About your business – does it have what it takes to get found in Google Search? Is your website set up for maximum search visibility?
That all depends on your website’s compliance with SEO and authority on the web.
Google’s algorithms change on a daily basis, making it difficult for businesses to stay ahead of the curve.
Trust us, we know how challenging it can be. But if you want your website to stay visible on Google, your SEO strategy must evolve with the changes.
So the real question is, is your website optimized according to Google’s standards…in 2019?
All businesses practice SEO with a common goal in mind: to get found on Google for search terms that people might use to search for a service. It’s all about the position that your website gets listed for a particular search term. The first, second, and third rankings are basically the cream of the crop.
The top 3 organic placements earn about 50% of the link clicks that the average SERP—a.k.a., search engine results page—receives.
Keyword Queries: What We’re Ranking For
I when a user searches for something on Google, their search query is activated by the use of a specific search term or phrase. This is known as a query. The websites with the highest authority for a particular industry will likely populate on the first page of results more often for related queries that are searched.
Rankings for keyword queries are rewarded to websites that apply good practices for on-page (internal) and off-page (external) SEO efforts.
What Counts As the Top Rank in 2019
In 2015 Google introduced the Knowledge Graph and Answer Box that pulls information from websites and provides answers to users without them needing to click on any result. This change impacted some businesses very negatively, such as song lyrics websites. If a user searches for lyrics to a song, they get everything they need on Google and never need to click onto a website, many of these websites monetized from the traffic they were getting from Google and now they are not.
Not all businesses were impacted from the knowledge graph/answer box.
In fact, many businesses, such as local businesses were not affected at all. When searching for a local listing, many times Google will show you Ads followed by 3 local results. For example, if a user searches “used car dealership in San Luis Obispo” here is what comes up:
Do you see that box with the first three listings? Google calls this their local 3-pack, and it’s designated specifically for local search results pages.
If we’re being honest, placement in the local 3-pack is more prominent than the #1 organic ranking (which is Carfax, in this case).
With that in mind, you’d have to beat out McCarthy’s, Auto Park Sales & Service, or Helland Auto Sales for a spot in the local 3-pack.
Let’s also look at it from a content marketing standpoint. We’ll run with the used car dealership example again.
But this time, let’s say that you published an inspection checklist for used cars, and you want to snag the top ranking for that exact search term. Who do you think you’d have to beat out?
If you’re thinking that it’s “Nationwide,” guess again.
While Nationwide might have the #1 ranking, it comes in second place to the Drivers Auto Mart with the Answer Box featured snippet (a.k.a., the #0 ranking).
As a general rule of thumb, the #1 ranking represents the website that’s listed under the #0 ranking (e.g., paid ads, answer boxes/featured snippets, and local 3-packs).
#1 is no longer the ranking goal for a search term – #0 is.
Why Should I Aim for the First Page?
Without a first-page ranking, your website won’t get as much attention as you were hoping for.
When a user performs a search query on Google, they usually find what they’re looking for on the first page of search results. Because of that, they oftentimes don’t look beyond that first page.
They say that the best place to hide a dead body is on the second page of Google. This couldn’t be farther from the truth.
How to Increase Your Chances of a First-Page Ranking
Google wants to defend their title as the #1 source for information. When it comes to the information that populates in their search results, quality plays a huge role in their ranking decisions.
A ranking on Google parallels the significance of an endorsement from a high authority figure. Times have changed since Google first started. As their algorithms evolve, so do their expectations.
They don’t give their search traffic away to just anybody. If you want those first-page rankings in the search results, you have to earn them by becoming the source of information people share, talk about and by making it easy for Google to also understand exactly what your content is about.
So back to the big question, “How do you rank?”
Industry experts who’ve experimented with what count have determined that to rank on Google the following are the most important:
- A Secure and Accessible Website
- Page Speed (Including Mobile Page Speed)
- Mobile Friendliness
- Domain Age, URL, and Authority
- Optimized Content
- Technical SEO
- User Experience (RankBrain)
- Social Signals
- Real Business Information
Furthermore, Google takes it one step further and has a team of people testing websites against their search quality rating guidelines. More specifically, they manually evaluate:
- The quality and volume of your content
- Your company information
- Your credentials as an author
- The public’s perception of your business (e.g., reviews)
- The intent of each page on your website
- Your level of expertise, authority, and trustworthiness in your industry
With these guidelines, Google can narrow down their search results to the best content available.
This ensures that the users are able to find exactly what they’re looking for in the first search.
But that’s not even the half of it. A high-page ranking also requires a well-optimized website and there are many ways you can improve your website’s SEO.
As a disclaimer, no one can guarantee a first-page ranking because only Google owns Google and there are over 200 ranking factors. Nonetheless, compliance will always improve your chances of ranking.
Interestingly enough Google’s top 2019 ranking factors still have A LOT of the same ranking factors as Google’s top-ranking factors in 2018. In addition to these ranking factors, there’s an extra one that has been trending in the SEO community and should not be overlooked.
You Need E-A-T-Friendly Content
Last year, Google introduced E-A-T to the world wide web. This algorithm update put the nail in the coffin for low-quality content.
Google means business about the quality of search, and the E-A-T update has set the bar very high for websites who want visibility.
Their biggest problem was content creators producing content for algorithms and not people. Because of that, users were exposed to spammy, robot-like content that was difficult to read.
Well obviously, this lowered the value of user experience. We all know that this is the LAST thing that Google wants, which is why they’ve created this update.
Needless to say, ranking on Google isn’t as easy as it used to be. If you want your website to be seen on the platform, you need content that demonstrates expertise, authority, and trustworthiness.
That’s what E-A-T stands for. Google uses it as a rating system to evaluate the content that appears in their search results.
There are two different E-A-T scores: one for your website, and one for your presence as a content creator.
When performing a website QC, Google’s team doesn’t solely focus on your website content. They also check your credibility as an author by evaluating your author bio.
So as a general rule of thumb, high-quality content is no longer an option. It’s a requirement to even rank on Google. If you haven’t already, start focusing your content marketing efforts on content that boosts your E-A-T scores.
Be Honest: Is SEO Worth the Investment?
A successful SEO strategy is like a return-on-investment that pays itself back with interest.
Proper optimization can turn your website into your biggest lead generator and sales machine. On the other hand, it’s important to keep in mind that success with SEO doesn’t happen overnight.
SEO is best described as a marathon rather than a sprint. If you want results, you have to be committed to the process for the long haul. Shortcuts lead to penalties and if you get caught doing the wrong thing or if you hire the wrong company, it is very difficult to get back into Google’s good graces.
Written By: Matt White