When people search online for your products or services, you want your website to be found easily. But what does it take to rank #1 in Google?
I’ve lost count of the number of times a business owner or general manager has asked for my advice regarding, “How do we get our website higher in Google?” Or sometimes even more directly, “We launched a new site. Why isn’t it ranked #1?”
We all know that Google is where people turn to find answers to … well, everything! According to Statcounter.com, 94.7% of all search engine searches in NZ are done through Google. The nearest competitor is Bing with 3.21%!
When people search for products or services related to your business, you want your website to be found easily. To get your website to rank well the most important thing to remember is that it won’t happen by accident. You want to rank #1 … and so do all of your competitors! The organic rankings are a competition that you don’t win without considerable effort.
Firstly, it’s important to clarify what “ranking” means. When you run a search on Google, the search results page usually starts with 3-4 ads. These look almost identical to the organic results but have the word “Ad” beside them. These results are not the rankings but are Google Ads (previous called “AdWords”). You need to be running paid Google Ads campaigns to get your ads to show there.
Underneath the ads, if Google thinks you were searching for local results, Google is likely to show the “Google Snack Pack” – which shows a map and 3 results of local businesses near you.
After that snack pack the first organic results are shown – this is what “rankings” refers to. The organic results are the webpages that Google determines are the most important for the phrase that was searched for.
So, what does it take to get ranked #1 in the organic results?
The process of getting a website ranked higher is called “Search Engine Optimisation”, or “SEO” for short.
At its most basic level SEO can be split into two sections: On-Page Optimisation and Off-Page Optimisation.
On-Page Optimisation is based on the content and code on your website. It forms the foundation of your rankings and in my estimate accounts for 30-50% of your search engine ranking. However, without this foundation being done well, the other work that accounts for 50-70% of your ranking won’t count for much. The foundation needs to be built first.
Sometimes when a new SEO client starts with us we find that the words they want to rank for aren’t even mentioned on their site! A very simple check you can do when you want to rank for a phrase is to check the content and see how many times that phrase, or close variants, are mentioned on your page.
Next, check if those keywords are included in your H1 (your main heading – which should be in an <h1> tag in the code). After that there are over 30 other checks that should be made for your On-Page Optimisation for each page. These include hidden code, such as schema, user-experience tests such as page-loading speed and mobile responsiveness, internal linking throughout your site and many more. Reviewing the basic content can be done DIY, but after that it make sense to engage an SEO specialist.
The other 50-70% of your results comes from Off-Page Optimisation, which is mostly other websites linking to your site.
An easy way to think of it is that each website that links to your site is a vote. The more votes your site gets, the more important it is and the more likely it is to rank well. If an important site (one with lots of “votes”) links to your site, then its votes count for more than a non-important site linking to you. And if a site has strong content that relates to your products or services and links to you, then that counts more than a non-related site linking to you. This complexity is just scraping the surface of how Google works. Building this complex and powerful process of identifying which sites are most important for billions of different search phrases, is why Google is so powerful.
Overall, getting ranked takes consistent effort over time. It can take many months to build up rankings to compete for highly competitive keywords, but it can be well worth it. We’ve seen the investment pay off strongly for our SEO clients with the phone ringing constantly and work coming in the door because they’re found in the top spots of the search results. It’s a great feeling having your website ranked well, but just remember, it doesn’t happen by accident.