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Introduction to SEO: How to Get to the Top of Google Search Results

7 mins read

No matter your industry, Google search results are a big deal for your business.

In January 2016, SimilarWeb reported that 40% of worldwide e-commerce traffic in January 2016 came from search engines. A few years prior, a study by MineWhat.com showed that 60% of shoppers start most purchases with a Google search.

Don’t get me wrong – Google isn’t the be all, end all of digital marketing. Many of those purchasing decisions were also heavily influenced by content, social media ads, and the opinions of friends, family, and reviewers. But for modern consumers, a Google search is a critical step in researching what to buy and where to buy it. That’s why so many business owners are concerned with how to get to the top of Google search results.

Some people think that getting to the top of the list (known as “Search Engine Optimization” or “SEO”) requires a complicated combination of techy tricks. I’m here to dispel all that. The truth is, Google has gotten wise to a lot of the tricks that were once used to outsmart it. This means there are far fewer shortcuts than there used to be. Instead, sites which are truly high-quality will naturally rise to the top of the pile.

But what is a good-quality website according to Google? And how can you put your best foot forward in a world where search engines are such a huge part of the customer journey? This a beginner’s guide to SEO will help you understand the most important things you need to know.

How Can I Be Seen on Google’s Search Results?

There are three main ways your business can show up Google search results.

The first is via paid advertising through Google, also known as “Google AdWords” or “Pay Per Click.” Google AdWords allows you show an ad to people who may be interested in your business. The ads look something like this:

Below these ads will be the websites Google considers the most relevant to your query. These are known as “organic search results.”

Google could also feature your business or product through its applications, such as Google Local or Google Shopper. These show a combination of paid and organic results based on a searcher’s location as well as reviews and relevance.

How does Google decide which websites to show in its search results?

Google has one central goal with its search engine: It wants to show people the best, most relevant results for their online search. There are over 200 factors it considers when making this calculation, most of which fall into the following four categories:

  • User experience
  • Backlinks
  • Value of content
  • Keywords

Here’s a rundown of what these factors are and how you can make sure your website is on point in each category.

User experience

If someone has to wait too long for your site to load, can’t read the text on the page, or can’t navigate to the information you want, they’re likely to bounce. That’s why Google is much more likely to place sites with easy-to-use designs at the top of its search results Having a website that works well will not only help you get to the top of Google search results, it will also keep people on your website once they click the link.

Answer these questions to find out how your site ranks for user experience:

  • Is my website mobile friendly? (Read our step-by-step guide to creating a mobile-friendly website here.)
  • Can my website be navigated easily, or is the sitemap too complicated?
  • Are there features like an internal search bar to help people navigate my website?
  • Is the text legible (large, clear enough font with colour contrast between text and background)?
  • Does my website load quickly?

Backlinks

Before Google can trust your site, it wants to know if other people trust your site. This is measured by something called backlinks. When another website posts a link to your website, Google sees this as a “vote” for your site. If multiple authoritative and relevant websites link to you, the Google will get the message that you have some pretty great content for its searchers.

Here’s a rundown of how it works:

 

Backlinks are critical for you to get to the top of Google search results, but remember to play fair – if you’re caught doing something shady like paying for backlinks, Google will penalize you for it. Instead, try creating roundup posts, guest blogging, and building a solid social media following to spread the word about your best content.

Keywords

Every Google search starts with a few words typed or spoken into the search engine, so it’s no surprise that words play a role in getting to the top of Google search results.

Using a tool link like Keyword Planner is a good first step to identifying the keywords people may be using to find businesses like yours. Using keyword, you can make sure your blog topics and product descriptions relate to what your potential customers are searching for online.

If your text isn’t an exact match to popular keywords, don’t sweat it too much – Google is always improving its algorithm to get better at identifying similar terms. One of the biggest SEO mistakes people make is using one specific term over and over (and over and over). That will just make your text unreadable and turn off readers and search engines alike. The most important thing is to create high-quality content with a clear topic. That brings me to my final point…

Valuable Content

There are a few things Google checks to ensure that the content of your webpage or blog post will be useful to searchers. In general, text that is clear, grammatically correct, and plentiful performs better on the search engine. Gone are the days when hundreds of 300-word “blog posts” would help you climb the search rankings. Today, quality almost always wins over quantity.

Here are a few things you should consider when creating content for your website:

  • Do the headlines and titles of each page/post clearly describe my content? (Bonus points if you work in a keyword or two!)
  • Are my articles easy to read with correct grammar, visual aids, and subtitles?
  • Are my articles long enough to provide real value to visitors?
  • Do I provide information that is unique and useful to searchers?

How Social Media Can Help You Get to the Top of Google Search Results

Besides being a great lead generator itself, social media can also help assist you in search engine marketing or SEO.

Social media can:

  • Help you increase backlinks by connecting you with people who will read and share your content
  • Expose you to popular articles and keywords from others in your industry
  • Confirm your location, hours, and contact information for Google Local and other business listings
  • Allow you to measure engagement so you know what your customers want and need from your website

The journey to the top of Google search results doesn’t require a highly skilled SEO master – all you need is a little knowledge, some useful tools, and the ability to work on it over time.  By paying close attention to your user experience, content quality, and backlinks, you can make a big difference in your website’s search engine traffic.

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