How does Google rank your website?

There was a day when getting a top ranking for a competitive search term with Google was easy. All you had to do was acquire a few thousand backlinks from various sources, all with the desired search term in the link description.

If you had enough money you could pay for links. If not, you did it manually. In fact, a whole industry sprung up around link building. Self appointed internet marketing mentors were advising clients to write articles and submit them to multiple high PR article sites. The idea was, that not only would you receive “link juice” from these sites, but as your articles were picked up by other website owners, you would gain even more links from the “About the Author” closing paragraph in your articles.

Google didn’t like what was happening, it was felt that there was no longer a level playing field, websites with budgets always came out on top regardless if the content was poor quality, and its worth noting Google prides itself that it can’t even manipulate its own search engine to get top rankings.

Not anymore!

Since 2011, Google has been steadily upgrading the way it indexes websites in order to give its users a better search experience. The most significant of these upgrades were given animal names like Panda and then Penguin.

The Panda indexing algorithm change came late in 2011. Its focus was on distinguishing websites with quality content from others with “thin content”. Google spiders would look at factors like the number of words on a page, how much of it was “above the fold” compared to ads or other marketing material; did it contain good grammar? A number of poor quality sites soon found their way to page 50 instead of page 1 for search terms.

Then came Penguin in April 2012. Its focus was on manipulation of backlinks to websites. By “manipulation” we mean anything that looked like the links to your site were the result of submitting the same content to many sites, all with the same expression (the desired search term) in the link.

How Google Ranks Your Website Today

If you want to rank organically (not using paid advertising like Google AdSense) for popular search terms in Google today, you need to do the following:

  1. Provide quality “real” content, written in your own voice and with a minimum 400 words per page.
  2. Optimise the page itself, by using the search term you want to rank for, in the URL extension, in the article body itself, in H2 and H3 article headings, as well as the meta title (H1) and the meta description (which appears under search results link in Google).
  3. Acquire “real” links to your site’s main pages as well as other internal pages. These links must appear natural to Google. You can get these links using the following methods:
    • by posting comments on blogs whose theme is similar or complimentary to your own.
    • writing some unique articles and submitting them to one article directory only,
    • submitting quality articles to other websites whose theme is similar or complimentary to your own.
    • acquiring votes (likes and shares) from Facebook and Google+ as well as including a Facebook Comments area on each page of your site. Google takes notice of social media activity these days.
    • ensuring that the anchor text in the links back to your site are not all the same. Mix it up with other expressions like “click here”, your name, the actual URL and other terms that appear natural.
    • by issuing Press Releases on sites which accept these.
    • organise the above links so that they are “tiered”. This means that you want some links which link to sites which in turn link to your website.
    • avoid link farms, software that posts spam links to directories or blogs; avoid links from sites which are either poor quality, or whose content is irrelevant to your own site.
  4. Make sure your own website has good “internal linking” to other pages, so that users have a better experience and are more likely to stay on your site for longer. Google takes into account the “bounce rate” of sites (people clicking away after visiting) to determine quality.

There are other things which also determine how well your website pages rank in Google, but the above are the most important. These things require effort and most cannot be automated. But if you do the work you will be rewarded.