web practices for many years. But the problem is that the game keeps changing all the time. Additionally, Google are never really specific on what trigger factors are the most important at any given point......because the more people know, the more likely it is that unscrupulous self-appointed "SEO Experts" will try to cheat the system as they were doing 10 years ago.
So it's been a much debated topic for many years....but now the researchers at SEM Rush have published what I would consider to be the most conclusive data that I've seen in recent years. What they did was analyse data from 600,000 global keywords via a machine-learning algorithm called Random Forest. This process checked the pages’ positions in search results against a list of ranking factors. The objective was to conclusively determine the factors that influence positions in SERPs.
12 factors that influence page position were analysed in order of importance: from the most influential to the least. Then they limited the scope of the analysed data to the first 100 positions for each keyword.
The end result is a 40+ page PDF document which requires a lot of analysis to get to the real determining factors involved in search engine placement. But don't worry, I've been right through it in some depth to summarise the results. It covers all the bases, and the results are irrefutable.
Out of the 12 factors Google analysed, direct traffic seems to be the most important one! In other words, the more visits your website gets, the higher it is likely to rank. But it appears that search engine traffic is not the predominant factor in improving your ranking, it is organic traffic from other sources that seems to have the biggest effect.
What is organic traffic? This would refer to social traffic, referrals, and direct traffic. So what they're saying is if you create great content that people want to read, then you have to get it in front of your audience via social media, mailshots, and placement on other sites that are considered to be of high value. That will then drive organic traffic to your site that Google will track.
The next element is the users' time spent on your site. If they visit your site and navigate through multiple pages reading numerous articles then that's a positive. If they get there and immediately leave (because your content is poor quality or the user experience is lacking) your bounce rate goes up and that is considered to be a negative. Simply because this sends a clear signal to Google that your site is not meeting users' expectations. Google want to deliver the best quality results, so if your content is sparse and lacking in any value they're just not going to recommend you. Simple as that!
Referring domains! The pages that rank higher have more backlinks from quality domains. Just a warning here! Do not under any circumstances share links or buy links.....you need to earn them from influential sites! How do you do that? Produce quality content that people will link to.....as I'm doing with SEM Rush.
Content length! Short articles which just gloss over and generalise on subjects are not going to cut it. Research suggests that content should be at least 1000 words in length (this article is 1150 words) and go into subjects in depth. But be aware that content length is only important for your page’s success as long as it is valuable, well-written, and optimised. Also, in your articles you must link to recognised sources to validate your points as I'm doing in this article. If you don't do this then the content could be evaluated as your opinion rather than documented fact.
The next factor is HTTPS/SSL! I've been saying this for 3 years now......get an SSL in place! If you look at the chart you'll see that the more popular the keywords are, the more probable it is that the top positions will be occupied by HTTPS domains. So if you have high quality content, then having an HTTPS version of your site is extremely important.
Keywords! As you can see from the chart, having keywords in meta descriptions, titles, and content is still relevant. But it appears to be that on-page SEO now has less importance than it has in the past! It seems that all the catchy meta descriptions, H1 and H2 tags in the world are going to be of little help if the quality of the content that it references is of very little value.
As I've always said, even back in the days when people could cheat their way to the top, content should be the core of your online business.
Don't waste your time with self indugent trivialities and stupid gimmicks on your website because nobody's interested....least of all Google.
Of course, website optimisation is still important in order to deliver the content in the right way. But if the actual content you're presenting is garbage or plagarised from other sources, then the search engines (and users) will evaluate you accordingly.
I exploded the myth years ago that there is no SEO Magic Bullet and this research (which is probably one of the most extensive ever released) proves that to be in the game from now on you have to generate quality content and market it. Capture big audiences across all the Social Media platforms and build your brand. That's the world we live in now!
To summarise, you need to generate great content, market it wherever you can, and drive traffic to the site. That all starts with Content Creation and then moves on to Content Marketing! And it's an ongoing job......not a one off!
So as paradoxical as it sounds....in order to gain popularity, you have to be popular!
As you probably know, search has changed a lot in recent years! But are you taking advantage of the new possibilities that now exist due to the advancements in technology and actually delivering the answers?
Because recent developments are now taking these processes onto another level.....and that level is Artificial Intelligence!
It's called RankBrain...... which is the name that Google have given to it's machine-learning artificial intelligence system. Previously any changes in search algorithms had to be programmed into the system by humans, but now it has the capacity to learn, and to expand it's knowledge and efficiency based on the original parameters that were applied. It's goal is to take search queries, interpret what the user's intent is, and then deliver the best possible results for them.
Now did you see the important word there? Intent! What Google is looking to achieve is to match the user's intention to the optimum results. Ten years ago people were using shorter search terms.....but now both the end users' knowledge and the technology have advanced beyond all recognition! Users are now putting in questions, and they want answers. Google's role is to evaluate the available options and provide the best answers based on the analysis of user intent.
Of course there's now the mobile factor as well.....with queries on these devices exceeding those of desktop computers! Which brings us onto Voice Search! Let me give you an example how this can work! If you go to your voice search on mobile and say "OK Google.....What do People say about WebSpain"......you should get a search delivered with the answer at the top!
Points to bear in mind are that the search request was delivered in plain conversational language......not a sequence of robotic disconnected keywords. Keywords used within the content in a natural manner are still very important, but if you're using these keywords then you must expand upon them and deliver the answers within the actual page content. If you don't, people will hit the back button (which Google monitors), and eventually your listing will no longer show in the search results as users are telling Google that the result wasn't acceptable. And RankBrain learns from that.
In the quoted example I could probably have got the same result by just putting in those keywords and nothing else!
But how long before the search engine algorithms figure that the end result was I didn't deliver any answers?
Do you see the critical factor? Keywords and empty cliches that deliver nothing in the way of valid information are now no longer acceptable!
Example.....it's no good just telling people how easy it is to buy a house in Spain......you've got to demonstrate how!
Unfortunately, many site owners still seem to think they can get away with the practices that were prevalent back in 2005, things like keyword jamming and overloading metatags.....but those days are gone. Do that now while simultaneously delivering no content value and you'll be dropping like a stone.
Going forward, think of these Google initiatives as a quality filter. Deliver quality, and in principle you should see the benefits. The key is knowing your clients' needs, requirements, possible questions or doubts etc......and then delivering the answers as a tangible benefit to them within your content. So basically you're pre-empting the question and making it easier for search engines to recommend you.
If you know your business, then you know the answers! So just make sure that you're delivering them.....and not just on your site but right across Social Media as well. Because if you don't......your competitors will!
Facebook have announced that it has now completed indexing the 2 trillion posts that have been made to it's network!
In addition, it's made them searchable! So what does this mean to you as a business?
Well if you consider that billions of people spend 40 minutes of their time on FaceBook every day, and 20% of their time online is on this network......quite a lot. FaceBook's objective seems to be to position themselves as direct search rivals to Google. Their thinking seems to be if so many people are on their site, why make them navigate to Google and Bing for information? From now on, if they search for "Spain Property" on FaceBook they'll get a list of results related to this topic.....not just pages but also posts.
So if your FaceBook page has no recent activity and very few likes then that's not really going to inspire confidence in potential clients. The fact that your website looks great and has good Google positioning is irrelevant......because they may not even look at it.
I'm certainly getting more business related enquiries on FaceBook, so make sure you have mail notifications for these in place or you could miss potential client enquiries! Remember that social media activity happens in real time.....not Monday to Friday office hours! If you don't make contact promptly then somebody else will, and that's lost business.
This initiative by Facebook is without doubt a challenge to Google’s authority as the world’s most dominant search engine. So you can see how essential it is that you show up on these listings, because if people can find what they want on FaceBook, why would they go to Google or Bing?
It also gives potential clients the opportunity to see how you interact with enquiries posted publicly. Therefore, if your previous responses are unhelpful, or you don't even respond at all, then users are just going to go elsewhere. So in a sense, interested parties can now also evaluate you as well. It goes without saying that anything negative on there is now going to be searchable as well, so you need to ensure that nobody can post on your business page except you.
I know some of you will say that you don't like Social Media, but the fact remains that it's a very important marketing and promotional tool. And the bad news is that it's not going to go away. It's big now, and it's only going to get bigger with initiatives like this.....so don't get left behind!
Google and Twitter appear to be getting closer as the announcement has been made that Tweets will now be appearing in Google search results. Initially this will only take effect on mobile search results in English, but desktop searches will be following right behind.
What this means to you is that even though you may not have the search engine positioning that you'd like, you can now fast track your products or services into the results via Twitter.
The same method applies to this as with all Social Media marketing.....a little and often, because the shelf-life of these posts tends to be about 6 to 8 hours. After that it's old news. Choose your times carefully though, early morning and early evening is primetime for target audiences.
Now I know some of you tend to be less than enthusiastic about Twitter, and I readily admit that I spend no time on there other than to post a few tweets a couple of times a day. But the fact remains that it does reach a huge target audience.
And with these latest changes where they will show up on the Google search results, I'd advise you all to take advantage of this opportunity.
As with all Social Media, remember that you don't have to like it to use it. You just have to keep in mind that it's part of the game that we all have to play these days. And now this part of the game just became a whole lot more important.
So are you taking FaceBook seriously? If not, maybe it's time to reappraise the situation? Simply because FaceBook is now referring more traffic to websites than Google.
A new industry study shows that in July 2015 FaceBook pulled ahead by three percentage points in referral traffic to 38.2% compared with Google's 35.2%. Contrast that with 2012, when Google had 50% and FaceBook 10%......and you'll see that the balance of power has completely changed.
This is something that I've noticed for some time with this site, as we generally get a lot more hits from FaceBook than from Google's organic search. And that's despite the fact that we sit on the top of the search engine rankings. At first I thought this could be just an isolated occurrence, but it's now been confirmed by recent industry studies from www.parsely.com.
Want to improve your Social Media performance? Well in my experience, the best method to employ with all social media marketing is a little and often. Bear in mind that the average post on these networks has a "shelf life" of about 6 hours, so you need to be feeding information through on a regular basis. Just a few minutes a couple of times a day is all you need.
Be aware that you need to get a wide network of friends, followers etc in order to maximise your outreach. Because there's no mileage whatsoever in just talking to yourself. Try to engage with people by posting content that they'll want to share and interact with......but pick your times carefully. Early on in the morning and then again early evening is when you will reach the maximum audience. It goes without saying that a link to your site must be included, and the biggest attention grabber is a great image! The lead image is critical!
It's a numbers game! So the bigger the numbers the more you increase your odds of success. As an example, I have over 10K friends, likes, followers etc across all the networks. So in principle, this content could be seen by many thousands of those today. Nothing like this has ever been possible before, so use it to your best advantage. And best of all it costs you nothing.....other than a few minutes of your time!
The fact of the matter is that Google is now not the only show in town. So don't ignore the power of Social Media referrals or you could end up "outside looking in". It was possible to get away with that back in 2012, but those days are gone. And they're not coming back!
Speaking to clients I invariably get a negative reaction when I suggest they focus on using Google Plus to promote their businesses. Normally it goes along the lines of "I don't like it", "I find it confusing", "Nobody goes on there".....in fact I've even been told "Why bother.....I've heard it may be closing down?"
Unfortunately within this industry so much misinformation and disinformation gets circulated by self appointed "experts" it's sometimes difficult to establish who is actually talking common sense rather than just idly speculating. Not wanting to appear to be one of those radical, free thinking individuals who base their mantras on everything other than cold hard facts, I'll buck the trend and just give you the reality of the situation. Then you decide!
1. Let's debunk the myth of "closing down". The fact is that Google Plus has over 300 million active users. I would suggest that not even the legendary Gerald Ratner would be crazy enough to close down something of that magnitude!
2. Google Plus is directly linked to Google Search. Absolute fact!
3. When you post content on your Google Plus page, you increase your chances of getting ranked and found in searches.
4. Any content that you promote gets indexed in search results virtually immediately.....whereas it could take weeks for Google to spider it on your site.
5. When you add your business address to your Google Plus page, you have a good chance of it appearing in the search results along with a full Google Map, directions, and business profile.
6. It enables you to promote your own profile along with the business profile, introducing the personal element rather than just a corporate entity. In fact, your Google Plus profile photo will show up in the rankings drawing peoples' attention immediately. That's a a great way to stand out from the crowd.
7. By getting more friends and followers on the network you increase your chances of getting more +1's on your article.....which then get picked up via the indexing process. So it snowballs!
8. Author Rank! This is a fairly new development and represents a shift in direction from Google which focusses less on SEO elements within the site, and more of a focus on the individuals who actually generate and distribute the content. This enables you to potentially establish yourself as an authority figure within your industry.
9. Google Plus profiles are now appearing in the search results on the right hand side, and these include all the recent posts that you have made. So people are encouraged to look at you much more closely.
10. We all want Google to recommend us highly in their natural organic searches, and Google Plus is an integral part of their company. So it only makes sense that you embrace their initiatives. Bottom line is.....if you want them to promote you, then actually give them something to work with.
I'd summarise by saying that what we're seeing now is a move by Google to integrate their search engine dominance and their social media network. So I can forsee a situation where social marketing on their platform and SEO initiatives are going to be inextricably linked.
Don't get left behind on this......just make sure that you're really concentrating on your Google Plus promotional activity!
Everybody wants great search engine positioning, but the methods to achieve that goal have changed a lot in recent years. There are still technical elements within a site that are highly relevant, but the unscrupulous methods employed by some in the past no longer work. Essentially you cannot cheat your way to the top.....because you will get caught out and the penalties will be severe.
WebSpain have never employed any of these methods, we've always emphasised that quality content that delivers value to the reader must be paramount. So when Google changed it's algorithms in the past few years, none of our clients were penalised in any way.
Quality content is so important, and it must be content that engages with the user and delivers your business message in a clear and professional way. But having quality content that nobody reads is a total waste of time, and results in lost business opportunities and diminished brand awareness.
And this is where Social Media promotion comes in! Because this opens up a huge target market, and it costs you nothing except for a few minutes of your time every day.
How big is this market? In March 2014 Facebook reported it had 665 million active users each day which was up 26% from a year earlier. Even more surprising was that over 750 million people are using Facebook from a mobile device each month.....up 54% from 2013 figures. Which reinforces our message on the importance of mobile responsive websites being essential today.
So what can you do to get a piece of this action?
1. Ensure that you have FaceBook, Twitter, Google Plus, Linkedin, and Pinterest pages!
2. Share info from your site every day. Only a couple of items....a little and often is the best way.
3. Get more likes, friends, followers on these networks. If you don't, you're only talking to yourself!
4. Encourage user interaction and shares amongst your target audience.
5. Ensure your website is mobile responsive. Otherwise you'll lose out on that audience.
6. Be consistent.....this will only reap benefits long term.
People have said to me that they're not keen on Twitter, or Google Plus etc.....but the bad news is that they're still part of the game. Ignoring a major social media network because you don't like it is not in your best interests, so I'd strongly advise against it. And another very important factor is that search engines now include Social Media popularity as part of their algorithms. So besides getting you in front of more people you can boost your rankings as well.
Not convinced? OK....let me give you an example: In August 2013 I launched Motorcycle Sport purely as a leisure interest.....but I also used it as a new site to test the initiatives listed above. Since the time of launch I've focussed on Social Media promotion for it....nothing else. The site is a basic IP Board forum, no technical innovations, no paid Ads etc......just Social Media promotion.
At present, it has over 12,000 members with around 15,000 unique visitors per month, and the FaceBook page has over 3000 "likes".....which is rising every day. Please note that these are real "likes".....they're not paid "likes" which some people resort to using. There is no benefit in that whatsoever, you have not increased your real target market, and once again it's cheating!
All our "likes" are from motorcycle enthusiasts worldwide.....they want to see our content and have voluntarily decided to follow the page! And in many cases they share the content onto their Activity Streams, thereby putting us in front of more of our target market.
That's what has been done, and the image shows the results on Google for the term Motorcycle Sport Forum.
It's on page one at number one, ahead of major international media and publishing groups who have been established for many years, and probably have marketing budgets well into six figures. It cost me nothing except a few minutes of my time every day.
So you can make a difference, and you don't need to pay anybody to do it for you. It takes a bit of time and it does take commitment on a regular basis. But this example shows that no matter how small your company may be, you can take initiatives that can have a very positive longterm effect on your business!