Search Engine Optimisation on Google is All About Answers
Many internet marketers and web editors approach search engine optimisation with the wrong things in mind. They create skyscraper content, compile resources from around the web, form listicles and more, but find their rankings unimproved and their traffic petering out.
To keep your website from disappearing from target search results altogether, a bit of a paradigm shift is needed. In crafting content, you need to place a much larger emphasis on questions and, most importantly, answers to those questions if you want to make upward moves in Google’s search results.
How Google Works
When web marketers and bloggers acquainted with the fickle nature of Google’s search results discuss improving page ranking and visibility, they often refer to what goes on behind the scenes at Google as being a part of their vague and nebulous “algorithm”.
Thinking of Google as a masked overlord moving in mysterious ways behind an impenetrable curtain, however, is not the most helpful way to approach things if you intend to optimise your website’s performance and position in global search results.
Instead, we can get the broad details of Google Search’s design directly from Google itself.
Figuring out what is new on the Internet is like looking for freshly added books in a library the size of New York City, except the library grows at a rate of one million new users per day and reserves new shelves (domain names in this sprawling metaphor) at a rate of roughly 1.4 million per yearly quarter.
All of this unprecedented growth appears to have no end in sight as only about 40% of the world’s population had an Internet connection in 2018. Thus, the way Google gets around online has grown ever more complex. At present, the task is handled through sophisticated programs known as web crawlers – and yes, you can call them spiders too.
Google’s web crawling programs run autonomously, traipsing the confines of known domains through their sitemaps and following links to new pages wherever they appear.
The information that Google’s web crawlers bring back gets added to their search index – an actual running record of every single word found on every page of every website that is crawled. This incredible feat of record-keeping results in what Google calls the “Knowledge Graph,” which is used to further enrich the results each user’s search delivers.
Based on a confluence of factors, individual web pages are added to search results at higher or lower positions. Your page’s place on the search result totem pole depends on its relevance, publish date, social momentum and more. In fact, the factors considered for ranking specific pages in Google’s search results are so complex that human reviewers are called upon to help out.
A Human Touch
Google makes use of an international team of search quality evaluators to fully interpret individual pages found online and influence their respective rankings.
These evaluators are held to a strict code of conduct in their work, following guidelines that Google provides to the public for perusal.
A few interesting takeaways from Google’s guidelines are as follows:
“Your Money or Your Life” Pages
When it comes to pages that cover topics of particularly high import to a person’s finances or life in general, Google evaluators abide by more stringent standards than they would otherwise.
These so-called “Your Money or Your Life” pages are more difficult to rank highly both because of such elevated quality standards as well as the surplus of major publications currently dominating qualifying niches.
Examples of these types of pages include news publications, government pages, shopping pages and health content, among others.
Ad-Blocking is Usually Prohibited
Evaluators are subjected to the same experience on a given web page as common visitors – no blocking allowed!
This makes sites with particularly intrusive ads and aggressive marketing techniques a lot less likely to rank highly in Google’s search results.
Page Quality Evaluators Do More Than Visit Websites
Evaluators do not simply load up individual web pages, look at them and then leave. Instead, they will actually stick around for a while to check out linked material and test the available features of the page as well.
Websites with sketchy mechanics and faulty menu elements may take a ranking hit during this phase of the evaluation.
There Are Five “Most Important Factors”
Page Evaluators consider the following elements of a page primarily when making their final assessment:
- Page Purpose
- Trustworthiness and Expertise
- Main Content Quality and Length
- Website Information
- Website Reputation
Quality Over Quantity
Although there are plenty of results delivered in response to most Google searches, they are likely not quite as plentiful as you might think.
Google’s metrics highlighted at the top of each new search page suggest billions of pages worth of relevant results being available for you to sift through, but the truth appears to be that most searches max out on such before you reach page 30.
With less than 10 results per Google search page, that means there are usually less than 300 actual pages delivered for most search phrases – not quite the billions we had been led to believe.
Google leaves out whatever it doesn’t show to eliminate what it deems to be unnecessary noise. This makes appearing in Google search results at all a bit of a privilege, but it doesn’t keep savvy marketers from making the grade and even reaching the top spots for their chosen keywords.
Who Are You Writing For?
To win at the Google game, it is important to approach content creation the same way we approach search engines.
We ask questions. We look for answers.
Just as Google’s actual page evaluators and web crawlers approach your web page looking for indications of topical relevance and verifiable expertise, you should aim to inject as much of the two into your content as you can.
Don’t worry! You will not need to become an expert in search engine tech and evaluation practices to achieve higher rankings and improve your website’s SEO on Google.
Satisfy your visitors first and foremost; evaluators and algorithms alike will recognise the value you have created and treat your content kindly in their ranking decisions.
To make this process a little easier, it helps to first consider what your visitors are looking for in the first place, and you can only do that by first defining who your visitors are.
Buyer (Visitor) Personas
The concept of the “buyer’s persona” is nothing new in most business circles, but it may surprise you to learn that it can be applied just as readily to your website’s audience as well.
To create accurate visitor personas, try the following:
Conduct Interviews and Audience Research
This first step is crucial in helping you to fully understand the people who are already visiting your website.
Whether you choose to gather information with forms on your site or actually interview a few visitors you know personally depends on your unique situation, but the information you can acquire in this step lays the foundation for those that follow.
Identify Common Demographic Information
This information may tell you that most of your repeat visitors are males within the age range of 15 to 25 who live in the US or the UK.
Such information can provide some of the most useful indicators of related interests, so make sure you know a bit of personal information about your visitors to accommodate this step.
Identify Common Concerns and Motivations
Do your visitors show up overwhelmingly for the same reasons?
Your visitor persona should reflect both the most common issues that visitors to your website have and the most common reasons they have for visiting in the first place.
Ask the Right Questions, Give the Right Answers
With a relatively accurate visitor persona at hand, you should be able to decide just what questions actually matter most to your visitors.
When it comes to asking the right questions, you should not be directing these at your visitor, but instead at yourself. After all, the visitor will be deferring to your expertise to answer these questions in your content.
Write with a visitor’s questions in mind and condense the answers to deliver exactly what they are looking for.
Go beyond simply answering questions in your content – arrange the content you create in such a way that the questions individuals may have pertaining to the subject at hand are concisely defined and then accurately answered.
Try defining questions in subheadings throughout each post and then answering these questions in the paragraphs that follow.
Related Points of Interest
As you create more compelling website content for your visitors, you can gather up additional tidbits and facts that their defined personas may find useful as well.
Try to shift your thoughts on the subject you are writing about from top-down, vertical explanations to horizontal areas of intrigue. For a bit of help in doing this, you can type your main topic or even one of its subheadings into Google’s search bar, then wait for it to load up a few completion suggestions that make sense to you.
Once you have identified some alternative ideas worth briefly touching on in your post, add them into the mix. Just remember not to detract from or otherwise muddle the content with information that is too far removed from the topic that you are covering.
Go Above and Beyond
To craft content that is even more SEO friendly, you can give the following tips and tricks a try:
Go over your written content aloud once or twice after having written it to ensure that it is free of typos and easy to mentally digest.
Building on the concept of clean writing, you can pare down your vocabulary where certain word choices detract from general comprehension. Use everyday language where possible and keep niche jargon to a minimum unless your visitor persona might prefer otherwise.
Try arranging sentences in such a way that they encourage visitors to read all of your content without skipping or skimming. Ellipses, short paragraphs and the addition of imagery can help tremendously here.
Hopefully, with the information given above, you now have a much clearer understanding of Google’s perspective on web page content and what you can do to optimise yours for all search engines. Give the tips mentioned in this post a try and you are likely to see noticeable improvements in your website’s search results ranking.
If you want to learn more about search engines, read Search Engine Optimisation Made Easy.