The Google algorithm is ever changing and always evolving, giving us search engine optimisers a run for our money.
Keeping up with changes can be difficult, Google themselves don’t give out exactly how the algorithm works, but there are some elements that we do know and can plan for, to help us achieve the rankings we are looking for.
What we know about Google’s ranking factors
There’s only so much we know about Google’s algorithm because Google won’t reveal its top ranking factors. This is a good thing to make ranking achievable to anyone, but it does mean that no one can guarantee hitting the top spot at any time. There are so factors we do know though, so optimising for all of these elements are important.
- Page speed: A slow page speed affects user experience which is a big factor for Google. Ensuring your site has good page speed is vital.
- Content relevance: You need to include your keywords in your content, but don’t keyword stuff, or you could be penalised for it. Always ensure your content is readable and flows correctly.
- Site design: Your website should be user-friendly and easy to navigate.
- Link quality: Link to good quality sites that are relevant to your subject. Negative links can be penalised.
- Mobile-friendliness: Google uses the mobile version of your website for ranking and indexing so ensure your site is mobile friendly. Mobile user experience is vital since so many sites are access mainly by mobile these days.
- HTTPS status: Generally, Google prefers secure websites since they’re more trustworthy. HTTPS is more secure than HTTP, so having an SSL certificate can help your ranking.
How Often Are Google Algorithm Changes Released?
Google makes minor changes to its algorithm on a daily basis, sometimes multiple changes within 24 hours. These changes are often small, but it could contribute to a drop in rankings on your site.
Google also makes ‘core updates’ a few times a year, there are much larger changes that are likely to impact your rankings, so it is important to keep up with what changes are happening and when.
How can I keep up with Google Algorithm changes?
You don’t need to know every little update, but track the ‘core updates’ that happen a few times a year as they are the ones that can affect your rankings. Knowing about these updates means you can adjust your SEO strategy according to the changes where needed.
First, you can set up a Google Alert. This means you will receive a notification straight to your inbox whenever algorithm updates are mentioned online, so you can start preparing for the changes as soon as possible.
Next, if you’re on Twitter, follow Google SearchLiaison. It’s an official account where you’ll see notifications of core algorithm updates.
It’s here that you can read the official announcements to learn more about how these algorithm updates affect you. You can also learn more about planned improvements to Google, which may help you improve your SEO strategy more generally.
How can you tell if an algorithm change has affected your site
If you have noticed a decline in rankings recently. there are two ways you can tell if you have been affected by recent algorithm changes:
- Google Search Central (formerly Webmasters). This platform contains multiple resources to help you diagnose common performance problems and identify possible algorithm penalties.
- Next, log on to Search Console, a free analytics tool from Google. Whether you want to identify mobile usability problems or monitor your site’s performance, Search Console has the resources you need.
Combined, these tools can help you easily track changes to the Google algorithm.
Do other search engines have algorithms?
Search engines like bing and Yahoo! do have algorithms, but much less is known about how often it is changed.
Bing have more transparency on their ranking factors, the main ones include:
- page loading time
- quantity and quality of backlinks
Yahoo are closely tied to Bing, but the great think is they have published this great guide to help marketers better understand their key ranking factors.
How to optimise for Google’s Algorithm
Here the top 10 quick wins for your website:
1. User Experience
Google is introducing a ranking boost for pages that can pass their Core Vitals Test. Core Web Vitals (CWV) measure a site visitor’s user experience. So, what can you do to create a better user experience on the page?
- Break up your content into smaller paragraphs to make it as readable as possible.
- Use heading tags that describe the content coming and make it clear to readers and search engines.
- Use bullet points and ordered lists.
- Use more images that illustrate what you’re trying to say.
- Optimise your images, ensuring they are smaller in size.
- Replace images that cannot squeeze down to less than 50 kilobytes (or at least no higher than 100 kb).
- Write content that provides useful answers.
- Test your pages on different mobile devices.
- If possible, reconsider the use of sliders.
- Consider using fonts that are already on visitor’s computers or simply update your font to sans-serif.
- Run your URLs through the PageSpeed Insights tool and follow directions for improvements.
2. Improve your website navigation and menus
Prioritise the navigation on your website by:
- Streamlining website menus and navigation, ideally keeping all pages on your website within 3 clicks from home.
- Creating a site map.
- Ensuring all your navigation links work.
3. Mobile Optimisation
Due to Google’s mobile-first index, it is vital that you optimise your website for mobile if you want to boost your rankings.
To check how your website appears on mobile devices, visit Mobile-Friendly Test, input your URL, and it will give you your results. If your website is not mobile optimised, you must make sure it is. This is a dealbreaker for Google and vital that you get it right.
4. Avoid Duplicate Content
Whether it’s only a few lines of text or substantive blocks of content, duplicate content on your website can attract penalties.Try to keep all your content as unique as possible.
To identify duplicate content, try the Duplicate Page Finder. Input the URLs you want to compare, check the results, and make any relevant changes.
5. Check your inbound links
An inbound link is a link coming from another site to your own website. You need to check that all of your links work and lead to clear, relevant, up to date content. If not, fix the links to improve the user experience on your website. User experience and good quality inbound links can improve your rankings.
6. Decrease Site Load Time
A slow website really is a dealbreaker for search engines and site visitors. Poor loading times can hinder the user experience, which in turn affects your Google rankings. Check your page loading times using Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool:
Once you run the analysis, Google offers some tips for improving page speed to follow.
7. Create content that provides insights to your target audience
Reduce your bounce rate by providing interesting, informative content to your audience. Make it relevant to your site, your service and your target audience to keep people on your pages.
You can track how your website is performing by using a tool like Google analytics.
Google Analytics is used to track your website activity, including the amount of sessions (how long visitors are on your site), pages visited per session, bounce rate and other statistics that are useful. This includes how people are accessing your site. As mobile traffic is so common now, it is important to find out how people are accessing your site and what content is performing well.
8. Avoid Keyword Stuffing in your content
In the old days keywords were everything. These days, keywords are just as important, but not as important in how you use them. Keyword stuffing is a huge issue with rankings. Avoid keyword stuffing by making not only unique content, but content that is relevant to your site or service, that flows naturally and that also adds value to your audience.
9. Don’t over optimise your site
Being natural and unique is everything for SEO.
Over-optimisation involves making too many SEO improvements which leads Google to question why your website has so many things going on at once. It isn’t natural, and it will create a red flag for Google bots and for those visiting your website. The more you think you are optimising, the more overboard you can go. If you do make changes to your site, try not to do it all at the same time to avoid the all important red flags for search engines.
10. Increase Page Security
Ensure your site is an HTTPS rather than http. This is an easy to do but important task on your check list. Your hosting company should be able to provide an SSL certificate for your website, although some companies may charge for it. It is worth the move to provide better security and trust on your site. For e-commerce sites and those taking payments, it is vital.
If you are looking to optimise your website and need help or advice. Feel free to contact me for more advice or a no-obligation quote.