It’s probably not a surprise that the number one question we get from people is, “How can I get my website on the first page of Google?”. That’s an important question because 97 percent of people don’t click past the first page of results.
So how does Google decide what websites to put on the first page? Nobody knows that answer but Google – but SEO experts have been hypothesizing and testing for years to determine Google’s search algorithm. They’ve come to the conclusion that there are over 200 ranking factors Google uses when they decide your website’s Google ranking.
However, some of those factors are much more important than others when it comes to a great Google ranking. Below is a list of nine things you should concentrate on to get your website on the first page of Google’s search results. Below the list, I’ll address each one a bit more in-depth. Also, if you click the associated link within each checklist item, it will take you to a website page where you can learn even more.
Your checklist to help you get on the first page of Google:
- Backlinks and Citations – Make sure your business’s online listings are optimized on all online directories and search engines with a strong Local SEO Also, aim to get authoritative websites to backlink to your website. (If you’re reading this on our blog page, these blue links to other sites are considered “backlinks” for them.) Conversely, if you have backlinks on low-quality, spammy websites, it can hurt your Google ranking.
- Security – Make sure you have a secure website (HTTPS vs. HTTP).
- Responsive Design – Make sure you have a mobile-friendly website design.
- Website Content – Make sure you have quality website copy and images.
- Page Speed – Make sure your website’s pages load quickly.
- Social Media Marketing – Make sure you have an active presence on Social Media.
- Technical SEO Elements – Make sure you have your appropriate keywords featured in your website’s meta data.
- Google My Business – Make sure your Google My Business profile is as complete and descriptive as possible. Google itself even comes right out and says if your GMB profile is strong, it will help your ranking.
- Online Reviews – Make sure you have lots of five-star reviews for your business online. (Preferably on Google.) Again, Google comes right out tells us – bad online reviews are bad for YOU.
Backlinks and Citations
Backlinks: These are external links to your website. Search engines take into consideration the sources (must be high-quality) and the amount of web page backlinks, then the search engine estimates the importance of that page.
Citations: A citation is a mention or reference to a business’s name, address, phone number, or site – AKA “NAPS.” Citations are one of the most important variables in determining a location’s ranking in Google Maps and the local 3-pack shown in Google Search. Make sure your NAPS are listed accurately on every major directly, search engine, map engine, and the most authoritative Google citations for local SEO, in particular, are those that are consistent with your Google My Business page.
SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) establishes an encrypted link between a web server and a browser and is the standard security technology. This encrypted link ensures that all data passed between the web server and a user’s browser remains private. And of course, Google likes security. And if you have a valid SSL certificate installed, you’re likely to rank higher in Google’s results pages.
“Mobile-Friendly” basically means that your website is legible and functional on cell phones and tablets. This is also known as “Responsive” website design, because your website “responds” to the size of the screen it’s being viewed on.
Over 60% of Google searches originate on mobile devices. So probably around 60% of your website visitors are viewing your site on a cell phone or tablet. When’s the last time you checked it out? If the user experience is bad – with tiny type face or jumbled images – then Google considers your website to be a stinker. And you know what Google does with stinker websites – it buries that site in search results.
High-Quality Website Content
The following characteristics are hallmarks of a website with great content:
It’s unique – Can I find this same content in a million other places?
It’s well-written – Are you using proper grammar, spelling and punctuation?
It’s long – Make sure the page is at least 500 words. Don’t add filler to lengthen it – then that’ll hurt your ranking.
It provides value – Does it answer a question or solve a problem?
No? Then why would Google rank it?
This is another one that comes down to user experience because nobody likes waiting for a website to load. If your website takes more than 2-3 seconds to load, you need to give us a call.
You can test your website’s speed here.
Slow website speed has a direct impact on how Google positions you compared to your competitors in their rankings. Google knows fast sites have lower bounce rates (people that immediately leave your website) and lead to more user engagement on that site.
Social Media Signals
Your activity on social media is an indicator to Google for how active and involved you are with your audience. In short, it shows Google you care. Google knows companies that care about their customers generally provide them a better experience overall, so is more likely to highlight your site at the top of their rankings.
Also, the content you share on social media is more likely to be shared, re-posted, etc. And content that is heavily shared is an indicator to Google that there is something of value here. And of course, that content might be shared on someone’s website, which might be a valuable backlink.
Technical SEO Elements
This is called “technical” because it’s – well, technical. And you’ll probably not understand much of it. Again, that’s why we’re here – because we don’t expect you to know how to create an XML sitemap or know anything about robot.txt files. That’s our job.
But here’s what you can do to check to see if your site has any technical SEO issues. Go to our homepage and scroll down to the “Get a Free SEO Analysis” section. Type in your information, and you’ll be emailed a full report showing you the good, the bad, and the ugly about your website’s technical SEO information.
Google My Business
The very nature of your Google My Business (GMB) profile improves your visibility in Google’s search results. If you’re not sure what GMB is, it has to do with the image you see on the right. This is often on the right-hand side of search results pages when you do a Google search. The more complete your profile, the more Google knows about your business. And the more Google knows about your business, the more comfortable they are to feature your business on their front page like this. Which is what you want.
Here are just a few of the things you can do with GMB: Allow your customers to directly text you a quick question, promote your business with a “Post” which stays active for one week, and engage with people that have reviewed your business. Which leads us to number nine on our list…
Simply put, the more online reviews you have, and the higher the average star rating the more likely you’ll be featured on page one of Google. Responding to your reviews will also help your ranking. Again, Google likes businesses that care about their customers and are paying attention. Generally speaking, a company that ignores its customers online is a company that will not perform as well in Google search rankings as those that do care.
Remember, this is only a list of nine of the 200 factors that impact your Google ranking. However, these nine are the ones that Smart Link Solutions thinks have a significant impact on your rankings. Taking care of these nine will give you a leg up on your competition, and drive you to page one of Google!
Need help getting to page one of Google? Call us today at (248) 684-0500 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.