IM explains Google's search algorithm

General Marketing Practice

By now, businesses know the importance of their online visibility. Baby boomer entrepreneurs and business owners have operated from the same book and have traditionally been successful in achieving results. Methods such as face to face interaction through networking, print advertising, cold calling, reputation through word of mouth and traditional billboards and TV commercials are foundational to how you go out there and win business. 

The principles that came from previous generations do not fade away or become obsolete. In a way, that would be disrespectful to say! Instead, they are the foundational building blocks into the future as technology and innovation make their own advancements. Although the manual to success from prior generations is tried and true, marketers in the modern day are adopting new advertising methodologies in conjunction with the elapsing of time.

Here we are in the year 2023, and here is something you may not know. Large language models (LLMs) have been trained to the point where chat bots as of late 2022, such as Chat GTP, are considered by computer science thought leaders to be nearing the point of Artificial General Intelligence. Check out the conversion Lex Fridman had on his podcast with OpenAI CEO, Sam Altman about the future of AI.

What does this mean? Computer intelligence has become so advanced in 2023 many are anticipating a future where interacting with artificial intelligence chatbots is going to feel as if you are interacting with another human! This of course, would lead our conversation in many directions (as Sam and Lex hashed out above), but the point is made to see that somewhere in our marketing and advertising mix, we need to consider where digital marketing and advancements in artificial intelligence are in relationship with how we view traditional marketing processes. As we look at business decisions, like setting a marketing budget for example, what is the most efficient, and what is the most cost effective for growth when looking at process and implementation?

Taking A Look Back At Marketing

Let's put it this way, as technology has advanced, so has our awareness of our needs. There was a time when a man would get up on a Saturday morning, open the morning newspaper and see that there was an ad for a tree trimming business right next to the sports section. The man would look outside at his trees, notice that they were visually impairing his view of the rest of the neighborhood, and in that moment, realize his trees needed a trim. The man would then pick up the phone, call the number from the ad in the newspaper, and next thing you know that tree trimming company has earned themselves a new customer. This in turn helps the tree trimming business chip away at the $500 ad cost (or whatever the price was) for that business to have their ad in the local newspaper. Now, not saying that scenario doesn’t ever happen anymore (but seriously, it rarely does), but think about where we were even 5 years ago. 

A family decides they want to go out on Saturday night and do something together. They don’t know what exactly, but they know they want to do something. So, what does the middle or youngest family member with a smartphone do? They pull up a Google search on their smartphone, type in ‘things to do in Racine (since we are local of course) and they see a list of links with ideas to do on Saturday night. Guess which 'insert-service-provided-here' is going to get that business from the Saturday night inquiring family? The one that has the best SEM (Search Engine Marketing), or at least good enough SEM to appear on the 1st page of that search. And that was 5 years ago!

Embark On The Journey to Rank in Google Search

Where are we today? Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) has changed a lot more than the average person may realize in the last 5 years, especially as we left 2022 and entered 2023. Figuring out how to rank a website on Google is not as straightforward as it may have been in the past. Similarly to how we broke down the generational methodologies of sales and marketing, principles stand the test of time. But if you don’t understand the updates, the regulations, and the guidelines that change over time, your online presence can quickly evaporate. To rank higher on Google, you’ve got to know the basis of what Google considers valuable to its users. Once you know this, you’ve got to know the latest on how Google rewards websites. It's a multifaceted practice that doesn’t only take time to learn, it takes time to implement, and then see results post implementation. 

In this guide we are going to cover some essential aspects of how to rank your website on Google. To understand this, we are going to analyze the Google Algorithm, and how it impacts SEO. We’ll break down the high level ranking signals of SEO, including:

  • Technical SEO and Infrastructure
  • On-Page SEO Content and Engagement
  • Off-Site SEO (including local and social)
  • Website Backlinks

We will then wrap this guide up in an easy to understand, conclusive way that will empower you to grab your SEO/SEM digital marketing strategy by the horns and win some business in the year 2023!

Understanding the Google Algorithm

As you’ve noticed, we’ve used this image as our thumbnail photo for this blog post. We are going to be referring to it throughout this post. It's important to know that this data was taken from some of the top ranking websites in Google across different industries and markets, giving us an active look at ranking signals that Google themselves have actively displayed as important. Our team came across this pie chart and found it to be an extremely helpful tool for painting a picture of how the Google algorithm works, which in turn helps bring clarity and understanding to SEO for Google.

Google Algorithmn

You already grasp the importance of being on the first page of Google. That coveted top spot on search engine results pages (SERPs) can drive customers to your business. To achieve this, you need to understand the Google algorithm.

What is the Google Algorithm?

Think of it as the brain behind Google search. It's a complex set of rules and calculations used to determine which websites appear first when someone searches for something. Google's goal is to provide the most relevant and valuable results to its users.

Staying Updated:

The Google algorithm evolves constantly. Google releases updates to improve search results and weed out low-quality websites. Staying informed about these changes is essential. That's exactly what we want to help you understand in this article. We want to share with you the fundamentals we know about Google, and empower you into taking ownership of what it takes to see your site climb the rankings. Ever want some night time reading material? You can check out Google’s search engine guidelines and see if what we’re talking about is accurate!

Technical SEO (Website Optimization)

Think of your website as if it were a written letter. In order for our recipient to receive your message and understand the content, it has to be legible. Website’s are built using computer languages that pen out a beautiful, strategic infrastructure to not only make the site look nice for people viewing online, but for the purpose of search engines to read the letter, and understand what it says. In effect, the website has to be technically built to serve both humans, and robots. Your website, or your written letter, needs to have pristine handwriting! This is where Image Management excels when we begin working with clients. When it comes to handwriting, we get an A+! 

IM Google Review

And there are plenty more where that came from!

Now, let's say your letter, or for the case of this metaphor, your website, was written by someone with sloppy handwriting. Oftentimes, this is where we find the conversation beginning with our clients. Depending on the client's budget, we can do some erasing and rewriting. We do well with this because we want to preserve the integrity of the originally written piece! But sometimes, it may make the most sense to start from scratch. 

Either way, the technical side of SEO, which involves the use of keywords in URLs, title tags, meta descriptions, site speed, mobile friendliness, and URL redirects are a few components of just one ranking factor Google considers for its algorithm. According to our master example, it makes up about 7%-10% of website factors that are considered for ranking purposes. So if this is an area your existing website needs help, we address this with our SEO program. 

On-Site SEO (Content and Keywords)

According to our master algorithm example, the content on your website, which includes its keyword usage and composition, makes up for 20% of what Google’s algorithm considers as a ranking signal. Again, it's important to know that this isn’t fixed. As we discussed earlier, Google has no hesitation in making an algorithm update! The example is drawn from research, but the algorithm changes so much that it ends up being hard to say exactly. However, it's helpful to have a reference. So in simple terms, if this is a fifth of what is important for SEO, you want to get this right! You need to plan and strategize, and we’ll break down exactly how to do that. 

Keyword Research

Finding the right keywords to target for SEO has traditionally been one of the most important skills to accomplish the goal of generating the right kind of traffic that converts well. There are several tools, both free and paid, that help facilitate this practice. It should always be discussed when building an SEO strategy. At Image Management, we take from a number of different schools of thought when it comes to conducting keyword research. From Neil Patel to Backlinko, there are many helpful tips out there to execute this method. 

Keyword Relevance

As alluded to in the last section, you don’t want to aimlessly start targeting keywords thinking that ones with the highest search volumes are going to lead to the most revenue. You have to know your business and answer the key questions that identify who your target audience is and what they search for when turning to search engines. You may sell basketball shoes online, but targeting the best basketball shoes keyword just because it generates hundreds of thousands of searches each month, may not be your best keyword strategy. It isn’t relevant to your start up e-commerce business and your marketing budget. You need to find keywords that your ideal customers are searching for, while also considering what is realistic in comparison with your goals and competition.

Content Format

When creating website content, you want to see what type of content is already ranking well in the results. For example, you may look up how to change a light bulb and find the content on the first page is written in listicles, how-to-guide, or 6 simple steps. You want your content to be formatted in comparison to what is already ranking well. If you create a list and the results are calling for storytelling, you’ll have a harder time seeing the results you want to see. 

Content Length

This is similar to format but applied for the length of the article. For example, the target keyword we want this content to rank for is ‘ranking on Google’. When we look at the search results, we find that the top results have anywhere between 1,200 and 4,500 words. If we try to create this content to rank for ‘ranking on Google’ and only make it 500 words, Google is going to know that the content doesn’t contain the value, or in simple terms, the volume needed to answer that question effectively. Google’s goal is to serve the best experience for those who come to them looking for answers, so if you are looking to rank for an in-depth topic like how to rank on Google, you need to create content that is in depth. What do you want to rank for in your business? Every sector is different, but adjusting your expectations to your area of expertise and understanding what it is going to take to produce content for that topic is a must. 

Content Uniqueness

This is where the idea of using AI to generate content becomes debatable. If everyone is using AI to spit out the same generic article over and over again, it isn’t going to provide any value to humans and Google is going to stop rewarding it with its algorithm. You want to create content for humans. What do humans like? Content that is unique. If you create unique content, it will perform much better than generic, regurgitated content. 

We’ve said it once and we’ll say it again because it's that important. Google’s goal is to serve the best experience for those who come to them looking for answers. The better experience users have with Google, the more users will come back. If Google serves websites that aren’t helpful for humans, humans will stop going to them as a source and Google will lose money. They have gotten extremely good at rewarding websites that answer questions for humans effectively. That is why they are currently one of the top 10 largest companies by revenue in the world. They have the technology to do this well. Yes, Google is very intelligent. And it's important to understand how smart search engines are if you want to satisfy them and get the attention of the people you are looking to reach. 

User Engagement and Dwell Time

Imagine your website as a bustling storefront. You want customers to walk in, explore, and perhaps make a purchase. In the digital realm, engagement metrics are the key to achieving this. According to our master study we’ve been referencing, engagement time holds the crown as the most critical ranking signal, weighing in at over 20% of the ranking signals from Google's algorithm. This metric measures how long visitors spend on your website. It's not just about getting clicks; it's about keeping visitors engaged, and it profoundly impacts your Google ranking. Think of it as the digital equivalent of customers spending quality time in your store. When people linger on your website, it signals to Google that your content is valuable and engaging. The longer they stay, the higher your website, in theory, will climb in search results.

Dwell Time: The Strongest Web Signal for Ranking On Google

Dwell time is the litmus test for your website's effectiveness. It's not just about attracting traffic; it's about retaining it. Dwell time measures how long users stay on your page before returning to search results. A longer dwell time signals that your content is relevant, engaging, and informative. Users are finding what they need on your site, and Google takes note of this. If your website consistently provides value and holds users' attention, Google rewards you with improved rankings. Remember, it's not merely about getting people through the digital door; it's about making them feel at home, enticing them to explore, and leaving them wanting more. Dwell time is your golden ticket to reaching the upper echelons of Google's search results. So, focus on creating content that captivates your audience, encourages interaction, and keeps them on your website longer. This should be done in comparison to creating content that is only meant to game the algorithm. 

Off-Site SEO (Backlinks and Authority)

Off-site SEO is critically important to improve your website ranking on Google. In fact, it is all together the most important ranking factor. According to our master study, it is responsible for almost 40% of what determines where your website will rank. Sounds pretty substantial. Keep reading for a mini-crash course.

Defining Off-Site SEO and its Significance In Short:

Off-Site SEO is like your website's reputation in the digital world. It's what others say about you online, and it's vital for Google. Just as a good local reputation helps a store, a strong online reputation boosts your site's visibility. It involves things like other websites linking to yours, social media signals, and being listed in local directories. In today's digital age, Off-Site SEO is as important as what's on your website.

The Importance of Backlinks and Building Website Authority:

Backlinks are like endorsements from respected websites. They show search engines that your site is valuable and deserves a higher rank. Building website authority through quality backlinks is a key part of Off-Site SEO. It's not about quantity; quality matters more. A few good backlinks can do more than many low-quality ones.

Local, Social, and Links Standpoint:

Off-Site SEO works on three fronts: local, social, and links. Locally, being listed in directories and getting positive reviews helps local businesses. Socially, your activity on social media can boost your site's visibility. Links from reputable websites are valuable, showing trust and relevance, and they're crucial for SEO.

Tips for Acquiring Quality Backlinks and Improving Online Reputation:

To succeed in Off-Site SEO, focus on getting quality backlinks and improving your online reputation. Partner with respected websites, create engaging content that attracts natural backlinks, engage with your audience on social media, and encourage happy customers to leave positive reviews. Your online reputation and backlinks are as important as what's on your website. Managing these well will establish your site as a trusted resource and boost your search engine rankings.

Wrapping Up What We’ve Learned When It Comes To Ranking On Google

We’ve covered a number of topics in this post.

  • Google’s Algorithm
  • Technical SEO
  • On-Page SEO
  • Engagement
  • Off-Page SEO

IM & Google Ranking

All together, we’ve been able to give you a fundamental baseline of what it takes to improve your website rankings on Google. If you’ve read this far, you’ve realized that improving a website’s organic ranking is going to take A LOT OF WORK! Facts! It isn’t going to happen overnight. It won't happen in a day, in a month, in 3 months, or even 6. It takes time, and if you are working with Image Management, it will also take collaboration. We want to do everything we can to educate and inform you on all you need to know to see the results you wish to see. We are here to help you achieve these results. But it is going to take effort not just from us, but from you as well. 

Let’s Get To Work On Improving Your Ranking On Google!

Imagine what could happen if when someone decides to search for the best plumber in Racine, your name shows up. If that keyword generates 1,000 searches per month, (which it doesn’t), then your site has the potential to earn 90% of those searches. That’s 900 people who are coming to Google with a need… they want to work with the best plumber in Racine. You get the point. SEO is an important marketing channel. But, as we discussed in our 2023 digital marketing trends post, it is not the only channel you want to rely on. The best approach large businesses are taking to marketing in 2023 is an omni-channel approach. Now, does that mean as a small business owner that you need to be investing thousands of dollars into search ads, SEO, Facebook, and Instagram? Maybe… but probably not. What is important is that you make the most of whatever it is you have. Once you show yourself able to handle a little… you will eventually be given much. A wise man who was more than just a man said something like that at one point. If you are a Christian, you know what we’re saying ;)

We hope you found this content valuable and of help to your business. If you wish to learn more or begin working with us on building your website SEO, send us a contact form submission and we’ll get you on a plan and get right to work. There are a lot of opportunities in the year 2023. All it requires is a plan and then execution to get your business where you want it to be. Image Management is the 'Master of the Website', and here to help you reach your online goals!

Published on August 31, 2023