9 Key Factors Google Uses to Test Your Web Site
Search engine optimization, or SEO for short, is the list of methods websites employ to become one of the first results on search engines like Google and Bing. When your business’ website was created, the people who helped you build it were probably focused on some of the proven SEO techniques, like keywords and article length. However, Google has begun to focus on some additional key factors for their search engine, and these factors are tied around one common theme: value of the visitors. Each of these nine tests Google uses are supposed to measure how valuable a website makes its visitors feel when visiting; if the tried-and-true SEO techniques and social media presence are not helping as much as you thought they would, look at these nine factors to see how your website holds up to Google’s new standards.
1. Loading Speed
The “loading time” is that period between when a visitor clicks on the link to your website and when your website actually appears onscreen. The internet has made its users an impatient lot; longer loading times means a lower likelihood of people staying to enjoy your website, which in turn tells Google that your website is not popular enough for the first page of results. Loading speed can be a difficult thing to account for because several factors can act together to influence it. However, a good rule of thumb to follow is that, whenever a page of your website is loading, a part of that page needs to appear onscreen within one second. When Google sees this response, they will recognize your business’ website as one that likes to improve the customer service experience.
2. Bounce Rate
A “bounce” is a situation where someone visits a website and then leaves that website without seeing anything other than that one page. If your website has a high bounce rate, then your website will be seen as unfriendly to its visitors. To lower your bounce rate, look at the pages that you commonly link to (the homepage, a favorite article, etc.) and try to find its weaknesses. Does the text on the page encourage people to continue reading? Are the links to the website’s other pages in a place that is easy to access or see? Keep these and similar questions in mind when updating your website, and your bounce rate should drop significantly.
Engagement is when a visitor feels so invested in your website that they do some of your marketing for you. They post your articles on Facebook, they pin your business’ products on Pinterest, and they link to your homepage whenever the opportunity arises. How many visitors of your business’ website are involved in that level of engagement? While updating your website to drop your bounce rate, you should also keep an eye out for how well you encourage people to invest and engage with your site. Increase this encouragement for engagement, and Google will give your website a higher search result.
4. Pages Visited
When establishing which results will pop up on their searches, Google is also going to consider how many of your business website’s pages are visited by its visitors. If a lot of your visitors are looking at a lot of your website’s pages, Google is going to think your website contains valuable information for those who visit it. Does your website have the information needed to keep people on it? Be sure that your articles have the raw information, as well as the entertainment value, to hold your visitor’s attention and make them want to learn more. This will make it more likely for your visitors to read your other pages, which will get your site on Google’s good side.
5. Return Visits
Just like the amount of pages that were visited, Google also looks at the number of return visitors as a sign of valuable information. After all, if you only offered the same boring content over and over again, your website would not have as many people coming back to it. You need to make sure that your content is always changing and new. This will also help you reduce your bounce rate; people are more likely to stay and read if you have something new for them to read on return visits.
6. Time on Website
Google has also begun to measure just how much time is spent on your website. A bounce rate with a high time rating indicates that visitors at least bother to read your website before deciding you had nothing for them; a low time rating claims that nothing on your site could hold their attention. You need to rework your content to include attention-holding things, such as great pictures when applicable, exciting article titles, and the like. A higher time rating is also going to help bolster the number of pages visited, so be sure to put in a little extra effort on this one.
Responsiveness does not simply mean that a website will pop up on a Google search via computer (any website can do that); it means that your website will work on a mobile phone, tablet, and other mobile devices just as easily as it would on a computer. Google has begun to drop the SEO ratings of websites that are not responsive, with websites that lack any mobile compatibility getting the harshest treatment. Don’t let this rating drop happen to you. Make sure your business website can interact on mobile devices, whether through a phone-friendly version of the site itself or an app for the site.
8. Robots and robot.txt Files
With regards to search engines like Google, “robots” are indexing programs that find, index, and store website URLs for the engine to then include in search results. How noticeable you are to robots can influence how close to the front page of a search result you get; don’t just wait around for the robots to find you. Instead, become more noticeable by creating a robot.txt file for your website.
This tool is simple in its construction (a “user-agent” URL for the robot to list on engines and “disallow” URLs for the robot to ignore) and acts as a signal flare for robots. By taking advantage of robots with these files, you basically let Google do your SEO work for you.
9. W3 Standards
One of the things that Google has started looking for as well is if your business’ website adheres to the standards set by the World Wide Web Consortium—W3C for short—and how well you follow them. W3C is a group of organizations, businesses, and individual members work together to create a common set of standards for the Internet. Some of these standards include: accessibility for all users, regardless of physical or mental ability; increased interaction between Internet users; improve the ways users can develop trust with each other. While the exact rules and standards are still being established, following W3C’s general goals are the main thing that Google likes to see in a website.
This might sound like a more difficult element to account for than it actually is. You might wonder how to adhere to rules that are still being written. However, by making adjustments to the website that follows W3C’s goals—or even becoming a member of the group—you are able to improve your standing with Google. For example, changes to your website that improves the experience for those who are hard of hearing or sight shows that you believe in the goal of accessibility for all, a key focus of W3C. Changes like this are invaluable to improving your SEO rating.
Google’s standards have changed, and your strategies should change to match these new SEO requirements. You cannot merely stick to whatever SEO tactics worked yesterday; you have to adapt for the challenges of today. It may sound like a time-consuming task, but it is much easier and a greater investment of time than you may think. By adding these nine tactics to your current list of strategies, you can use these changes to your advantage and rise through the search engine results.