5 Search Ranking Factors Startups Shouldn’t Ignore

Internet Marketing Lessons

Google is famous for its unpredictable algorithms. Even the savviest SEO experts can be left baffled following an update. When it comes issuing penalties, Google takes no prisoners. They’ve even penalized themselves not once, not twice, but five times!

In the past decade, we’ve seen Google grow from a simple keyword search machine to an entity that understands the root of searcher intent with even the most ambiguous queries. In the advanced landscape that Google has progressed to, ranking on the first page of SERPS is one of the most difficult tasks for digital marketers. Studies have found that sites listed on the first page of the results generate 92% of all traffic from an average search.

Luckily, years of trial and error have resulted in a number of strategies proven to be effective.

If you’re new to the game, here are five key factors to keep in mind that will help land you on Google’s prestigious first page.

1. Content Value

Digital marketing is a field with very, very few guarantees. However, it is widely known that producing high-quality content is one the best things you can do to improve your search rankings. At the end of the day, it’s the content that brings visitors back to your website.

Google’s algorithms judge the quality of your brand material on a variety of components. The most important things to keep in mind are making sure your copy is well-written, informative, includes links to relevant sources, and includes vernacular natural language terms. Just be sure to avoid keyword stuffing – Google now has real-time, roving Panda and Penguin penalties that are difficult to recover from.

While it might be tempting to take shortcuts, never sacrifice the quality of your content. Avoid techniques like:

  • Scraped content
  • Automatically generated content
  • Hidden text or links
  • Doorway pages
  • Cloaking

Consider using tools like Contently to help create, distribute, manage, and optimize your content, and take your brand messaging to the next level.

For startups looking to establish their name, producing top-notch content is one of the best ways to get on Google’s good side while showcasing your expertise.

2. HTTPS/SSL

Security is very important to Google. In fact, they give ranking boosts to websites that are secured with SSL. Their “HTTPS Everywhere” initiative has been touted as a safety best practice on the web.

HTTPS (Hyper Text transfer Protocol Secure) is a measure for websites that encrypts the users’ sessions with a digital SSL certificate. In turn, all the user’s data and information is safe. When you see this in your browser

You know the page is secure.

Google strongly believes that this concept is vital to preserving privacy. As a startup, it’s strongly recommended that you acquire an SSL certificate right at the outset while your website is still small, lean and evolving. As with all factors that benefit search rankings, the earlier you follow suit, the better your chances of receiving long-term results.

For startups and small businesses currently on HTTP, here’s a useful guide to HTTPS configuration, benefits, and pitfalls.

3. Mobile Friendliness

It’s been two years since the number of mobile-only internet users surpassed that of exclusive desktop users in the U.S. (which was behind the rest of the world in this area).

Following suit, Google announced that beginning April 21, 2015, “mobile friendliness” would be given more significance as a ranking signal. More recently, Google announced that their index itself would be made “mobile-first,” which means the algorithm will prioritize the mobile version of a site’s content in its SERPs. Therefore, optimizing your website for mobile devices is no longer an option, it’s a requirement.

Bascially, the more responsive and discernible your layout and pages are to mobile users, the better your rankings. So, keep it small and simple. Focus on what is essential to the mobile UX. Too much flair can bog down the entire experience.

4. Website Speed

It’s no secret that users today are low on patience. With as much online competition as there is at present, consumers will have no problem moving on to the next website if your pages don’t load within a couple of seconds. Google picked up on this concept and factored it into their ranking algorithm. With fast-loading pages, you, the user, and the search engine all win.

Slow loading times can be a result of many different factors such as:

  • Cheap web host – web hosting is very much a manifestation of “you get what you pay for.” Do some research and find the service that best fits your needs. Spending the extra dollar is well worth it.
  • Too many ads – Ads distract users from your web content. They can be especially bothersome on mobile in addition to bogging down your page speed.
  • Dense coding – HTML/CSS code can be a big factor in your loading speed. There are a lot of free tools to clean up your coding so your page performs better.
  • Heavy images – Large HD pictures can be detrimental in getting a page to load quickly. Always compress the PNG and JPEG images on your site to keep loading times down.
  • Un-optimized plugins – Poorly designed plugins can not only cause conflict with your code but also slow down your pages. Be sure you frequently test every element of your website on different browsers to check how each module or extension performs.

Think with Google offers a free tool that lets you test how your site fares in terms of mobile friendliness as well as page loading times and identifies the culprits in need of optimization.

5. Voice Search

Voice options have been a work-in-progress for a number of years now. As the technology behind it becomes more precise, it’s usage inevitably rises. In turn, voice search will become a very important factor for SEO and marketing in coming years.

In essence, to rank for keywords on voice, the best way to think of the concept is as an ultra “humanized search.” When you craft your non-commercial content, it needs to have an element where it answers questions in a way that real people would be asking them.

Put yourself in the users’ shoes. If you were to ask a question related to your product or service, how would you phrase it? Most likely, you would start with Who, What, Where, When, or Why – and the most frequently used question word is who:

There’s no question that voice search is here to stay. The name of the game in terms of ranking is intuitiveness. Couple the fact that 15% of queries that Google sees at any time are completely new with voice search’s suitability to long-tail queries, startups in emerging fields and new markets that jump on this trend early will be assured of a competitive edge.

Parting Words

Getting your startup off the ground is no easy task, especially in the current over-saturated online business climate. Ranking on Google and other secondary search engines will always be an unpredictable task. The best thing you can do is to keep up on the constantly-changing browsing and surfing trends to stay ahead of the game. If you play your cards right, you will see increasing amounts of traffic to your web properties.

Rohan Ayyar devises integrated digital marketing campaigns at E2M, India’s leading provider of SEO and paid search marketing services. He dabbles in data-driven content strategy, web & mobile analytics, and conversion optimization for startups. Catch up with Rohan on Twitter @searchrook.

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