You’ve created a beautiful website and you’ve worked hard to create interesting, well-written articles for it. 

You’ve included beautiful imagery and you’ve even researched what to write about with a keyword research tool.

You’ve added Google Analytics tracking to your website so you can find out how many visitors you’re getting and you’re checking it every day but your traffic doesn’t seem to be increasing at all. 

You won’t be alone in feeling frustrated at not seeing organic traffic increasing to your website. 

I went through this same process too. 

Now, I don’t tend to worry too much about organic search results (my site is pretty new right now) as I’m getting visitors from social media platforms and I know the organic traffic will grow in time. 

Read on to find out why!

Some things get better with age

If you’ve just created a new website and it doesn’t have many articles yet, don’t be surprised if your new website posts don’t often rank. You might be lucky and see it appear on the front page but more often than not, it won’t. 

Don’t worry about it and keep writing. 

Over time, as Google continues to crawl your website (make sure you have a sitemap to help the Google bot), it will recognise that you are regularly contributing quality content to the Internet and your domain authority will grow. 

Until then, Google appears to place less importance on websites that haven’t proved themselves as providers of quality information. 

Anecdotally, it seems that several months of continual publishing is the point at which you’ll see an increase in organic search results. I highly recommend reading this article on seomechanic.com for more information. I felt much better after reading it. 🙂

From a human perspective, it’s better if people visit your website after it’s accumulated some content anyway. 

If someone visits your website and there’s a whole bunch of interesting content on there, they’re more likely to stay to read the other articles and more likely to come back to read your new content. 

If someone visits your website and there’s only five posts on there, they’re not really going to take you seriously because you’ll look like you’re just getting started or that you’re one of those site owners that wrote a few posts before you lost interest and abandonded the site. 

You want people to stay on your site and you want them to come back so be patient and keep writing.

People have more control over being tracked

In the past, if you added the Google Analytics snippet to your website you’d start to get a pretty clear view of the number of visitors that your website was receiving. There was little reason to believe that the numbers you were seeing were inaccurate.

That’s all changed now. 

People have the ability to easily block cookies and now, following the introduction of new data-protection laws in Europe, the right to opt-out of tracking altogether by installing a plugin from Google on their browser

This means that there may be a large segment of website visitors that you’re not seeing in your Analytics results simply because they’re not being tracked any more. 

I personally believe that the number of people you won’t see is largely dependent upon the sector that your target audience belongs to. 

Tech-savvy users (particularly web-developers and other skilled users) are more likely to know about and to install the plugin that will cause them to disappear from your stats. 

Regular web-browsers, particularly consumers are less likely to care about or install the plugin but this may change as the opt-out funcitonality may be introduced by default in future browser releases.

The good news is that moz.com (considered by many to be a major authority on all things SEO) don’t believe the opt-out will really be a problem.

Google is always changing its algorithm

If you spend any time reading SEO journals or websites, you’ll know how upset digital marketers can get every time there’s a Google update. 

Recently, Jesus Mendez, the SEO Director for The Daily Mail (a UK-based tabloid news site) reported a 50% drop in organic traffic following an update to Google’s core search algorithm in June 2019. 

Considering the Daily Mail Online receives millions of daily visitors, that’s a considerable drop in traffic. 

The trend may have normalised over the days following the update but it’s a good example of how the ever-changing algorithms in the search engines can dramatically affect your website’s visibility on the Internet. 

There has been widespread speculation on the Internet as to the reasons for this plunge in traffic but given that Google rarely reveals the inner-workings of its ranking practices, it should be taken as speculation because nobody really knows. 

Why Google’s constant updates are a good thing

our goal is always to improve the usefulness of your results

Google’s mission statement

Google’s mission statement highlights their desire to deliver useful, relevant content based on web-user’s search queries. 

In their mission statement, this section should be taken as particularly meaningful to the aspiring content creator:

The most basic signal that information is relevant is when a webpage contains the same keywords as your search query. If those keywords appear on the page, or if they appear in the headings or body of the text, the information is more likely to be relevant. Beyond simple keyword matching, we use aggregated and anonymized interaction data to assess whether search results are relevant to queries. We transform that data into signals that help our machine-learned systems better estimate relevance.

https://www.google.com/intl/en_uk/search/howsearchworks/algorithms/

So, why are the constant updates to Google’s algorthims a good thing for you? 

If you’re writing quality content that delivers useful information to your target audience, the algorthims are always going to value your content. 

The more of your content that Google indexes that match that rule, the more value Google is going to place on it (and your entire website) with each successive update. 

On the flip side, Google is getting better and better at recognising content that is written just to promote something and I’m sure such content is going to be penalised as a result. 

I think this is why the latest update is ranking content posts of 2,000 words or more higher than shorter posts. 

It’s probably much harder to write a long article just to promote an affiliate link than it is a useful article that might mention a product as a helpful link, amongst other useful links. 

What you can do to help your ranking

Optimization for page ranking is not an exact science

As I mentioned above, other than the Google engineers, nobody really knows the internal workings of the Google search algorithms.  

Most tips for improving the position on a SERP (search engine results page) are based on observation rather than direct instructions from the search engines themselves.

Occasionally, Google does release hints to help people improve the SEO on their websites but if they were open about what works and what doesn’t work, there would always be dishonest SEO companies that would abuse the system to rank content that doesn’t deserve to be ranked.

Useful tools to measure your website’s ranking

There are three ways that you can measure the impact that your website is having on the Internet as a whole. 

The first is the SERP. This refers to which search page your website / page will appear on if a user is searching for a specific keyword. 

It’s really important that you remember that the ranking of your web page will vary according to which words are used in the search!

If I were to search for “best software for keyword research” on Google, using Incognito Mode to avoid my Google account biasing the result, I can quickly see which site ranks the highest for that keyword (note the entire phrase I searched for is considered the ‘keyword’).

Results of searching for 'best keyword research tool

Ignoring all the sponsored results at the top, the first organic result is a site called robbierichards.com.

This method doesn’t really help you to find out which page your website is going to appear on unless you’re willing to click through each search results page, looking for your website. 

The best tool to use is the Google Search Console. 

Google Search Console

This tool is absolutely FREE and it only provides data for a website that you own (you have to add your website to it and then prove you own it by adding a special link or file to your website).

Once you’ve added your website property to the console, you can a surprising amount of information but for the moment, I’m just talking about page ranking. 

To view that, you need to click on the Performance menu link.

On the graph that’s displayed, it’s most useful to set the date range to the last twelve months and set the type to Web (unless you’re interested in how an inforgraphic image or video is performing). 

Google Search Console results summary

The graph is summarized at the top with three useful pieces of information: Total Clicks, Total Impressions, Average CTR, and Average Position. 

  • Total clicks shows how many times a search result was clicked, leading to your website
  • Total impressions shows how many times a user saw a link to your website in their search results
  • Average CTR shows the percentage of impressions that resulted in a click through to your website
  • Average Position is the average search result position. So, if a search results page has 10 results per page, an average position of 55.1 suggests that your website, on average, appears on the 5th page of search results. 

As you can see, Google Search Console provides some very useful information, in an easy to read format. 

You can sign up to Google Search Console here. Don’t forget that you’ll need to add each website that you’re interested in as additional properties. 

Domain Authority (Moz.com)

Moz.com provide two useful metrics that are designed to be used to compare one website against another or one page against another called Domain Authority and Page Authority.

They are not intended to be indicators of a website or page’s worth on its own as the calculations are constantly tweaked so the scores can fluctuate.

Moz.com result for bbc.co.uk

Moz.com’s Domain Authority (DA) is a score from 0 to 100 that indicates how well your website is likely to rank on the search engines. 

The DA calculation is logarithmic in nature which means it’s much harder for a website to move from say, 70 to 80 than it is to move from 20 to 30. 

Domain Authority isn’t used by Google but it is incorporated into numerous SEO tools to compare site values so its value extends beyond moz.com. It can be a handy way to measure your site against your competitors. Remember that the DA for a relatively new site (less than 12 months old) is not likely to be very useful.

Page Authority (Moz.com)

Moz.com’s Page Authority (PA) is a score from 0 to 100 that indicates how well a specific page is likely to rank on the search engines. 

Like the Domain Authority calculations, a large number of factors are considered when evaluating the score and Moz.com recommend you use the PA as score to compare pages rather than as an indicator of an individual page’s worth. 

If you want to use Moz.com’s tools to query a site or compare your site to a competitor’s, you can sign up for a free account on their website. Once you’ve created a free account you can make up to 10 searches a month. If you subscribe to their paid service, you can use their service more extensively. 

Choosing the right keywords

If you want people to find you in the search results, you need to be targeting keywords that people actually search for. That’s where a keyword research tool can help.

I’m not going to discuss much about keywords here (that’s a subject for another post) but once you’ve found a good keyword, try to use it in the title of your article and within the first paragraph, if possible. 

Also, your page will be ranked for keywords within your content that you might not have considered. 

If you’ve done your keyword research before writing your article, this shouldn’t really be an issue. 

Write quality content

It used to be that people could just right a quick blog post, add some images and that was enough for Google to rank the article.

Not any more. Now, Google is really trying to weed out the low-quality content from their search results. One of the primary ways they’re doing this is promoting longer articles over short ones.

Their reasoning is sound – if an article is longer than 1,500 words, it’s clearly going to contain more useful information for the reader than a short 500-word post.

Some people make the mistake of thinking that a 500 word post is better for readers on mobile devices but this is clearly not the case.

Neil Patel has written an excellent article on this subject that I really enjoyed reading. He even suggests that we should be aiming for 3,000 words if we want to stand out!

Unfortunately this new requirement has caused some people to start using content-generation services or software. Be very wary of using them as they often scrape the Internet for content, and generate an article using other people’s content. I can’t imagine that ending well.

Sooner or later Google’s algorithms will be adjusted to detect a change in writing voice (the style that an author uses to write is almost like a fingerprint) between paragraphs and I can imagine they’d penalize such content heavily.

Check your page speed

One metric that Google has said is important for your page ranking is page speed. 

Page Speed is literally how long it takes your website to load from the first request to the point that it’s ready to use. 

Google pagespeed result for https://happyearningathome.com

Over previous years, it’s become more and more common for website owners to overload their website with features that they think makes their website look ‘cool’ but in the process of creating a pretty website, they’ve made it frustratingly slow to load for a visitor. 

Because Google cares about delivering the most useful and relevant results to its users, it has started penalizing websites that take too long to load, especially for users on mobile devices. 

It’s really easy to find out if your website is fast enough. Just head to the Google Speed Insights page and enter your website address. 

The results will probably surprise you and if you need to make any amendments, suggestions are included.

Choose mobile or desktop pagespeed results

Take care to check the results for both desktop and mobile as they can be very different. This site has a great score for desktop rendering but I still need to work out a few kinks for my mobile visitors (sorry). 
There’s quite a number of considerations when it comes to improving your page-speed. Using small images, not including CSS rules that your site doesn’t need, not delivering files that the user doesn’t require, and so on.

A page-speed score of 90 and above is considered to be fast, and between 50 and 90 is average. See Google’s own information about page speed for more details.

The trouble is, if you’re using something like WordPress and have some plugins installed, it’s can be quite tricky to get rid of some of the extra baggage each plugin attaches to your site. You might find it easier just to remove plugins you don’t truly need. 

Make sure your website is mobile-friendly

As well as the time it takes your website to load, Google also wants your website to look good on a mobile device too. 

The mobile friendly test for https://happyearningathome.com

With this in mind, they’ve provided a tool to test how well your website is rendered on small screens.
You can guarantee that they wouldn’t have gone to the trouble of creating a tool to test your site on such devices if there wasn’t a pagerank benefit to looking good on the small screen!

Visit Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test to see if your website is mobile friendly. 

If it isn’t you will need to look into converting your website into a reponsive website (a website design that adapts to suit the screen size it’s being displayed on). 

If you’re using a content management system such as WordPress, this could be as simple as choosing a new theme. 

Beware of bad hyperlinks

When you’re writing your content, beware of littering it with links to affilaite programmes or sales pages. 

Google wants to offer its users relevant and useful information and the Googlebot is now smart enough to spot a page that’s saturated with affiliate links. 

Google also doesn’t like link farms (websites that are just pages of links to other websites) or your site being linked to from a website it has ‘sandboxed’ (i.e. blacklisted from search results for breaking the rules). 

The best way to get links to your website is to make them yourself. When you post a new article, create a nice image and post a link to your new post on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. 

Commenting on other people’s blog posts can be a way to get traffic to your site (if you are asked for your website on the comment form), but this will require the person reading the comment to click on your website link. 

Google will often ignore website links in comments as they usually have the ‘nofollow’ attribute attached to them. 

Don’t ever provide a link to your website on another site unless you’ve been asked to do so!

Wrapping up

Thanks for making it this far. 

I hope that I’ve been able to offer some really useful tips for assessing your website’s current ranking (Google Search Console is awesome) and improving your ranking by considering the following:

  • Write quality content, preferably over 2,000 words
  • Research keywords for future articles
  • Check your page speed and make adjustments as necessary
  • Make sure that your page is mobile friendly
  • Be careful how you use hyperlinks (and who links to you)

What do you Think?

I’d love to hear what you think about this article.
Do you have any suggestions or questions?
Click the button below to leave a comment.

12 Replies to “How to improve Google rankings

  1. Wow! So much information in one article – thank you! I am going to bookmark this article and ensure I do due diligence on my site with all the recommendations you have made here – there are so many, I do not know where to start!
    A question for you if I may, which would you consider to be the most important aspect out of every recommendation you have made here? Or perhaps you could give me the top 3.
    Thank you so very much again!
    Blessings
    Louise

    1. Thanks for your comment, Louise.

      Based on Google’s recent public comments, I’d say they’re probably being a secure site (https://), page speed being over 90 (I’ve added a link about this to the section above) and mobile-device compatability.

      There is one consideration that’s even more important that I forgot to add to the article – the length of your content.

      Google is showing a distinct preference for articles that are over two thousand words recently so it’s really important that you provide as much quality content for your readers as you can.

      I really appreciate your comment as it made me realize that I’d missed this important point from my article – I’ll fix that now.

      1. Hi Phil
        Thank you for your response – it’s great to know which are the most important aspects – there is so much to know, and it’s ever-shifting (thanks to algorithmic changes and the likes). I guess that’s what keeps things exciting and us on our toes, lol!
        Glad to see my comment prompted you too – that was inadvertent – my pleasure anyway, haha!
        Blessings
        Louise.

        1. Ha ha – thanks Louise!
          I can’t believe I missed the important point about content length.

          Google updates really do keep us on our toes and I think it’s admirable that they really are trying to ensure that they only offer quality content to their users.

  2. Hi Phil,

    A very informative article. I do use GSC, Page Insights and Mobile-Friendly Test; I am still failing to get my mobile loading in the 90s! I’ve got to the stage where I don’t know what to do or where to look to fix the problem.

    My Desktop rates 100% but my mobile is still lagging between 83% and 86%. I know that mobile speed is vital for Google ranking, but spending time on trying to fix this issue is taking time away from writing.

    My top two errors are (red marks):
    Reduce server response times (TTFB)
    Eliminate render-blocking resources

    I should be writing, but this is distracting me. I’ve spent weeks trying to get my website performance improved. I have for the Desktop, but Mobile is more challenging.

    What do you suggest, Phil?

    Cheers,
    Paul.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Paul.

      Raising your mobile page speed into the 90s is a tough proposition when you already have a website that’s designed for desktop first.
      I’m still working on improving the page speed for this site for mobile users so I appreciate your frustration!

      Server response time depends upon the hosting platform itself. It can often be slow if the server is hosting too many other websites or if it’s running outdated software. Many servers are still using PHP 5.6 when really, they should be using PHP7. Upgrading to PHP 7 will provide significant speed increases to your site overall.

      It’s worth checking if your server provides page caching too – but remember this might frustrate you if you amend a page and you don’t see the change immediately reflected on your site.

      Eliminating “render-blocking resources” can be tricky because if you’re using a WordPress site, they can often be the result of plugins adding resource bloat to your page. Render blocking resources are scripts that block the rendering of the page until they’ve finished loading or processing.

      To eliminate them, you’ll need to either identify the plugins that are causing the problem and remove them or, if you need the plugins you’re using, use an additional plugin (I appreciate the irony) to optimize the delivery of the resources your site needs. This is often done by taking all the scripts and concatenating them into one file for delivery at the end of the document. Not all scripts play well with this technique though.

  3. Hi Phil, This is one of the best articles I have read on Google Rankings. The reason for this is because I can understand what you are saying.

    With the recent Google update, most of my rankings have gone up. Most say their rankings have gone down. Would I expect to see my drop later or is the initial adjustment from the algorithm change past?

    I did use your mobile-friendly test, and both of my sites are good, which is very reassuring to me.

    Laura

    1. Thanks Laura,

      I’m really happy that you understood what I was writing.

      I’ve often been frustrated when I’ve tried to read posts that seem to assume that you understand all of the acronyms and jargon for the associated industry. I decided long ago that I didn’t want to write content like that.

      I think, if you found that your rankings increased while others saw a drop in visitors, you’re clearly doing something that Google likes. I doubt you’ll see a significant drop later although the difference may level out a little as the algorithm is applied across the index. Not that anyone really knows what to expect from Google – or what the next update will bring. 🙂

      I’m glad your sites are mobile friendly. That must have been a relief for you!

  4. Hi Phil,

    Thank you for writing such an informative article. You cheered me up no end. I have been going nuts looking at these stats.

    On the SEO training platform that I use, the keyword ranking tool I use tells me I don’t even rank with Google. But, when I type in the same keyword in Google, I’m on page three! Something has happened recently, which I don’t understand.

    I know Google has changed its algorithm again. Hopefully, things will settle down soon.

    Now that I have read your article, I will worry less about my stats and focus more on my content writing.

    Many thanks,
    Paul.

    1. You’re welcome Paul, and thanks for your comment!

      I’m trying hard not to be concerned about my stats until my writing has been around a bit longer and started to attract traffic. I wonder if the keyword tools need a little time to catch up with Google’s larger algorithm changes?

      I’ve found the best way to tell if your content is ranking is to look at Google Search Console as it helpfully tells you how many times your page has been shown to the world and how many times the link to it has been clicked.

      I’ve given up trying to second-guess how Google works.

      It’s less stressful to just enjoy writing. I do appreciate comments like yours as it’s always nice to know that I’ve written something useful! 🙂

  5. To my knowledge, there isn’t one magic wand tool that provides suggestions on how to help language mechanics (readability, passive voice, grammar…) and rankings. So far, the only thing I’ve been able to find is the INK for All editor.

    1. Thanks for your comment, although I’m not sure how it applies to this article! I tried to find out more information about Ink for All but couldn’t find anything when I searched for it.

      For an all-in-one tool to check your writing quality, I highly recommend Grammarly – it provides feedback on all the areas you listed in your comment.

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