By Frederik N | August 25, 2021
So you’ve figured that your business needs a digital presence. You’ve also built a website to showcase your brand and drive conversions.
But what next? How do you draw an audience? How do you make yourself visible among 1.8 billion competitors?
The answer is search engine optimization.
Unlike the early days of the internet, it’s becoming increasingly important to have a search engine strategy. After all, your website needs to be discoverable on Google so that your prospective clients can find you.
Had this been the 1980s, Google would have been a huge directory with every business having an equal chance of being discovered. Unfortunately for us, the 21st century poses new challenges.
So, why are we talking just about Google and not the other search engines?
It’s a no-brainer that the tech giant has a lion’s share of the search engine requests. With over 92% of internet users directing their queries towards Google, it’s impossible to ignore its dominance. You can try to rank for Bing or Yahoo too, but the pay-off is very small.
Google uses a combination of algorithms to rank websites while considering several factors. It includes the likes of search intent, quality of the content, and a bunch of other technical stuff that we’ll be covering further. It’s important to check all these boxes for your website to get enough traffic. We’ll start by answering ‘how to get your website on Google’ and eventually get to the part where your website takes the number one spot.
How to Appear on Google Search to Start With
Get indexed by Google. Not doing so could cost you millions of dollars or visitors in due course of time.
Let’s take H&M’s example. At one point, the apparel company was missing out on nearly 5 million hits a month just because ~4% of their web pages weren’t indexed. Now, that’s a lot of unsold ripped jeans and tank tops!
Featuring in Google’s directory isn’t rocket science. All it takes is a fully functional website and some time to spare.
Here are the steps to follow.
Step 1: Create a Google account, open up Google Search Console, and select the ‘Add your Website’ option
Step 2: Enter your website’s name and select one of the verification methods. While completing one is sufficient for you, Google recommends you to verify using multiple methods to make ‘your ownership more resilient.’
This step is easier to complete if you’re a Google Suite user. Verification for Wix or WordPress users is comparatively difficult and involves HTML meta tags.
Step 3: Once you’ve met the verification criterion, you can come back to Google Search Console and hit the ‘Verify’ button.
Step 4: Click on the ‘Crawl’ option and select ‘Sitemaps.’ Now, add your XML sitemap URL in the text box. In most cases, your sitemap is in the root. For instance, thisisanexample.com/sitemap_index.xml. You can check the WordPress or Wix Guide for sitemaps if you’re facing any troubles.
Lo and behold, Google knows who you are! The Googlebot will now crawl your sitemap regularly and index any new web pages you create. But we won’t stop here since our aim is to appear on the first page of Google’s search results.
How to Get a Website on Google First Page?
A study suggests that only 0.78% of users clicked a link on the second page of Google’s search results. This is information enough for you and your team to start working on getting to the top 10 search results as soon as possible.
It’s good to set your expectations straight at this point.
You can get a first-page ranking for certain targeted keywords and search results. But don’t expect your brand-new bakery business to show up in the top few results when a user searches for the word ‘cake.’ It takes years of optimization and authority-building activities to become a top website.
Google is always on the lookout for quality domains.
Since it’s impossible to subjectively assess every website, there are a few objective criteria that need to be met. Over the years, such criteria have gone on to become industry best practices.
Here are some of them.
Nearly 63% of Google’s search engine requests are made via mobile. If these numbers are anything to go by, it means that you need a website that is well-equipped to handle mobile traffic.
Moreover, Google’s crawlers are taking a mobile-first approach.
This means that your website’s mobile version will be crawled by Google before the desktop version. Have a responsive yet mobile-first website, make the user experience thumb-friendly, and optimize captions to fit small screens. It’s even better if you can use accelerated mobile pages (AMP) to improve the site experience.
With changing screen sizes and operating systems, testing your website on different mobile devices has become all the more important. You can use mobile simulators or emulators to test the responsiveness of your website.
2. SSL Certificate
An SSL certificate will unlock the HTTPS domain for you. Why is it important? For starters, it adds a layer of encryption, ensures data integrity, and builds trust with a standard authentication process.
From an SEO perspective, it’s important because most browsers label unsecured sites as dangerous. Many studies have concluded that having an SSL certificate directly impacts your search rankings.
Additionally, it’s an important factor when it comes to turning leads into conversions. Some websites go as far as claiming that 84% of the users might drop the idea of purchasing if the website’s connection isn’t a secured one.
3. Structured Data
Structured data or schema markup organizes your web content neatly, making the job easy for Google’s crawlers.
Let’s say you are publishing a gadget’s review on your website. By adding additional details about the review, like the type of content, author name, and context, you can help the crawlers find your website easily. That will give you an edge over the websites that haven’t organized their content.
Well, it’s a little more complicated than that, but there are many guides including one by Google itself that can help you navigate. You can also add structured data using a WordPress plugin or a schema markup generator to go about it.
4. Meta Tags
Think of meta tags as short descriptions of the content present on the web page. These tags are visible to end-users at various points of the user journey. There are four kinds of tags – slug, title tag, meta description, and meta robots. Let’s break them down one by one.
A slug is a part of the URL that is used to define the content accurately and in a structured manner. Take this URL for instance: theguardian.com/food/2021/jun/18/how-to-eat-nutella.
It established the category as ‘food,’ mentions the date of publication, and gives a short context to the article. It’s a standard practice to insert a keyword in the slug for better ranking.
The title tag is used to describe the website’s content, ideally in 60-70 characters. While the title of the article is used as a tag by default, most content management systems like WordPress allow you to override with your own tag. Often, these title texts are used as anchor texts on other websites.
Meta descriptions are those little snippets that describe the results returned by the search engine. They are found right below the title in Google’s results page and have an important function. It’s best to fit these descriptions in less than 200 characters so that they don’t get snipped in the SERPs.
Meta robots are used to give fairly simple crawling instructions to search engines. By using robot tags, you can ask search engines to not index or follow your web page. The popularly used tags are ‘nofollow’ or ‘noindex.’
5. Link Building
Link building is considered an important part of the SEO process and often helps in improving the credibility of the website. That requires a constant stream of high-quality content on your website. With that, you can establish yourself as a valuable resource and encourage other websites to quote you or link to your URLs.
This process lets Google know that your content is valuable and that, in turn, improves your website’s ranking. The more popular and trustworthy a website is, the better the backlink. For instance, a hyperlink mentioned on a website like Forbes holds more weight than a lesser-known blog.
In the same way, providing useful and contextual links on your website makes your content reader-friendly. Additionally, having external links can help you expand your digital footprint and help in forging partnerships with leading websites in your industry.
6. Fast Loading Speed and Easy to Use
In 2018, businesses lost half of their prospective online customers just because their websites didn’t load fast enough. That’s enough to show why speed matters in this cut-throat game of search engine rankings.
Users often steer clear of websites due to irrelevant content, cluttered presentation, and unwanted pop-ups that hamper UX. Remember, a clean UI, a clear navigation path, and well-defined CTAs can go a long way in improving your website’s credibility. Moreover, users exiting your website within a few seconds means the bounce rate of your page is high. While many experts contest that bounce rate doesn’t affect search engine ranking, it’s better to have the upper hand at a time when Google is tweaking its algorithm daily.
If you would like to test the loading speed of your website, you can use our Free SEO Audit Tool.
How to Get to the Top Of Google Search Results
Knowing how to get your website on Google is one thing, but ranking at the top is a whole new ball game.
Ever tried Googling the word ‘uber’?
It returns the links about the ridesharing platform Uber instead of showing us the word’s dictionary meaning. Well, that is what a solid search engine strategy can get you.
Here are some of the strategies you can emulate:
- Have lots of high-quality backlinks
- Gain authority over the industry niche by posting a lot of relevant blog posts and other content
- Know which keywords to rank for and optimize accordingly
- Conduct regular SEO audits
- Increase your presence across social platforms to solidify brand presence (rumour has it Google takes this into consideration)
By now, you must have understood that you should be in it for the long haul to become a top-ranked website on Google.
While there are many black hat techniques that act as a shortcut to success, your website might get deindexed or receive a penalized search engine ranking (referred to as a “Manual Action”) if caught by Google. So, it’s always better to be on the right side of things and wait for your website to do well organically.
Here’s a quick recap of everything we covered in this article:
- A quick 4-step process to get indexed by Google using Search Console
- The need for a mobile-friendly website
- What are SSL certificates, and the importance of getting one
- How quality content can help in link building
- Structured data, slug, meta tags, and meta descriptions for better SERP ranking
- The impact of fast loading pages on conversions
- Best practices to achieve first page rankings in SERPs
While this isn’t an exhaustive list, in most cases, ensuring these aspects should be enough to get you on the first page. Now that you know how to get your website on Google, go on and build a great business.