10 Ways to Improve your Google Search Rankings in 2020

Improving your Google search rankings is a key activity for any business.Google Search on a mobile phone

It’s part of the overall marketing mix, and a foundation stone of your digital footprint.  There are many factors at play.  Some things require outside help, but many things can be done in-house, for free.

Start reading this 10 point guide to improve your Google search rankings in 2020:

1. Make your website useful & relevant

…and quite simply, we could almost stop there…

End of today’s lesson.

Forget everything else for now.  Remove the fog.  Stop worrying.

Your website’s purpose is to inform and engage your visitors.  You’re hoping some of these visitors will become customers.  They’re looking for an authentic experience.

This is possibly the first time they’ve stumbled across you, in which case you’ve a lot of convincing to do.  Or they might be checking you out after you met them last week.

But quite simply, you must give visitors the information they need, presented in a clear, clean way, and allow them to navigate around your site with speed and simplicity.  Google rewards websites with high quality content (that is – pages that people actually read, that provide answers, that serve a purpose).

Google puts great importance on the:

  • number of page visits
  • time spent on a page
  • number of pages looked at
  • bounce rate

Google Analytics showing the bounce rate of a website page

Luckily, all of these are easily measured in your Google Analytics account.   If you don’t have one, get one.  It’s free.  A 10 minute job to install.  WordPress even allows you to do it straight from your dashboard.

And remember – your website isn’t “created” once then left to gather dust for the next 5 years.   It should evolve.  Update your old content, add new content.  Content is nothing more than words and pictures.  It’s your business, so you should have plenty of relevant information to add.

Further reading on content and search engine ranking factors.

2. Improve your website loading speed

Fast is everything.

Visitors hate slow websites, and Google hates them more.

You’re actively penalised by Google if your pages are sluggish.

Given that 50% of most website visits come from mobiles, you’ve lost before you’ve started if your site loading speed is tortoise-like.

Page Insights Tool showing website page loading speed

But what causes slow websites?

  • Large images (uploading without compressing them usually causes this)
  • Bloated code (WordPress can be a huge culprit here, with all its plugins and redundant & duplicate code). Covered further in this article on page loading speed.
  • Slow hosting server (all hosting companies are not the same.  And all hosting packages are not the same either)
  • Broken links or missing pages (every little technical fault is a banana skin for Google crawling your site and for any browser loading your site)
  • Slow internet connection (nothing to do with your website, but until the whole world is on 5G, a good reason to do everything in your powers now)

3. Be mobile friendlyMobile phone showing a non-mobile-friendly website

50% of your website visitors use mobiles.

If it doesn’t show well on small screens, your website is a dead-end.

This is unfortunate, but true. Check it out here.

4. Fix broken links

Who wants to end up in the famous “404 page not found” cul-de-sac?

Broken links are a problem for visitors, and for Google too.

Problem is, your website evolves over time, you add new pages and remove old ones, and it’s easy to forget about those hyperlinks that link one page to another.  As soon as that old page has gone (or changed its URL), you’ve got a broken link.

There are plenty of free tools, for example www.brokenlinkcheck.com

Example of a 404 page not found error

5. Use header tags (H1 and H2)

Think about a newspaper – lots of heading, sub-headings, and sub-sub-headings. Illustration of website header tags

Header tags are the larger-font words at the top of any page or paragraph.  H1 is the largest, followed by H2, H3, H4, etc.

Header tags make the page easier to read, creating visual prompts and breaks in the text.

A great article from Yoast, the kings of WordPress SEO.

But they also provide information to Google about the nature and importance of any piece of content on the page.  They help Google to decide what a page is about, and how it’s structured.  In turn, this helps the indexing of your website pages, and how (or indeed if) it should appear in Google search results.

A page without header tags is very tedious to read.

6. Write unique content, optimised for SEO

Huh, what?

Well, we’ve mentioned many of these points already.  You should aim to write interesting, informative material, that solves a specific need or provides high quality information to your visitors.  Content is so important for SEO.

Every page on your site should be unique (no copy & paste, either from your own site or anybody else’s).

Structure it well, think about the key topics.  Each page should discuss 1 or 2 subjects, not 25.

If you’ve got 25 products or services, then it likely needs 25 pages.

Insert useful hyperlinks to other useful, relevant pages (on your site or an external site).  A mini-network of inter-linked pages on your own website is a great SEO tool.  It creates its own little ‘micro-site’, which Google interprets as a set of authoritative pages on a given subject.

7. Get more backlinks

This is probably what most people think of as ‘SEO’.

But backlinks aren’t the fabled snake-oil, and are nothing new.  Google is a giant spider, crawling around the internet, following all the hyperlinks, clicking from one website to another.

This is the only way Google knows what’s out there.

Diagram showing backlinks to a website

If your site has no links (literally, from anywhere), it’s a tough ask for Google to just stumble across your site.

Sites with lots of links make it easier to be found.  Sites with lots of links, from high quality, authoritative sites, providing relevant, unique information, and being part of an interlinked network of great content, will do well.

The MOZ website has a lot of useful link-building resources here.

Google can evaluate the authority of any link, and the domain it links from.  Likewise, Google is fairly streetwise to those hundreds of links from Russian websites.  It knows you’re trying to game the system.

8. Make your website secure

Add an SSL security certificate.

Turn your http:// website into https://

It’s easily done from any hosting company, and this simple transformation means that data passed across your website is encrypted.  Particularly important when transmitting personal data, email addresses, phone numbers, credit card information across your site..

Google sees a website owner who is serious about security and protection, and provides a corresponding boost in Google rankings to reward you.

Web browsers display a padlock in the address bar, a clear and obvious signal to your visitors.  Check Hubspot’s SSL information.

Example of a SSL padlock in the browser address bar

9. Domain factors

A number of factors can affect your Google rankings, positively or negatively.

  • Domain age
  • Domain history
  • Domain registration date
  • Domain renewal date
  • Exact match (keywords in domain)

For most businesses, this is a ‘fixed’ point, little you can do to influence it.  Your domain is your domain, you’ve always had it (or it was the only one available when you started the business.)

10. Simplify the reading level

Closely associated with point 1.  Good quality content does not mean big words or industry jargon.

Website readability image

Don’t bamboozle visitors with your in-house speak, it will turn them off.

Make your pages easy to read, simple and unambiguous.  Use a free readability testing tool like this.

Google appreciates this too.

Summary, to improve your Google search rankings:

1. Make your website useful & relevant

2. Improve your website loading speed

3. Be mobile friendly

4. Fix broken links

5. Use Header Tags (H1 and H2)

6. Write unique content, optimised for SEO

7. Get more backlinks

8. Make your website secure

9. Domain factors

10. Simplify the reading level

10 Ways to Improve your Google Search Rankings in 2020

Improving your Google search rankings is a key activity for any business.Google Search on a mobile phone

It’s part of the overall marketing mix, and a foundation stone of your digital footprint.  There are many factors at play.  Some things require outside help, but many things can be done in-house, for free.

Start reading this 10 point guide to improve your Google search rankings in 2020:

1. Make your website useful & relevant

…and quite simply, we could almost stop there…

End of today’s lesson.

Forget everything else for now.  Remove the fog.  Stop worrying.

Your website’s purpose is to inform and engage your visitors.  You’re hoping some of these visitors will become customers.  They’re looking for an authentic experience.

This is possibly the first time they’ve stumbled across you, in which case you’ve a lot of convincing to do.  Or they might be checking you out after you met them last week.

But quite simply, you must give visitors the information they need, presented in a clear, clean way, and allow them to navigate around your site with speed and simplicity.  Google rewards websites with high quality content (that is – pages that people actually read, that provide answers, that serve a purpose).

Google puts great importance on the:

  • number of page visits
  • time spent on a page
  • number of pages looked at
  • bounce rate

Google Analytics showing the bounce rate of a website page

Luckily, all of these are easily measured in your Google Analytics account.   If you don’t have one, get one.  It’s free.  A 10 minute job to install.  WordPress even allows you to do it straight from your dashboard.

And remember – your website isn’t “created” once then left to gather dust for the next 5 years.   It should evolve.  Update your old content, add new content.  Content is nothing more than words and pictures.  It’s your business, so you should have plenty of relevant information to add.

Further reading on content and search engine ranking factors.

2. Improve your website loading speed

Fast is everything.

Visitors hate slow websites, and Google hates them more.

You’re actively penalised by Google if your pages are sluggish.

Given that 50% of most website visits come from mobiles, you’ve lost before you’ve started if your site loading speed is tortoise-like.

Page Insights Tool showing website page loading speed

But what causes slow websites?

  • Large images (uploading without compressing them usually causes this)
  • Bloated code (WordPress can be a huge culprit here, with all its plugins and redundant & duplicate code). Covered further in this article on page loading speed.
  • Slow hosting server (all hosting companies are not the same.  And all hosting packages are not the same either)
  • Broken links or missing pages (every little technical fault is a banana skin for Google crawling your site and for any browser loading your site)
  • Slow internet connection (nothing to do with your website, but until the whole world is on 5G, a good reason to do everything in your powers now)

3. Be mobile friendlyMobile phone showing a non-mobile-friendly website

50% of your website visitors use mobiles.

If it doesn’t show well on small screens, your website is a dead-end.

This is unfortunate, but true. Check it out here.

4. Fix broken links

Who wants to end up in the famous “404 page not found” cul-de-sac?

Broken links are a problem for visitors, and for Google too.

Problem is, your website evolves over time, you add new pages and remove old ones, and it’s easy to forget about those hyperlinks that link one page to another.  As soon as that old page has gone (or changed its URL), you’ve got a broken link.

There are plenty of free tools, for example www.brokenlinkcheck.com

Example of a 404 page not found error

5. Use header tags (H1 and H2)

Think about a newspaper – lots of heading, sub-headings, and sub-sub-headings. Illustration of website header tags

Header tags are the larger-font words at the top of any page or paragraph.  H1 is the largest, followed by H2, H3, H4, etc.

Header tags make the page easier to read, creating visual prompts and breaks in the text.

A great article from Yoast, the kings of WordPress SEO.

But they also provide information to Google about the nature and importance of any piece of content on the page.  They help Google to decide what a page is about, and how it’s structured.  In turn, this helps the indexing of your website pages, and how (or indeed if) it should appear in Google search results.

A page without header tags is very tedious to read.

6. Write unique content, optimised for SEO

Huh, what?

Well, we’ve mentioned many of these points already.  You should aim to write interesting, informative material, that solves a specific need or provides high quality information to your visitors.  Content is so important for SEO.

Every page on your site should be unique (no copy & paste, either from your own site or anybody else’s).

Structure it well, think about the key topics.  Each page should discuss 1 or 2 subjects, not 25.

If you’ve got 25 products or services, then it likely needs 25 pages.

Insert useful hyperlinks to other useful, relevant pages (on your site or an external site).  A mini-network of inter-linked pages on your own website is a great SEO tool.  It creates its own little ‘micro-site’, which Google interprets as a set of authoritative pages on a given subject.

7. Get more backlinks

This is probably what most people think of as ‘SEO’.

But backlinks aren’t the fabled snake-oil, and are nothing new.  Google is a giant spider, crawling around the internet, following all the hyperlinks, clicking from one website to another.

This is the only way Google knows what’s out there.

Diagram showing backlinks to a website

If your site has no links (literally, from anywhere), it’s a tough ask for Google to just stumble across your site.

Sites with lots of links make it easier to be found.  Sites with lots of links, from high quality, authoritative sites, providing relevant, unique information, and being part of an interlinked network of great content, will do well.

The MOZ website has a lot of useful link-building resources here.

Google can evaluate the authority of any link, and the domain it links from.  Likewise, Google is fairly streetwise to those hundreds of links from Russian websites.  It knows you’re trying to game the system.

8. Make your website secure

Add an SSL security certificate.

Turn your http:// website into https://

It’s easily done from any hosting company, and this simple transformation means that data passed across your website is encrypted.  Particularly important when transmitting personal data, email addresses, phone numbers, credit card information across your site..

Google sees a website owner who is serious about security and protection, and provides a corresponding boost in Google rankings to reward you.

Web browsers display a padlock in the address bar, a clear and obvious signal to your visitors.  Check Hubspot’s SSL information.

Example of a SSL padlock in the browser address bar

9. Domain factors

A number of factors can affect your Google rankings, positively or negatively.

  • Domain age
  • Domain history
  • Domain registration date
  • Domain renewal date
  • Exact match (keywords in domain)

For most businesses, this is a ‘fixed’ point, little you can do to influence it.  Your domain is your domain, you’ve always had it (or it was the only one available when you started the business.)

10. Simplify the reading level

Closely associated with point 1.  Good quality content does not mean big words or industry jargon.

Website readability image

Don’t bamboozle visitors with your in-house speak, it will turn them off.

Make your pages easy to read, simple and unambiguous.  Use a free readability testing tool like this.

Google appreciates this too.

Summary, to improve your Google search rankings:

1. Make your website useful & relevant

2. Improve your website loading speed

3. Be mobile friendly

4. Fix broken links

5. Use Header Tags (H1 and H2)

6. Write unique content, optimised for SEO

7. Get more backlinks

8. Make your website secure

9. Domain factors

10. Simplify the reading level

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