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When it comes to getting more traffic to your website, there’s nothing quite as powerful as Google. Google owns 68% of the search engine market share, which means well over half of the world defaults to it for their internet searches. Clearly, Google has some pull with your potential customers.
But Google is also picky, and if you want it to play nice, you have to work with it a little bit. There are some very specific things the search giant looks for when determining whether to show your website to people and if you don’t meet those requirements, your chances of showing up first on the results list aren’t good.
So what does Google really want to see on your website? Read on to find out.
1. Responsive / mobile-friendly design
Over recent years Google has placed a huge emphasis on mobile-friendly or responsive design. It’s one of the first things they look at when ranking search results, which means it should be your top priority when it comes to building your website. That’s because 51.3% of global website visits come from smartphones and tablets, while only 48.7% of visits come from desktops. So if your website isn’t easily accessible from a mobile device, it won’t be one of their top picks for any given search query.
2. High click-through rates and fast load times
One factor Google really pays attention to when ranking your pages in search results is their click-through rate (CTR), or the number of people who click onto that site from the results page. The fewer people who click onto your site when it shows up in results, the more Google learns that your website isn’t helpful to people for that search term. That leads to a lower relevancy score, which ultimately means a lower search ranking for your website.
Once people do click over to your website, it’s important to have fast page load times. 53% of mobile pages are abandoned if they take longer than 3 seconds to load, but the average page takes about 19 seconds (the same amount of time it takes to sing your ABCs). By contrast, 61% of website users are unlikely to return to a mobile site they initially have trouble accessing.
3. Thorough sitemaps
If you’ve read our previous blogs, you know how important it is to have a good site structure to help your visitors find what they’re looking for. But easy to navigate pages aren’t enough for Google. If you really want to get on their radar, you need to include a sitemap.
A sitemap is a file that clearly lists your website’s structure as well as metadata like types of content on the page, how often you update your site, and more. Google’s crawlers read this information to help determine how relevant your website is to a search query. For instance, if you haven’t updated your site in three years, it’s probably not going to be the first one to pop up if someone is searching for recent statistics. Sitemaps are especially helpful if your website has several pages or if you haven’t included very many internal links throughout the site.
Want to learn more about how to structure your website? Read our previous blog, 7 Modern Web Design Elements Your Atlanta Business Website Needs.
4. Relevant metadata
Speaking of metadata, that’s another thing Google looks for when determining where to rank your page in search results. Simply put, metadata is just data about data, but it’s important information to help Google know what’s on each page.
Usually, metadata comes into play when your page features several photos or videos. Google’s crawlers can’t view these types of media, so they rely on titles, descriptions, and alt tags to see what’s there. Pages that include photos and video but don’t have descriptions and alt tags may be exactly what someone is searching for, but without those valuable pieces of information, Google can’t tell that it’s relevant.
5. Useful content
One of the biggest mistakes most people make when optimizing their websites for Google searches is adding their focus keywords way too many times. This is called keyword stuffing, and according to Google, it’s a huge no-no. It used to be all the rage, and some SEO amateurs still use it as their default optimization trick. But over the past few years, Google has started to favor content that’s written for humans, not search engines — after all, humans are your target audience.
After you take out all of the extra keywords, look at the actual text on your site. Are the ideas helpful to someone reading it? Are there recent data, new studies, or helpful, actionable tips? These are all things that your visitors look for when they’re deciding whether to stay on your page or click away. And remember, the more people click away, the less useful Google thinks your site is.
Want to dive deeper into your website’s content? Read our previous blog, What You Need to Know About Content Marketing.
Put your website on Google’s radar
Google’s search engine can be your most powerful ally when it comes to getting more traffic to your website. But to use Google to your advantage, you have to gear your website to what it’s looking for.
Need some help getting on Google’s radar? Our Web Design team can help. Take a look at the results we’ve gotten for our clients, or contact us to get started.