Google and your Website
Is Google Search Vital?
For nearly all websites being listed in Google Search is vital for the success of the website and the business. Nearly every business requires more clients and opportunities to sell. Google provides these.
If your business is basically self-sufficient and you get work through, word of mouth or by tender then you may not require Google Search to find your customers. If so you don’t really need to worry about being seen in Google at all. Your website becomes more of a validation site and shows customers that you are a bona fide business.
For those businesses that do require Google, there is an amount of work to do to maximise website visibility in the search pages to get more clients. This is known as SEO – Search Engine Optimisation.
Organic Search and Google Ads
A Google Search page nowadays has a lot of different elements. The two main types of listing on a page are Organic listings and Google Ads. Then we have various feature snippets like People Also Ask, images, videos, shopping, knowledge graph, and local business maps. A Google Search is a busy page nowadays.
Whether you try and rank well for organic or ads you will need to create high-quality content that is relevant to your site, business genre, and searcher intent.
Google displays websites and ads based on what the searcher types in the search box. In simplistic terms, It attempts to provide the best list of most relevant solutions to the search query.
However, there are other criteria that it looks at to rank a site and its quality. Following a best practice SEO strategy will help to rank well.
What Are Organic Listings?
This is where it all started. Listing websites by the given ranking criteria of the day. Organic Listings are unpaid for. They are meant to be a reflection of what the Google algorithm determines to be the best quality content relevant to the searcher’s search term. These listings are still deemed to be the most trustworthy by searchers despite Google’s tendency to display fewer of them on page 1. Ads are now positioned above them (they used to be on the right-hand side) as are snippets, maps, and more.
Good luck asking Google “why?”. The positioning of ads above organic and making them look just like organic listings is a business decision for sure. You will be lucky to find an organic listing before scrolling down the now. Despite all the re-positioning organic is resilient. It still remains the most popular and trusted results that people click on. First Page Sage has interesting data on the Click Through Rates (CTRs) of Google Search Result Pages (SERPs). It illustrates the percentage of traffic that each position gets on a Google results page.
An interesting observation over the last few years has been that people have been clicking more on the higher ranked websites than in previous years. This could be because fewer organic listings are displayed on page 1. It has been estimated that on average 55% of all listings (text ads, image shopping ads…) are Google Ads, and 45% are Organic listings.
How are Organic Listings Ranked?
The million-dollar question. It is kept a secret to stop abuse and make it not as easy to rank well. The “best” content is rewarded. Historically the organic rankings were open to exploitation but as Google crawls have become more sophisticated the ranking criteria has become more complex.
So what do we know? We know that the quality and amount of content are factors. Sites with under 10 pages are not generally going to rank as highly. Why because they are not providing enough information – probably. In Google’s eyes, an informative site is better. The more information then probably the higher the rank.
This can also be applied to the amount of content on a page. If you only write 300 words then potentially a page that has 1000 words will be deemed better content. 5 pages with 300 words per page against 25 pages with 1000 words per page. Which should rank higher?
However, it’s not all about numbers. 1000 words of gobbledygook is not going to help ranking. Why?
1 Relevancy. If the content is not relevant to the subject then it will not have the naturally included relevant keyword phrases that will help ranking. Great content is comprehensive, informative, and relevant to the article’s subject. Trying to include high search volume keywords that are not relevant to the subject will not result in the page getting a high rank. BE RELEVANT.
2 Content Value. How well received the website content is, indicates to Google that the content is valued. Google wants to rank web pages that people find useful and relevant. Some factors that contribute to content value assessment can be the following examples and a lot more:
- Backlinks from reputable and relevant websites are an indication the content is interesting and of value to the right people. A link from a casino website in Poland is not relevant to a tapware company in Sydney and would be considered worthless. But a link from a local Water Authority would be highly beneficial.
- The amount of time spent on the page indicates the reader’s engagement and interest.
- If people revisit the page this too could be an indication of its interest and value.
- High CTR is an indication that the page or site is popular and relevant to the search term.
- A low Bounce Rate would indicate that visitors found the page interesting enough to read more pages from the site.
- Low Dwell Time would indicate that the visitor did not find the page relevant to their search and so returned to Google to find alternatives. Google would not rank the page highly for that search term if this were the case.
4 Technical SEO. Proper page titles, metadata, page load speed, no duplicate content, Sitemap, website structure and internal links, canonical URLs, no duplicate content, no broken links, SSL and HTTPS, and more. A very important part of being visible on Google is making sure the website is technically correct.
3 Experience, Expertise, Authority, Trust (E-E-E-T). Content that is written by someone who has experience, expertise or authority will be trusted more and tend to be given more weight to content that isn’t. So if the author is the principal lawyer at a law firm and the content is about specific law then this is more credible than if it were written by the receptionist. In other words, citing specific cases with direct experience will add credibility and trustworthiness.
It has been suggested that Google has around 200 ranking factors it may consider to rank a webpage. They are not all given equal weight so it isn’t really necessary to try and create content that tries to accommodate all the factors. The important thing to realise here is that most if not all could be positive if the content was interesting and relevant and not 1000 words of gobbledygook. High-quality content will result in higher rankings naturally. It is key to not overthink this stuff. If you create high-quality content that helps people then you are providing the type of service that Google will value and reward in time.
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And so to where Google makes its billions! Ads. With Google Ads you get instant ranking but only for as long as you pay for the ads. Stop paying and your visibility stops as the ads aren’t running anymore. With Organic you get more ranking permanence. If you rank well then you will be getting steady traffic constantly which could mean you no longer need regular ads. You may want to promote more at Christmas or with a new product but if you are getting traffic organically you are in a good position.
The thing to be careful of here is to advertise the right thing and stick to a budget. It is so so easy to overspend on Google Ads. The other thing to note is there is little point in using Google Ads to sell low-margin products – you will lose money. If you are prepared to spend to simply get brand awareness then that’s fine.
The thing about Google Ads is that unless you are very strict and targeted in your approach then you will lose money on clicks by people who are not really interested in buying, not in your catchment area, looking for something completely different. If you do not set up your ads properly you will be getting the wrong people to click and probably be spending too much for these clicks too. This will be a waste of money and lower your conversion rate.
Like Organic traffic, Google Ads too has now become a complex process. The biggest factor that will probably determine the cost of clicks for most ad campaigns is the Quality Score and its elements. It’s also hard to get right and easy to get wrong.
What Is Quality Score?
Google’s Quality Score (QS) is its own valuation of Keywords and PPC Ads in regard to quality and relevancy. A high QS means, in Google’s eyes, that the ad campaign is matching searcher intent more. This should increase conversion opportunities as the searcher will be finding what they want from the ad’s landing page. Google will reward this QS with lower costs-per-click and a higher Ad Ranking position, thereby lowering the cost-per-conversion. The types of things that Google is looking for are:
- The relevancy of keywords to the Ad Group
- The quality and relevancy of the landing page for the keyword. If the page the ad directs searchers to is not relevant to that search the Quality Score will be low.
- The CTR – click-through rate. This is regarded as the most important factor as it indicates that the Ad is relevant to what searchers were looking for as they have clicked on it.
- Ad text relevancy.
Google also looks at the historical performance of your ads and if that has been poor then you will get a lower Quality Score until the campaign improves.
So Quality Score will affect the costs of ad clicks and where the ad ranks. WordStream created this informative infographic illustrating the effect of Quality Score on costs per click.
As you can see with a QS of 10, ad clicks will cost around 50% less than a 5 QS. This could be hundreds or thousands of dollars a month in savings or a lot more clicks for your budget. If the QS drops below 5 then ads will in fact be costing more. Quality Score is important and needs to be improved as much as possible and maintained to ensure cost-effectiveness. As mentioned before it is very easy to waste money with Google Ads.
Visibility & Rankings
The higher the visibility in Google and the higher the listing position the more chance a website will be found and clicked.
Visibility is measured in Google as impressions – the number of times the website appears in search results (SERP). The higher the impression number the more times the website is seen. However, a website really needs to be seen on page 1 of SERPs to convert impressions into clicks.
The top 5 Organic Position Click Share
Organic Position 1 – 40% of SERP clicks
Organic Position 2 – 19% of SERP clicks
Organic Position 3 – 10% of SERP clicks
Organic Position 4 – 7% of SERP clicks
Organic Position 5 – 5% of SERP clicks
10th Place if on Page 1 – 1.5% of SERP clicks
As you can see the top 3 positions get around 70% of all SERP clicks and if you are below position 10, then in reality, you are not getting any clicks at all. It is therefore extremely important to work on your content and other SEO factors to maximise your ranking position.
Start with lower search volume (SV) and lower competitive keywords as you are more likely to rank well for these than for high-volume searches. There are going to be certain keywords that you will have no chance of ranking in the top 20 let alone the top 10. Well-established companies and brands will always beat a new small business for the most popular high-search volume phrases. So it would be a better policy to start off by trying to rank highly for less popular keywords and phrases. 10% of 100 SV would mean something like 10 clicks a month as opposed to 0% of 1600 SV which yields 0 clicks a month. The key is you need to be seen on page 1 for as many searches as possible to get a good number of clicks.
Similarly, with Google Ads, you need high visibility in high Ad Rank positions to maximise your CTR.
Search Intent & Relevancy
Search intent is what the searcher is actually looking for and what they want to do. Clicks whether Organic or Ads are more likely with content relevancy to the search intent. A person will click if the SERP title and description matches what they are searching for. Makes obvious sense but it is not only extremely important but often overlooked as people try to make content too general to attract people looking for all types of things.
For example – Shoes. You may have content that discusses all types of shoes and has products for all types and colour of shoes. This is fine and it will attract people who want to acquire information or awareness of what is avaiable. This is considered to be top of the marketing funnel of attracting customers. People are not nessicerely ready to buy but are thinking about it. They want information and this is a good place to start attracting customers. Typically keywords that attract these searches could be Shoes, Shoes Online, Types of Shoes, What are the best shoes for work? These searches may have the highesst search volumes per month but because they have informational intent they have the lowest conversion rate to purcase anything.
When searchers start to narrow their requirements they tend to use what are termed navigational keywords. So Women’s Shoes, Work Boots, High Heels, Trainers, a particular brand. They want to know about a specific shoe. They know a bit more about what they want and don’t need general information anymore. If the website has individual pages for these category of search then they are likely to attract these searchers and beacuse the content is relevant they will be happy to have clicked on the page. What you don’t want happening is a search for womans shoes results in the searcher reaching a page that has men’s shoes too or no womens shoes at all. Unhappy customer, high bounce rate, low dwell time, short visit time will be the result and all bad for Googles view of the website.
As we go further down the funnel we reach transactional keywords. These may not have high search volumes but have a higher conversion rate because people are ready to buy and know what they want. Red High Heels on Sale. This search has high searcher intent to buy. If a page content on a website matches this search it is going potentially generate sales. So for example Top 5 Red High Heels on Sale Today would be a great page/post title. This page would match the searcher intent and have a high relevancy factor.
Matching searcher intent with relevant content is a big positive SEO strategy that will yield results when you do effective keyword research.
Local & “Near Me ” Searches
Local search is particularly important for businesses that just serve their local communities. Where a business can only sell to or serve locals than local search is vital. A restaurant in Blacktown NSW does not really need to capture visitors from Melbourne, it also doesn’t want to compete with restaurants from Melbourne.
So, How Does Local Search Work?
To maximise your visibility to Local Search at the very least setup a Google Business Profile. This will enable the “Map Pack” (aka Local Pack).
The Google Map Pack
Near the top of a SERP page is, more often than not, a Google Map box and three listed local businesses. This is the Map Pack. You will need a Google Business Profile to appear in the Map Pack.
The Map Pack displays 3 businesses that best fit the search term. The ranking is different from organic and the reviews do play a factor. The list will be determined by your location or if the search includes a location. With mobile phones, your location changes so, when you drive down the road and the list will change,
Google Business Profile (GBP)
Don’t try and add keywords and services that don’t apply to your business. If you don’t provide a service don’t include it. Not only will Google find this spammy but any customer who clicks on your site will be very disappointed that you don’t provide the service you have mentioned. They could write a harming review and reviews are very important for the Map Pack.
According to Whitespark, Reviews at 16% are the 3rd most considered factor for Map ranking. the first two are On Page signals 19% and the GBP at 32%. So the two most important things to do, as your On-Page elements are already covered by your on-page SEO strategy, is to optimise your GBP and get reviews.
Ask your existing clients to write a review for you. Not all can or will be 5 star and it would be suspicious if they were. Google also provides an invitation link that you can send to people to get a review. When logged into your Google account from the Search page for your business click on “Get Reviews” in your business panel in the right hand sidebar to get the link and send it to your customers. This provides an easy way for people to write a review and because it is a Google page and people feel secure its not a scam.
This Google page shows you how to find your business on a SERP so you can get the review link
Near Me has developed as a popular search term – Restaurants Near Me. If you have location turned on then searches are geared to your location anyway. Try typing a service say Gardener in the search box and then compare Gardener Near Me – I doubt the searches will be much different, if at all. Just make sure for comparison that the precise location is the same. However to be sure that you are getting the service that is nearest to you then use Near Me.
Google is becoming more localised by default. My daughter was in hospital for a while and Google thought that she lived at the hospital. When she left it would tell she is 45 mins form home when she actually was at home !!!!! Its actually hard to get non local search results. You have to turn location services off for a start and then define a new location. Even then your history and account data may still bias results. Most of the time this is not an issue as in most cases you want services that are near you.
This is an interesting location management document from Google and it shows just how linked things are to provide localised search results.
You do not need to include the term Near Me in you content. Its really unnatural to include the term for one but it wont do anything either to help ranking. I have seen sites try to use the term in content – I know Tripadvisor are using it but I think its pointless.
Things to do to be sure Google know your location(s):
- You can add your NAP info in a footer so it will include your address(es)
- If you have multiple locations have a page for each but do not make up location addresses.
- In your content mention your service area but don’t over do it. Adding 10s of suburbs by name or adding a page for each suburb are not going to impress Google. Its not a positive SEO strategy nowadays as its not really adding content for any real purpose other than to include a suburb name for the sole purpose of trying to skew ranking. If you have actual multiple physical locations then fair enough as you will need to describe the business in each location – they may have different facilities, capabilities or products. When you add suburbs to your page content do it naturally and purposefully. It would be better to have a specific page listing the areas your business serves than trying to add suburb names numerous times everywhere.
Checking Your Indexed Pages
But how do you check to see what is indexed? Probably the easiest way is to use this search phrase in Google Search – site:yourdomain. For specific pages or categories just add the full page URL – site:youdomain/contact-us.
Other ways include online checkers, the Google Search Console URL inspection tool, an SEO tool. But to be honest there is nothing as simple or as accurate as the site:yourdomain method
Google Search Console and Google Analytics
Google has two free tools that provide tool and data to help with your SEO.
The Search Console provides the following and more:
- Data on your site clicks and impressions and by queries(search terms) Pages, Devices, Country and more
- It will also let you check indexing of a URL, and tell you what is indexed and what isn’t and why it isn’t. This is great for finding errors in why you are not getting your content indexed.
- Add and inspect Sitemap Status
- Remove URLs
- Show errors in its Experience analysis of good page experience for the user
- External and Internal Links and Backlinks
Google Analytics simplistically provides data and analysis of your website including things like:
- User Acquisition Data will show how customers arrive at your site – from Social Media, Ads, Organic Searches, Direct URL submission…..
- User Behaviour Data will illustrate how visitors interact when they visit your website. This will show things like: how long they spend on the site, where they go, whether they just vist one page and leave, time spent on each page, What they do on a page (events) and if the perform actions like make a purchase, click a button, fill in a form……
- Real-time data will show user data over the past 30 minutes
Analytics is a powerful tool that needs to be setup properly to monitor actions performed by visitors. It can reveal an enormous amount of data that you can analyse in custom made repports to dig deep into how your website performs. Most people just use it as it comes which is fine but some data can be a bit misleading if you don’t manage the data for your specific site requirements.
To get access to these tools you will need a Google Account.
We always suggest to clients that they have their own Google Account for Search and Analytics. You can then grant access to your data to website designers and SEO experts yourself and retain control and ownership of your data. This is sthe safest way to do it. Changing designers or the SEO team is then very simple – you revoak the access to the old team and add the new.
Otherwise Web designers and SEO experts use their own accounts and this can get a bit messy when you part ways and can mean you have to start collecting data all over again from scratch. Its best to have your own account.