The Cornerstone Realities of Making it onto the First Page of Google
An honest opinion from a web developer
People often ask me how they can improve their SEO. The acronym, which stands for Search Engine Optimization, is like some mythical black box conjured up by the all mighty gods at Google.
They think it’s some sort of fancy code that you put into your website and voilà, like instant magic, your content ends up at the top of the search results. Every marketing agency promises it then blames the quality of your platform’s code when they can’t get you there.
As a web developer, here are the cornerstone things I go over with clients before I start looking at the code.
You need more than 3 pages
A lot of people come to me with less than 300 words on their entire website. Either that, or there are a few sporadic posts here and there dating back to 2014 because someone told them they need more content.
If you want to rank higher on Google, you’ll need to stop thinking of your website as an online billboard. When you’re on the Internet, you’re in the business of communicating. It doesn’t matter if you’re the best whatever you’re doing in the world, if you can’t communicate what you’re doing into words, bots won’t know what you’re up to.
All they see is an empty shop with nothing to give to their searchers. Without content, you’re a dead zone — you’re no better than a shop that’s open for business but all the shelves are empty.
Relevance is a bot’s best friend
Search Engines have a thing for showing the most relevant thing to a specific searcher. Players like Google want to be helpful. Their entire business model is built on being helpful.
It makes sense. Why would you look for something that you’re not interested in? Why would you click on something completely out of nature from what you’re searching for?
When people go on Google, they have a purpose. They type in their queries with a purpose. Your ability to satisfy that query is how and why you’ll show up on any search result at all. Google is not like Facebook where you just keep scrolling. Google is a search engine and search engines answer questions.
Engagement = Points
Some websites simply try too hard. Their entire website is stuffed with every possible keyword and ‘relevant’ phrases. More is better, right?
Not really. It’s one thing to have content. It’s another when that content irrelevant or presented badly. If you make it hard for someone to find an answer to their question or too much effort is required to read your stuff, it’s going to encourage them to click the back button.
Google knows all when it comes to engagement. They watch what people do on your website and take notes. If a person is staying longer than 1 second, there must be something that’s important and relevant to them. That’s one point to you. The user is clicking on a link, that’s another point to you. The user is actually staying and reading your stuff — ten more points on your personal secret scorecard.
It’s not hard to collect Google points and push you up the ranks if you’re set up to engage with users.
Make it easy for humans
This is probably the only technical pointer in this entire list. Name your stuff for humans. This means rename your images to something that’s human readable.
If it’s human-friendly — then it’s searchable.
It doesn’t matter if you don’t have alt tags and descriptions on your images, if at the very minimum your image isn’t called something like wjkshgererrhjg38kfg78.jpg, then Google will figure it out.
Name your images for humans, use descriptive but short URLs so it’s easier for people and just do the things that would make your life easier as a consumer of content. Bots are trying to understand humans so use yourself as a test subject and make things ridiculously human-friendly.
Cheating never leads to sustained winning
Remember back to ye ‘olden days of dial-up? You had to pay in order to be included in any search result. It didn’t matter if your business or website made sense or not, if you threw enough money at it, you’ll always be at the top.
Where are those search engines now? Somewhere in Internet history.
It’s sort of like that nowadays with keywords stuffing. Everyone worries about not having enough of a particular word or phrase in their content that they miss the plot completely.
People tend to forget that search engines like Google are trying to be more human every day. Yet, we try to be as robotic as possible to get their attention. It’s a weird mismatch that a lot of new to internet marketing people tend to miss. They read up on all the ‘advice’ that comes up but ignore the most vital component to their potential success and that is the people that do the searching.
Stop worrying so much about SEO in general and just focus on increasing the ease and satisfaction of your user experience. You can try as hard as you want but if your business doesn’t give value, no amount of SEO is going to make it any better.
That’s why SEO is a long game of consistent improvements. You won’t see results right away because the algorithms are slowly giving and subtracting your points. You can try and back-link your way to the top but if what people land on is irrelevant, no amount of social media posts and shout-outs can help you. Fix up your value proposition first before you try to sell it.
Offer value and offer it well — that’s what marketing is about. Bots are there to help you succeed. They’re there to work with you and not against you. Giving value is the most valuable thing your business can give for your business and the all coveted and magical thing known as SEO.