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Google’s Toolbox of Webmaster Solutions: SEO Edition

SEO-350 size

When it comes to determining what to actually do to get better results with search engine optimization, it is best to base our approaches with what Google (the company) actually says about how it ranks websites.

Of course, if you are aiming to get better results from Yahoo or Bing, you should probably look at what the engineers of Bing or Yahoo are saying.

For this post, we are going to look at Google’s very own recommendations for webmasters, on how they can make the small changes in how they design websites and content, to get better results with the search engine.

1. Be careful of “shady” SEO methods.

If your business is just starting out and you have just created a website, you may find agencies or individuals offering fast or instant results. There are no instant results with SEO.

In fact, the search engine puts a slight delay between the indexing process and listing down a new website precisely because lots of people try to game the search engine to immediately showing websites on top search results.

Steer clear of “shady” SEO methods like link farming so your website will not be penalized.

When a website is penalized by Google, it may take as long as six months before the search engine begins trusting the website again, as well as all links leading to it.

2. Adhere to Google’s rules, at all times.

This may sound unsavory to webmasters who have been doing things in a particular way ten or twenty years ago.

But you need to focus on the main goal, which is to be ranked better in search engine results. Google doesn’t dictate what type of content you should post, the search engine is concerned with how you generate and format the content.

According to Google, “compelling and useful content” will influence your website’s ranking more than any other factor.

Why? Because websites are all about content. The website is just the vessel. The Web is still one big repository of information, and people go online to find information – whether the information is text, image, video, infographics, etc.

In 2016, Greg Illyes from Google categorically pointed out that websites that try to “game” the system that Google has set up to benefit users can and will be penalized.

To quote Greg, “…So we will adjust the ranking. We will push the site back just to make sure that it [the gaming of the system] is not working anymore.”

3. Give better “above the fold” content.

As far back as 2012, Google has been talking about websites that do not provide good user experience because they dedicate a large portion of the home pages to ads and other elements except useful, compelling content.

Two years before, the search engine has already been using more than 200 individual signals to rank the relevance of a website.

If you want to succeed with Google in 2019 and beyond, it’s obvious that you need to gear your website toward providing information that people actually need.

“Old school” manipulation techniques are no longer recommended, and you can end up being penalized for focusing on manipulation rather than actually giving people something to come back to when they are on your website.

4. Invest in a better website.

When the Internet was just picking up in the 1990s, websites can be designed however which way and still get good rankings on Yahoo or Google.

The 1990s is almost thirty years ago, and if you are still thinking that a simple “sticks and stones” website is going to cut it, you are categorically wrong.

Google recommends the following if you want better results:

– Investing in higher quality content that is packed with information.

– A website that provides a much higher user experience.

– Satisfying and intuitive website architecture that would immediately make sense to users.

– Intelligent conversion techniques

5. Create and design a website with purpose.

Google wants websites to be more than just grey repositories of information.

Google wants you website to be useful, popular, and an authority when it comes to the content that you share with your readers.

The search engine rewards websites that are created with the clearest of purposes, as such websites tend to deliver much higher user satisfaction to people in the long term.

The better the user experience of people using the search engine, the more likely people will continue using it to search for all kinds of information. It is a good business principle for both the kingmaker search engine and online businesses.

6. Google makes it a point to frustrate web spammers.

Web spammers are website owners who attempt (or have succeeded in the past) to build domain authority by using unnatural back links (black hat back linking) and thin content.

By thin content, we refer specifically to content that focuses on presenting keywords, rather than exhaustively discussing information that would be useful to users. See the big difference?

Useful and purposive digital content would naturally have keywords related to a topic that user would be interested in. Thin content would have little or no information value, but would carry multiple keywords in an effort to game the system and place the content higher in search engine rankings.

Google’s engineers are quick to admit that between 2008-2011, the search engine’s metrics were suffering because they hadn’t foreseen how content could be used to game the search engine metrics. But all that has changed.

According to Matt Cutts, the search engine (as far back as 2013) has built-in algorithms that frustrate would-be web spammers.

According to Cutts, it may sound “mean,” but what they do is actually “break the web spammers spirit,” so that all the frustration and non-productiveness of bad strategies will eventually push black hats to the “light” of better content, and better user experience.

Webmasters who don’t care about user experience but are very interested in ad revenue and online sales will get frustrated eventually because their efforts are not paying off. And those who do come back to try their hand once again in ranking better on Google will have to do better.

7. Watch for these signs of bad user experience (UX).

While Google has never been completely explicit or straightforward with how UX affects rankings, it has made it a point to remind people that bad UX can reduce the ranking of a website, especially if the bad UX involves the mobile version of the website.

Currently, UX is not  a huge, huge factor or signal for ranking desktop versions of the site.

However, a recent update to Google’s algorithms in 2017 has prioritized the mobile version of websites over desktop versions, and thus, people will start seeing mobile sites being progressively ranked higher than their desktop counterparts.

According to Google, websites that already have responsive design or at least dynamic serving capabilities shouldn’t have to worry at all about this shift to mobile-first indexing. Responsive design is making your website resizable depending on the type of device being used by the user.

Basically, we do not want people opening your website and having to scroll horizontally as well as vertically because the website wouldn’t resize properly.

Since more than 50% of Google searches are now coursed through mobile phones, it makes plenty of sense to make the UX of mobile users better.

One of the more urgent challenges to webmasters who rely on ads for revenue is to balance ads and useful content, as Google now penalizes websites that are “page heavy.”

What defines bad UX in websites? Here are some of the worst signs that a website has bad UX:

– The design of the website misleads the readers, or deceives them into thinking or doing something that does not really align with what the website is presented to be.

– The website fires off redirects (whether few or many) and the user is exposed to outside content and potentially, malware, in the process of redirecting.

– The website uses banner graphics, ads, and other kinds of content to trick people into downloading malicious content. Malicious content can be adware, malware, or straight out viruses in the guise of browser extensions and other useful apps or software.

– The user-generated content on the website’s page are not moderated, resulting in low quality comments from spam bots.

– The main content of the home page is spammy, to say the least. When main content is geared toward targeting specific keywords instead of providing useful and relevant information to users, that’s when Google lowers it hammer.

– The supplementary content of the website is structured in a way that people are distracted constantly, or users are unable to find what they need because content has been haphazardly added, without a care for UX.

Take note that Google seems to be more interested in rating the MC (main content) of your website rather than the supplementary content found on other pages.

The search engine attempts to measure the reputation of the homepage in relation to other websites competing for the same spots in search engine results.