What Makes a Site “Google-Optimized”?
Here’s what you need in order to get Google to show your website in search results.
When it comes to marketing your small business, having a professional website is only half of the equation. Potential customers need to be able to find it in the first place—not just when they type in your website’s address, but especially when they search Google for the products or services you provide.
Your potential customers are not digging through the web to find your business. They may not even know it exists! In fact, ninety percent of smartphone users are not absolutely certain of the specific brand they want to buy when they begin looking for information online (Source: Google). Consumers rely on Google to find the right business for them. This is why it is crucial for your business to be optimized for Google. But what exactly does this mean and who can you trust to provide you with a site that is actually Google-optimized?
“Google-Friendly” vs “Google Optimized”
Virtually every website provider says their sites are “Google-friendly” or “SEO optimized”—even providers whose sites are anything but. It’s a testament to just how important Google is in driving customers to small businesses. These providers know that performance on Google is in high demand.
Business owners see marketing terms like “Google-friendly” thrown around and, quite reasonably, take them at face value. In some cases, terms like these are technically accurate, but they can be misleading.
Getting your website “on Google” is easy enough: it’s as easy as submitting a sitemap to Google (you can read Google’s instructions here). So by definition, almost every website could be considered “Google-friendly.” But getting your website ranked on Google, and ranked for the right keywords on Google, requires a more strategic, holistic approach.
Before diving into this strategy, let’s first dive a little deeper into the difference between being “Google-friendly” and “Google-optimized”.
The Difference Between Being “Indexed” vs. “Ranked” on Google
Indexing Requires Tactics
A prerequisite for success in search results is Google’s ability to identify your content and store a record of it in their massive catalog of the internet. This catalog is known as their “index”—hence the term “indexed”. If a website is not built properly, it can inadvertently place hurdles in the way of Google’s scanning (“crawling”) and storing (“indexing”) of their content, or of even identifying its content in the first place.
These kinds of technical errors are increasingly rare, as most providers keep these considerations in mind when building websites. Yet to describe these sites as “Google-friendly” or “SEO-friendly” is still a stretch. It is accurate but hardly tells the whole story.
Ranking Requires Strategy
Ranking, on the other hand, is based on how relevant and authoritative Google perceives your content to be, and how good an experience you provide visitors who consume it. All of these are much more difficult qualities to convey to Google than simply ensuring a healthy crawl.
Authority is accumulated over time, and we don’t pretend our websites instantly gain you authority. But our sites are engineered from the ground up to maximize your relevance for the terms your customers are most frequently searching for. They’re designed to provide an optimal user experience—particularly for users browsing your site from their phones. With over half of local searches performed on mobile devices (Source: Search Engine Land), this is crucial.
Is your business listing optimized for Google?
What Makes a Site Optimized to Rank on Google?
To say a website is automatically “optimized for Google” is a claim that few website providers can honestly make. As you just learned, a website that is properly optimized for Google is one that conveys quality, relevance, and authority over time and no matter which device it appears on. Read on to learn about the characteristics that help a site achieve this status:
Targeted for Top Search Terms
A well-optimized site is one that targets specific keywords—the words and phrases that your ideal customers are typing into the search box when they need your product or service. These terms incorporate the product and/or service you provide, your location, and other distinguishing features that your customers care about the most. When your site targets a specific set of keywords, Google can more easily identify what searches your business is relevant for.
With 80% of searchers being ready to buy when they are searching on their mobile phones, it is crucial to make sure Google is displaying your website for the right searches (Source: Search Engine Watch).
Properly Tagged with Keywords
Targeting a site for keywords does not mean just adding these words anywhere and everywhere. A properly optimized site targets slightly different keywords on each page and includes them naturally in the heading, subheadings, and body text. There are also places “behind the scenes” of a website where keywords need to be placed in order to be Google-optimized, including the title tags, meta descriptions, and image tags. These are the fundamental best practices of any good SEO (search engine optimization) strategy.
The pages of a Google-optimized site link to one another, to:
- Make it easier for Google to crawl your site
- Signal to Google how the various keywords on your website relate to one another, strengthening the relevance of your site to your overall topic area
- Enable visitors to engage with more content on your site, making them less likely to bounce back to Google and search for another business.
A well-built site will use buttons, hyperlinked text, and navigation menus to create a well-connected, semantically-linked site preferred by both Google and visitors.
Google search results are no longer just a list of web page titles; you can now view snippets of information from websites before even clicking on them, such as thumbnail images, recipe cards, book covers, and company snapshots. These are called rich results, which highlight key information for searchers.
Here are two examples of rich results:
A Google-optimized site is one that is structured in such a way that allows Google to pull rich snippets for relevant searches. This requires Schema.org markups, which are special tags added to your content to help further categorize information (such as an employer review vs a customer review, or a navigational menu vs a food menu).
Google’s overarching goal as a search engine is to provide accurate information, fast. Therefore, a Google-optimized website is one that extends the convenient and satisfying experience that searchers have come to expect on Google—otherwise, Google will be hesitant to link to it.
Google is getting better and better and detecting the user-friendliness of your site based on how visitors are interacting with its pages, so having a clean and intuitive design is becoming increasingly important.
Beginning in April of 2015, the “responsiveness” of your site—whether it automatically resizes to the device on which it’s being viewed— an explicit ranking factor in Google.
And it’s not just important for rankings. 69% of smartphone users say that they are more likely to buy from companies with mobile sites that easily address their questions or concerns (Source: BrightEdge). The less they have to pinch, zoom, and shift to get the information they need, the more likely they are to engage.
ThriveHive’s websites are engineered to cater to customer needs on any device, which is preferred by Google—and, of course, your customers!
Speed is another increasingly important factor in Google’s ranking algorithm. It’s a key element of the visitor-friendliness we mention above. In fact, 90% of visitors bail on a website if it fails to load within 5 seconds (Source: Google).
But speed doesn’t just refer to how fast a site loads for visitors; it also refers to how quickly Google can crawl that site.
To ensure a site both loads and is crawled quickly, the code behind it needs to be prioritized and minified—that is, it commands the essential elements of the page load first; and unnecessary spaces, line breaks, and characters in the code have been removed. The images also need to be properly sized and compressed. There are more requirements in a website’s build to ensure it meets Google’s speed standards, but these are among the most important.
ThriveHive sites consistently achieve a mobile page speed score of 95 or higher, to ensure a great experience for mobile and desktop visitors, and to help you rank better in Google’s mobile-first algorithm.
Convenience isn’t the only name of Google’s game. Trust is just as big, if not bigger. This means that in addition to providing accurate information, a Google-optimized website provides for secure interactions with visitors.
You can employ all of the above strategies to your website, but if it is not secure on modern web browsers like Chrome, Firefox, and Safari, you cannot make the claim of being Google-optimized. If your site is served over http://, as opposed to https://(the “s” stands for secure), your site will display a “Not Secure” warning to all visitors. This deters visitors and breaks Google’s trust in your site. All ThriveHive sites use use SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) technology to serve your site over https:/, making them optimal for Google and customers alike.
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