What Does Google Look For In A Website?
Google recently updated their algorithm (Penguin) and in the process prevented many sites from ranking. The new update was said to have affected around 3.1% of search queries, which when you think about it, is probably hundreds of thousands of websites via millions of search queries.
No doubt the vast majority of the sites that were hit were of a very low quality, built for adsense, over optimised and offering very little in the way of value to any visitors they may or may not have received prior to getting dumped.
There were no doubt many other sites that do offer something of value but most likely over did things a little on the search engine optimisation front and today find that they have lost 99% of their traffic. Not a nice position to be in for sure.
In my previous post, I discussed what to do if you get penalised by the Google penguin update. If you have found yourself on the wrong end of the Penguin update, have a read and find out how you go about recovering your positioning and traffic.
As Google changes it’s algorithm around 400 times each year (some big changes and some small), it’s really important that we understand what it is that Google is looking for and how we can prevent ourselves being affected by any future updates. The Penguin update focused (it would seem) on on-site over optimisation as well as manipulative anchor text distribution. For example, having 80% of your inbound link anchor text using commercial anchor text and the other 20% using your brand name or url. It should be the other way around. 20% max on commercial anchor text and 80% on branded search terms.
So what does Google like to see in those coveted sites that it is so keen to promote to the top positions?
We know that Google uses hundreds of signals to organically rank a site and I won’t be attempting to cover all of those here!
Below you will find a few of my own thoughts on what I believe some of the key elements are and if you implement the following, you will be in an excellent position to do well and prevent any future penalties.
1. Make sure that your site focuses primarily on users rather than search engines.
What you need to do here is ask yourself the question “If search engines did not exist, would I do this?”. If the answer is no, don’t do it.
As an example, if Google did not exist, would you still have that spammy links page linking out to non relevant websites? Probably not.
Google is looking for pages that are intended for humans, not computers.
2. Check your grammar
Users hate spelling mistakes and poor grammar. There is nothing worse than reading something that someone clearly doesn’t care about. After all, if they did, they would have taken two minutes to run it through a spell checker.
As for search engines, Google is becoming very clear on this. Google is looking for quality that it is happy to show to searchers. Do you think that Google can tell if a blog post or article is well written or not? See how many grammar checking applications there are on the Internet? You bet your butt they can. If they see that your content is full of errors, they are more likely to demote your page.
Google is looking for well written quality content.
3. Create Something Of Value
Like users, Google is looking for value. When you create something of value people link to it, share it, bookmark it and tell their friends about it. It only takes one or two good natural links for Google to get a good idea of the value of a piece of content.
So make sure that your content is well thought out, serves a purpose and provides the viewer with a solution to a problem. Think value!
Google is looking for valuable link worthy and shareable content.
4. Don’t Try To Manipulate Google
Stop looking for that short cut. Promoting a site takes hard work and a lot of effort. By undertaking black hat SEO strategies you put yourself in the firing line. If Google catches you (and they will) your site will be penalised and it’s quite possible that your site will never recover.
So forget hidden links, keyword stuffing and sneaky redirects. Start putting your creative juices to good effect and build something of value.
Google is looking for trust and sites that are willing to play by the rules.
5. Become A Brand
By promoting your site consistently and offering something for nothing, you will slowly but surely build your follower numbers, links and social media sharing activity.
Google has been saying for a long time that brands were the future. So take note.
Start by dropping that 10 worded keyword rich domain name because you think it ranks you better. Google will reduce their reliance for such signals real soon so you may as well start building a real brand today.
Google is looking for strong brand signals. Brands are trusted, keyword stuffed domain names are not!
6. Improve your site speed and load times
Google now provides tools within Google Webmaster Tools for checking your site speed. They have even incorporated this into Google Analytics.
Speed is very important to Google and to users also. Although Google says that this is not a major ranking factor, every little helps and one day Google just may decide to give it more weight and emphasis.
So make sure you follow Googles tips on speeding up your sites load times. You’ll please both Google and your sites visitors.
Google is looking for speed and fast load times.
7. Build A Social Media Presence
By building a social media community around your site on sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn, you are sending all the right kind of signals to Google. Sites that are popular, generally have good social media interaction and engagement.
So build a site with great content and create a community of social media followers to help you promote your site further. Google is paying more and more attention to social signals so it is only right that you make good use of this.
Google is looking for social media signals.
Of course there are many other signs of quality that Google is looking for in a website, but by following the seven above, this should give you are good starting point.
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