It’s something of a Holy Grail to attain the top spot in Google search results organically – that is, to rise to the top in search due to the relevance of site content in relation to search terms, rather than due to paid advertising. Obviously, to rank high organically, you have to be doing the right things from an SEO standpoint… but how do the right things add up to better ranking?
How are search engine rankings established?
There are hundreds of factors involved in search engine rankings, and Google is in the habit of updating and tweaking their algorithm to more closely reflect real human contact. What might have worked several months ago could end up working against you in the long run, so it pays to stay on top of your SEO, continually improve your site, and keep your content updated.
- Good Content
I’ve talked about the connection between content and ranking, and hopefully you’ve taken that into consideration when building your site. Most users want the sense that there are real people behind the scenes of a company and their website, and Google rewards the websites that use this sort of content with a higher ranking on the search results page.
The use of keywords in your content can help your overall performance in search results, provided you use these keywords in a realistic, humanly readable way. Content that’s crammed with keywords will work against you. Be strategic in your choice of keywords and create content that is useful and focused on the topic(s) that are presented on your website. Be useful!
Here again, relevant links to and from your site will help the search engines determine that your site is filled with useful content, while an overabundance of links could indicate a site that’s spammy and not useful.
- Site design/user experience
Outdated website design, even with great content, can work against you. Certain design elements have had their day in the sun, and if your site is still using these elements, your ranking may not be what you hoped it would be. Make sure your site uses current web design techniques, loads quickly, and presents your content well.
What about page load times?
Part of your site’s user experience is the load time. In 2010, Google announced that site speed would be a factor in ranking. The idea was to encourage the development of faster-loading sites and reward those that directed the user to the content the most quickly. In a recent study by SEO software producer Moz, it was determined that page load times did not impact a site’s ranking. However, Time To First Byte (TTFB) – the time it takes for a web server to return the first byte of a site from a requested URL – did have an impact on a site’s ranking in the search results. Google’s algorithm effectively rewards speed in the backend of a site’s structure, rather than in the front-end, user experience.
This doesn’t appear to be a direct impact on search engine performance, but a slowly-loading page can be a user experience nightmare and increase your bounce rate. That, my friend, has a negative effect on your overall SEO goals.
Did you know? – You can test your page load speed with Google Webmaster Tools.
What if my website is down?
Page load speed and TTFB aside, what happens to your site’s ranking if your site is inaccessible or down?
According to Google’s Matt Cutts, a website that is temporarily down (24 hours or less) won’t be negatively impacted in search engine rankings. A site that’s down for two weeks, on the other hand, will slip in the rankings. According to Cutts, “we don’t want to send users to a website that is actually down.” In short, downtime only affects SEO when the outage is long-lived, rather than a temporary outage.
Do you think your website’s performance is affecting your SEO? Yes?
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