5 Steps to Better Search Rankings

In 2012, there were 5 billion Internet searches made every day. Google isn’t just another highly successful tech giant with popular products. It’s one of the world’s most powerful companies, whose search engine has become a critical component of our economic infrastructure.

Google is the first place most consumers search for information on products and services—and the last place they check before making a final decision. Organic search rankings, as opposed to pay-per-click advertisements, are particularly influential as websites listed in the ‘natural’ section are perceived to be ranked on merit, reputation and quality.

Google implemented major changes in 2013. The company’s 15-year-old core algorithm was completely re-written. Many of the 200 or so ranking factors that Google uses to assess and rank your website were re-weighted. Additionally, there were major search engines updates that penalized various types of “web spam”—prohibited search engine optimization (SEO) methods that are used to unfairly manipulate organic search results.

Now is a great time to review the SEO health of your website and make sure that your site is complying with Google’s guidelines. Here are five areas you should address in 2014 to minimize SEO risk and maximize your website’s search engine potential.

1. Backlinking

Backlinking or “link building” is an SEO method of getting third-party websites to publish a link that clicks back to your website. Up until 2013, one of the most important ranking factors was the volume of links that pointed back to your website. Links from high-quality sites are still very helpful, but a high volume of low-quality links from spammy websites will hurt your rankings. Now is the time to check your website’s backlink profile in Google’s Webmaster Tools and begin the process of unlinking or disavowing low-quality backlinks.

2. G+ Authorship

Have you seen thumbnail headshots appear in Google search results? Google is trying to determine an author’s reputation and expertise with respect to a niche. They are essentially assigning an authorship score to individuals and using this information as a ranking factor. Now is the time to create a G+ account and begin establishing yourself as an online authority in your field.

3. Blogging

Blogging may currently be the most effective form of content marketing. In 2013, websites with high-quality, active blogs handily outperformed competing websites. Further, strategic guest blogging (where you provide blog posts to third-party websites and vice versa) is a highly effective form of content marketing. Guest blogging creates a cascade of win-wins for the publisher and the guest author—and may be one of the safest ways to build quality backlinks.

4. Social Media

Google now uses social media signals to and from your website as a ranking factor. Getting your blog posts and pages liked, +’d, shared, tweeted and pinned will contribute to your organic rankings. Be sure to include social voting buttons on your website. Many business owners do not realize that 500 likes on their fan page is not the same as 500 likes on their website.

5. Online Reviews

Pound for pound, online reviews may be the most important component of your online marketing strategy. Consumers seek and use review information to make purchase decisions.  Google uses the number of reviews and the content within reviews to rank your website on map results as well as natural search engine results. Be as proactive as you can this year managing your online reviews and always take the high road on negative reviews.