As I continue to discuss the modern website and the often-overlooked opportunities it provides, this article will focus on the customer search. For this piece, I looked at how Google determines search results from the user perspective.
How can the idea of “meaning” manifest on your site? Yes, content is king, so improving your position in search engine results starts with content that is related to, if not exactly, what a potential customer is searching for. You also need to be aware of how your site’s information is displayed, connected and presented at a code layer. At a schema level, you need to present yourself as a recipe, a local business, a collection of answers, etc. (when building this content out, be aware of double meanings and loaded words).
Imparting this meaning into your site starts and ends with structured data. The basics of structured data are using appropriate heading and paragraph tags. As the internet has evolved, so has structure and code-based clues for search engines. A deep dive into schema mark-up allows your website to share hidden information with search engines that can improve your search visibility and increase your visitor count.
Relevance starts with keyword matching on the search ranked page and the rest of the pages in this site – but it goes further, including other assets on the page that are relevant beyond just the words. This can cover images, videos, documents, as well as words that are highly associated with the primary keyword. If you are looking to rank as a flower shop, then mentions of roses, lilies, daisies and tulips are also going to boost your rankings.
This is a compelling argument to use relevant secondary assets that reinforce the page theme. Using a specific image, graphic or video related to the page can help boost ranking, while a generic image or texture will do nothing, or even distract from how search views the primary subject matter of a page.
Google does not just trust your site for indexing, it looks to the rest of the internet to see if anyone else is pointing to you for this information. This is why link building and domain authority are also important to getting ranked high.
However, having information is not enough to be ranked. If you are seen as duplicative to another site with more authority or more recency, your results can be omitted all together. Your site can also get in its own way by duplicating information. To combat this, be sure to utilize canonical tags to self-identify duplications and point search to the best source of information within your own site.
Google evaluates usability programmatically – running speed, mobile-friendly and security tests. This is not a user experience (UX) review, and there is nothing in search rankings that considers site design or UX. While the burden of improving usability will fall on the development team, it is important to understand the principles at work.
Usability also evaluates mobile delivery. If your site is not designed for mobile or it does not load quickly on a phone or tablet, it hurts your search results. These site deficiencies are also likely to hurt your bottom line, as customers abandon your site for a faster alternative.
Google uses recent search history as context to improve search results. While there is little that you, the website owner, can do about this, it is good to know that if a visitor has come to your site in the past, your site is more likely to rank high in the future search results for this visitor.
For additional insights on creating great websites, check out part one of this series covering functionality, and stay tuned for part three on memorability.