1. How does Google decide which pages rank for which searches?

Google rankings are determined by hundreds of factors designed to provide people with helpful, accurate search results. The official algorithm that google uses to determine page ranking is top secret but it is generally acknowledged that:

  1. Google uses a huge number of computers to regularly “crawl“ the internet, picking up websites and indexing them into some sort of sense.
  2. A score (PageRank) is assigned by google to every page for every search result. PageRank is the measure of the relevance of a page. The higher the PageRank, the higher you appear on the search results.
  3. A PageRank can be increased by other websites linking to that page (backlinks). Each of these acts as a recommendation to google that a page is authentic, high-quality and of interest to others.
  4. Links from higher ranking websites will act as a stronger recommendation and have a bigger impact on PageRank.
  5. Other influences are believed to be the age of a site (with older sites ranking higher), the domain name in relation to the words being searched for, and the frequency with which a site posts new content.

So in a nutshell, a) your website needs to contain the words you would like to appear in search results for, b) other websites have to be linking back to you and c) you must be consistently adding new and relevant things to your site.

2. Where do I place the search terms I want to rank for on my site?

We’ll have discussed this with you before we built your website so you’ll have a good sense of which search terms you want to be appearing for. Your domain name will often be the name of your business and you’ll find that many people will search for your business name directly.

Write the copy that comes naturally for your website and the keywords you want to rank for will shine through. Maintain listings of your products and services, describing what they are and create other pages such as a blog or diary to provide further information. If you’re selling clothes for babies, then write a blog post about your newest ranges. Feature important words in the title of your page and this will transfer to the unique URL for the page. This will help Google find it.

Google also crawls some of the information in the back-end of your website so make sure you are utilising your meta tags and ALT tags. Not only will ALT tags return text if an image is taking a while to display (with the added bonus of ensuring you are adhering to accessibility laws), but they help google to understand what your image is of. Think about it, how else is google going to know that IMG_5432 is a picture of the new Mediterranean pasta salad recipe you shared?

3. How do I get other pages to link back to me?

A good starting point is to create as many natural links as you can yourself. Social media sites Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest all carry weight with Google as do the well-known business directories such as Yell, Yelp, 118 and 192. And if you haven’t created a Google My Business page yet, make this a priority. It’s important to be as diverse as possible, you never know when and how Google’s algoritms will change and prioritise different sources so cover as many bases as you comfortably can.

Then be creative. Newspapers and magazines all have an online presence so extend your PR efforts to their online versions. Clients and customers may review you or link back to your website and bloggers may write about your products or services. If an influential website has mentioned one of your products or services without a link to you, this is still golden in terms of brand awareness (don’t forget to share with your fans and followers), but you can always ask them to add a link after the piece has been published. The worst they can do is ignore you.

A key thing to remember here is that these links need to be authentic to be effective. Contact other websites that you think your organisation strikes a connection with, don’t waste your time building irrelevant, spammy directory listings just because it’s quicker.

4. How long will it take for my website to appear in search listings?

It depends on all sorts of factors and it’s impossible to estimate, but you are definitely looking at a number of weeks, probably even a few months for a brand new website to appear on page 1 of the search results just for the name of the business. It will depend on the competition and the time you are investing into your SEO strategy.

Don’t forget, thousands of other organisations are carrying out the same exercise to varying degrees of effectiveness, many competing for exactly the same search terms as you. Be patient and continue to build your content and build links back to your site. Your hard work will pay off in the end and you’ll gradually rise up the search results.