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Ranking well on Google

GOOGLE is arguably the most well known and popular search engine and it has got there by having a premise that is at once simple and incredibly complex to achieve. It strives to provide any given searcher exactly what they are looking for. If you, like me, remember search engines like Ask Jeeves, Yahoo, Lycos and Bing, all of which are still live search engines (if you are sitting there saying ‘who’ then this point is well made) then you will no doubt also remember that asking even for the most basic question back in the day, was really pot luck as to whether you would get anything useful back.

The difference is Google evolved, it utilised various innovative ideas like its autocomplete – which really was rather dire in the beginning, but they persevered and continued to develop and innovate and now no one types an entire sentence in the search box. Of course, with the rise in search engine use so did the spammers and more nefarious practices increase, so Google decided to tackle those too. In 2003 Google released its first major algorithm update called Florida and has been fighting the good fight ever since. With various core updates and now daily algorithmic updates, Google’s fight to provide a searcher with exactly what they are looking for continues. When it comes to SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) it is Google’s guidelines that SEO specialists aim to meet.

Ranking well on Google

But what exactly are they looking for? How do they decide where to rank your site? There is no quick answer to that question. Google do not publish an exhaustive list of what it takes to rank well. However there is a wealth of guidance available on their Webmaster Central Blog, including a recent release about Google Core Updates. In the article Google talk about why sites increase or decrease in rankings after a Core Update and what you can do to mitigate losses or to generally improve your site – the core message here is to focus on content – however, I would add to ensure that your site is optimised for Mobile First too!

In their Core Update article Google kindly list out a whole set of questions you should ask yourself about your site collateral (every single page or post that you would like to rank):

Content and quality questions

* Does the content provide original information, reporting, research or analysis?

* Does the content provide a substantial, complete or comprehensive description of the topic?

* Does the content provide insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious?

* If the content draws on other sources, does it avoid simply copying or rewriting those sources and instead provide substantial additional value and originality?

* Does the headline and/or page title provide a descriptive, helpful summary of the content?

* Does the headline and/or page title avoid being exaggerating or shocking in nature?

* Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?

* Would you expect to see this content in or referenced by a printed magazine, encyclopedia or book?

Expertise questions

* Does the content present information in a way that makes you want to trust it, such as clear sourcing, evidence of the expertise involved, background about the author or the site that publishes it, such as through links to an author page or a site’s About page?

* If you researched the site producing the content, would you come away with an impression that it is well-trusted or widely recognised as an authority on its topic?

* Is this content written by an expert or enthusiast who demonstrably knows the topic well?

* Is the content free from easily-verified factual errors?

* Would you feel comfortable trusting this content for issues relating to your money or your life?

Presentation and production questions

* Is the content free from spelling or stylistic issues?

* Was the content produced well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced?

* Is the content mass produced by, or outsourced to, a large number of creators, or spread across a large network of sites, so that individual pages or sites don’t get as much attention or care?

* Does the content have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with the main content?

* Does content display well for mobile devices when viewed on them?

Comparative questions

* Does the content provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results?

* Does the content seem to be serving the genuine interests of visitors to the site or does it seem to exist solely by someone attempting to guess what might rank well in search engines?

Ranking well on Google – in summary

As you can see from the tone of the questions, Google doesn’t want you to blindly follow a set of tasks with a view to just creating masses of traffic to your site – we should be over the “numbers game” mentality by now and should be focusing on quality over quantity in all aspects of our digital media activity. Focusing on the user and their intent behind their search request, facilitating and anticipating their need is what Google is trying to get you to focus on. In essence, just as they do, they want you to provide on each page, article or product, what they have always strived for – give the user what they want and as we started out by saying this is at once a very simple and yet extremely complex thing to achieve but if you do it well then the benefits are there for the reaping.

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