Bloggers have a love/hate relationship with Google – love the traffic but always want better rankings.
Let’s face it though, without Google we wouldn’t really have much of a business.
And while I often talk about not relying on Google too much, you also should be doing everything you can to make sure you’re getting as much traffic as possible from the search giant.
In this post I’m going to talk about a few things Google really wants to see on your blog. Hopefully this will help you get more traffic by thinking about SEO a little bit differently.
SEO has changed… sort of
The art of search engine optimization has changed a lot since I first started blogging. Every year Google is getting better at assessing which site is worthy of front page positions.
But it’s also important to note that Google has also changed the type of content it wants to see on the front page.
For example, five years ago the top results were often dominated by old websites that had a lot of authority – some of the articles were 10+ years old. These days, however, you’re more likely to see some super fresh content from a few minutes ago up the top.
Take a look at this screenshot where things get even more confusing! Here you can see the search results for some coffee thing I was looking up where you have Wikipedia as the fresh result and then an aged article back from 1999! You can also see the other result where Google “borrows” a snippet from a blog and tries to answer the question on the search page itself.
Now let’s look at a search result where one of Google’s customers (people searching) might want to see one of many things. You’ve got the authoritative Wiki (if you don’t then you can create it with the help of HelpieWP its a plugin for creating Knowledge base pages), the fresh Tweets, the Schema Markup showing ratings, the long form reviews and then a bunch of “at a glance” content.
All of this is proof that SEO has changed.
Google is not looking for just one thing anymore – they’re looking for a variety of content that will suit myriad different people.
What does Google want to see on your blog?
In order to perform as well as possible in this new search environment we need to take certain steps to ensure that the content we produce is aligned with what Google wants to see. Here are some important things we can try to do:
1. Solid branding based in content
This seems like quite an “airy” thing to mention in a post about SEO but it really has become something that Google is looking for since the deadly Panda update. And in all the recent tweaks to this algorithm we saw a big shift towards established brands and websites.
What this indicates is that Google is really looking to send their customers to trusted sites only. Obviously they don’t want to send people to sketchy blogs with poor content, no visible author or company information, and loads of duplicate content!
The main thrust of the Panda update back in 2011 (and the subsequent tweaks) is that Google only wants websites with the highest quality content to make it to the top of the search results, even if all the other signals (like back links) are awesome.
This sets the scene for the following points I’m going to discuss.
2. Problem solving
The next update that I want to mention is the Hummingbird changes because it plays a huge role in how bloggers should think about their keywords and targeting.
This particular update changed the way Google looked at searches so they no longer emphasize keywords but instead look at the intention behind the search. For example, people searching for “acid reflux” might really be looking for “why do I have acid reflux?“, “what drugs treat acid reflux?“, etc.
We need to keep these variations in mind when crafting content.
The main crux of this point is that Google wants to direct people to websites that solve problems.
The more comprehensively you can solve that problem the better your website is going to rank. For example, if you take a look at the website ranking at the top for “how to choose a credit card” you’ll see the result has a huge amount of content, but also this nifty feature where you can select two cards and compare them side to side.
You simply check the boxes of the cards you’re interested in, click the compare button, and then you get a nice pop up showing you all the details. This website would be making millions from this ranking and it probably has a lot to do with this simple tool that cost them a few hundred or thousand to build and then maintain.
This is a very unique way to solve a problem for people looking at finance and, similarly, we need to figure out new ways to solve problems with the context of our own blogs.
3. Mobile-friendly designs and features
Earlier this year Google launched the mobile-friendly update. This was a bit of a weird one because they actually announced it beforehand and gave everyone enough time to get on board with the proposed changes.
The ideas is simple: if your blog isn’t mobile-friendly then there is less chance it will appear in search when people are using their mobile devices. And fair enough. Browsing a non-friendly website on your mobile can be a really fumbling and slow experience.
The best thing you can do here is ensure that you have a self-hosted blog with a responsive theme that automatically adjusts the size of your blog’s layout when it detects a tablet or mobile design. This is easy to do with WordPress and most themes these days are built to be responsive out of the box. You can test yours here.
That being said, there is so much more you need to think about than just a responsive theme. Carson Ward lays out some really interesting ideas in this post which I highly recommend you read.
4. A mix of back links
If you’re a blogger that is trying to grow a business online you’ve probably been thinking about back links for a while now. This is a little more “back end” than the other tips but I still want to mention it.
A good website will attract links from a variety of sources. For example, you might get mentioned on other blogs, new sites, YouTube videos, Twitter, and so forth. These mentions all create a picture of a very healthy, organic website in Google’s eyes.
This also goes one step further – the anchor text that is used is very important. In the old days you’d just build back links with the anchor text “blogging tips” if you wanted to rank for that particular keyword. Nowadays that’s a bit of a warning signal to Google because it looks like you’re intentionally trying to game the system.
When you do guest posts, forum posts, etc. make sure you always link to your blog in an organic and authentic way and don’t go overboard with the anchor text. Ensure that your links come from relevant websites, but also try to make sure it’s a wide variety of sources.
5. Multiple media formats that emphasize visual
If you do a quick search of the front page for almost any keyword you’ll notice that the top ranking posts generally have one thing in common: visual content. Sites like BuzzFeed are almost exclusively videos, gifs and memes with only a little bit of explaining text.
There’s a reason for this. As more and more people get mobiles and more and more mobiles get 4G and 5G cheap data, we’re seeing huge increases in the viewing of content that was previously slow to load. People love and they share it a lot. More shares usually equates to better rankings over time.
One of my favorite fitness sites, Strong Lifts, ranks number one on Google for almost every basic (and high traffic!) keyword to do with bodybuilding. In this article on how to deadlift you’ll see how much of it is images, videos and little comparison charts on correct and incorrect techniques.
The Australian ABC News regularly comes up with excellent visual content that performs really well. Have a look at this wonderful quiz that they did a while ago about Tony Abbott’s election promises. On a side note, I’m currently building something that will enable this type of quiz for WordPress blogs. 😉
6. Geographically targeted elements
When Google launched its Pigeon Update it signaled a big change towards more local results. The search giant wanted to use the GPS in your phone and WiFi location at home to help you get more locally relevant results when you look for services.
As the example above shows, searching for “pizza” in New York will get you totally different results then searching for “pizza” when you and your phone are in Los Angeles or New Jersey.
So what do we do?
Well, if your blog is intended to attract customers in a certain area you need to make sure you are really decked out to suit that area. Add your address to the website, have company information, be active on Google Maps by claiming your listing, and make sure you start replying to reviews on Yelp and other review services. You can even use Google Webmaster Tools to nominate a location for your blog or business.
7. I forgot this one…
I actually forgot to include my seventh point when I first published this post. Ironically, only one person seemed to notice! As punishment for this terrible blogging indiscretion I have decided to not add the seventh point but actually leave this little embarrassing note to remind me not to do it again.
How does your blog measure up?
How many of these items does your average blog post include? Do you think you’re faring well. More importantly, do you think I’ve missed anything in this post that might be really important for people who are looking at getting better Google rankings and traffic in 2015 and beyond?
Leave a comment below and please give it a share if you enjoyed the read.
Also read my blog on how to rank higher on Google.
Top image: © Photographer: Ojogabonitoo | Agency: Dreamstime.com
77 CommentsJoin in. The comments are closed after 30 days.
I think the way Google keeps switching things up to keep the best content being found is a great thing. It keeps marketers on their toes and makes us produce quality content because we don’t know what’s coming next.
I need to work on adding more visual content to my blog. I get okay search results for long-form articles but with the popularity of videos and instructional posts with pictures, I really should be getting on board. Not just for searches, but to please my readers (or viewers)!
Yeah, defo. One other cool thing about videos is that they seem way easier to rank than written content. Having a mix is a good thing.
Yeah, I remember you mentioning that in another post. Do you have any tips on getting started with visual content? I’m nervous about getting up in front of a camera and aren’t sure about just how to produce a quality video…
Might be worth checking out Periscope. It’s huge right now and there’s no expectation to use anything other than your phone.
Ah, good idea. I’ve had so many people recommend it to me – about time I jumped on board. I just have to cure my fear of cameras! They say it gets easier with practice though 😉
I just wondered how important articles now are. I have read a lot about spinning them and posting them widely. Is this important for google? Does anybody read 400 word articles?
What about “no follow” links? How important is it to have them in your posts?
I really only no follow link to affiliates to be honest. They still count, but not as much.
Still building my blog so I can start implementing these from the start without the disruption that others may have.
I have also noticed recently that Goole are beginning to place numbered lists in the top spot. So if your search query has asked for a process or perhaps asked for a how to solution, Google placing a boxed are with a numbered list inside it.
Not sure if this is a new thing or if it is something that I am only just noticing but it certainly seems to fit with your tack of Google wanting content that really helps and I suppose if it sees numbered lists within content then it assumes it to be a helpful guide of some sort.
Are we now to see blogs and websites with pages and pages of numbered howto lists? Would certainly be a good thing for beginners in any market.
Yeah you’re right. They’re taking a lot of information right off of the site and putting it in the search results. Seeing it everywhere.
Honestly I never took in account of these factors to rank my website but I was doing each and every of these stuffs to get better eesults and in past few months it did. As my blog is new therefore 2 months ago I was getting 2-10 organic visits per day but now I get more than 70 and hope will reach 100 at the end of the month . and it os converting so well that I am earning so well that I cam buy whatever I want to in just 200-250 visitors per day . but these points are really not to be missed
Always so much fabulous information, many many thank yous Ramsay! 🙂
There’s so much to consider while I’m getting my blog going! I wonder though, for someone like me, blogging mostly to build a current portfolio of writing and art, is the SEO as important?
Possibly not. It all depends on how you plan to promote yourself to clients and whether you’re local or not. For example, you might want to rank well for “art in New York” in which case SEO would be very important.
I wonder who made Google the “boss” of the internet in the first place? It does no good to try to please them, since they keep changing their rules in the first place. My take is that you are better off trying to get traffic without relying on them. A good technique is to develop an email list of your followers and remind them every so often that you are there. If you try cowtowing to Google you’ll never get much traffic.
I’ll have to respectfully disagree and agree with you there, Ron. We get millions of visitors from Google, I wouldn’t have a business without them. But, yes, growing a mailing list from that traffic is the best way to be insulated should something go wrong with the rankings. I think we need to focus on both Google and non-Google sources.
Dito to what Ramsay had to say in response.
In terms of internet marketing, Google are big brother (or the unavoidable middle man) and it is big brother who initially attracts the audience that bloggers and webmasters rely upon. It’s largely free so embrace it rather than slate it.
If you are a blogger or webmaster without a local audience or you run a static offline business who relies upon real interaction with ‘passing traffic’ and ‘footfall’ then your only real hope initially of any traffic and customers is via the search engines and all search engines base their own systems on Google so it pays to learn to play the game.
I completely agree with your sentiment about building a list and everyone should be doing it regardless of what Google does but that list can only be created if you have the traffic from Google in the first place, unless you are actively walking the streets taking numbers. Most traffic is routed one way or another through a search engine, regardless of the strategy you use to attract that traffic.
I run my own offline business so marketing in the traditional manner is second nature but still tough work. The internet and more specifically the search engines have made local search a breeze but if you are sat at home on a PC, Laptop or Mac trying to make a living by blogging then Google is your closest friend.
Like it or not, if your business is being run from a laptop then all avenues of lead generation must be implemented and it would be business suicide to ignore Google.
I think Google would bring the site that have both keywords and quality content. The thing that should be avoided is the duplication of the content. My blog has a small quantity of the content but it receives 50 visits on average daily. It also shows on first search page if keywords match.
Anyhow I have really learnt a lot from this post… Thanks for your time.
Glad it helped.
Great article, thanks for the info, but the rest of my comment has absolutely nothing to do with this article.
Why does your FB and Twitter shares show 0, although I believe other people shared and I shared as well?
Enjoy an awesome day
It has a cache that refreshes every 30 minutes or so. They should show up soon.
Great Post Ramsay, I am writing articles on my new blog and this post is very helpful for me . i always focus on organic traffic and what i am trying to say is i have been monitoring SERPS using the keywords i used in my article, its keep on changing.
Thanks for writing a great post like this. Really helpful
Yep, it is always changing.
It’s been a while I am following tour blog but its my first comment here. Thanks for such a wonderful post.
Google has been my favorite brand ever. From Google search to Google keep I am a great fan of Google products.
And coming Google search, its getting better day by day.
Google search engine, being a bot trying to behave a human and fetch information as a human.
But we are trying to behave as a bot by over doing SEO.
The only way to be a liked by Google is BE A HUMAN, CREATE CONTENT AS A HUMAN and TO HELP A HUMAN.
Thanks once again for such an incredible post.
Totally agree and I see this from a personal perspective of having a website for an offline business and building a blog as an online business. There is a stark SEO technical difference for them both.
My website for my offline business was created with content that served the user directly. No attention given to keywords used. No attention given to permalink structures. No attention given to ranking. No attention given to backlinks or article marketing or any of the plethora of advice given on most blog tutorial sites.
I used nothing but words that my potential customers associated with, understand and learn from. That site has absolutely no issues in being found and is on page one of Google. I didn’t intent or work at getting it there. It just is.
That is an issue with some of the blanket advice being given by many ‘gurus’ out there. (Ramsay not included). They are so focussed on giving advice that is primarily directed towards those operating in the MMO niche that they are giving advice that simply isn’t relevant or isn’t necessarily relevant to every business. Certainly isn’t relevant to my offline business that has absolutely none of the current SEO implemented. Go figure. It is a local site that serves a local region and Google love it because it is human.
I often sit back and question some of the SEO advice out there and wonder who it is actually benefitting.
Well, it’s perhaps not the only way but it is absolutely very important. Thanks for being an honest blogger!
Thank you for all the tips. I’m “only” a beginner and using Blogger. Learning everyday and especially how on writing a great title for my blogs.
Next step I want to change to WordPress and get affiliates.
Good luck on your journey!
Its always pleasure to read your articles as there are always something to learn. In this article I have noticed that you have provided couple of outbound links to high authority websites as dofollow. As this is a good thing I learned today from you, as I though its better to keep outbound articles no follow.
Just want to ask one thing, while providing outbound links is it harm to provide via any high cpc keywords?
Thanks for sharing your honest experiences always. 🙂
I never no-follow links unless it is an affiliate or a really untrusted website that I might need to mention for some reason.
Thanks for the link to check for mobile friendly design. I have never checked my websites before. It’s very helpful and and even offers advice on how to improve responsive design.
Yes it’s a great little service.
I don’t know but Google has started acting much like a human in recent days.
It seems like “it understands what it shows.”
Its no more the same as it was before like building a web of links or filling in ALT tags.
Although I’m not getting heavy traffic, I’m getting what I’ve worked for. Long quality content works, providing value works, being fair works.
Glad it’s working for you. There’s a lot of competition out there but in the long term we need something sustainable.
Thank you so much for all your wonderful advice! I am currently building a new website and honestly, my brain explodes just a little bit every time I read a new article of yours… but in good way! My site is an interior design blog focused on urban small footprint living and lifestyle, so naturally I am including a lot of pictures. When I import a picture into post or portfolio, there is an option to name the picture, and tag it, but I am not sure what the most search friendly naming convention might be. If I have 3 photos of different views of a living room, is it better to name them Living Room 1, 2 & 3? Or side view, long view, close up, etc? I am confused about whether redundant naming is a good thing or a bad thing for SEO these days. How do I handle the naming and SEO ranking of photos, or does it even matter?
It doesn’t matter too much, as long as it is relevant and related to the keyword you’re focusing on in that post and the URL.
A more important consideration for blogs like yours is ensuring the photos are beautiful and easily shareable on things like Pinterest.
Whew, that’s much easier than what I was anticipating.
Good points. It is good Google is always switching things up. Some people complain, but if you are doing everything without the purpose of “abusing” the system then you are fine.
Great list to keep on top of, love the article you linked to on moz about mobile responsive, good stuff!
Yeah Moz is the place to be!
Nice article but I think and in my opinion no one really can tell how Google ranks websites these days.
Although the points written down in this article will help at least in ranking your site most especially the point wherein sites should be designed mobile friendly. Take note, my daughter only uses her mobile devices when surfing the Internet. So if a site is not mobile friendly you lose a reader or two.
Every six months, I have observed that the websites on the first page of SERPs change especially for competitive keywords. Is it backlinks, social media, keyword optimization, etc.?
I guess no one can tell except Google itself.
Lastly, as you have mentioned and I have learned that lesson the hard way myself, don’t rely your traffic on Google alone.
I think you’d enjoy looking around Moz.com’s tools where you can see a pretty accurate portrayal of how the rankings change. It fluctuates regularly, sometimes daily.
Thanks for commenting.
Finally I found a post to leave a comment… Now I know why I couldn’t in other posts and pages. I understand (but not agree).
I don’t like to be invited to post a comment and then not to have the chance to do so, but at the same time I know it has to be pretty hard for you to keep links under control.
Best wishes and congrats for your blog’s quality.
Thanks for the feedback, Usana. I’ll add a note saying explaining it on each post.
For sure the search landscape is totally changing. I read something about some tests in the USA for service based queries and the results on the first page being dominated by paid listings.
Perhaps, a sign of things to come.
The question remains will the punters eventually realise that Google is just handing their eyeballs over to the highest bidder?
Yeah I think that is probably the way things are going. Although, too many ads will really erode the quality of their search engine for most people.
I’ve been using the Yoast SEO plugin to get the basics sorted easily. It gives you a rating and checklist of how to improve SEO at the the bottom of each post. Has anyone else tried it? Got any feedback?
It’s one of the most popular and well-loved plugins of all time. Very good choice!
I think Google consider backlinks more seriously. When genuine backlinks can boost up a blog, spammy backlinks can ruin it thoroughly.
I had a tech blog which was performing well in Google results. But suddenly my ranking dropped without any apparent reason. When I logged into webmasters tool, there were about 800 spammy links directed towards my blog. I had no other option except changing the domain name.
Honestly, I don’t know how this happened or who linked them. But now I know that bad links hurt more than a dog-bite.
So keep watching your back my dear bloggers! Google never want to see spammy links to your blog.
Did you try using Google’s disavow tool?
I found those links very recently and I was already planning to change the domain name for a better branding. (The domain name was way too similar to one of those established websites). Also, I was very busy with completing my masters and didn’t get time to look after it.
Now I am trying to start it over, slowly but professionally.
By the way, I am a regular reader of your blog, and I really like the way you write.
Thank you for inspiring me.
I’m glad you enjoy it. Thanks for the kind words.
The thing I dig so much about Google and your awesome post is that they’re bringing things back to the fundamentals. That’s awesome, and it’s how things should be. Brand your blog. Create value. Solve problems. Link up and link out.
These are things which are most helpful to our audiences so why not do them?
I am doubling down on branding these days. More than that I am doing the long form, in-depth comment bit because I enjoy writing such posts. When you think about it, most of us really enjoy to over deliver, to help and to serve so it works both for us and for our audiences and of course, for Google too. Why did I skip on the long form, problem solving for so long?
I feared losing out on traffic by posting infrequently. I feared out on not reaching as many folks and not making as much money through blogging. Since I gave in to these fears I struggled for a long time and goodness knows that I did not see a sniff of Google traffic but by shifting things in the past 3 weeks I am noting a surge of social shares, readers and all that good stuff and I would not be surprised to see Google traffic down the road.
Google’s getting back to the basics. Folks can’t game search engines anymore and if they do sneak through they can’t do it for long. I love it because sticking to such business fundamentals works so well offline, so Google is finally coming around to reward bloggers who follow these same fundamentals online. Things are coming full circle, which works for me.
It’s weird; for the longest time I saw my blog as a thing and people as numbers and I tried – and failed – to manipulate the blog thing and people numbers to get what I wanted. Google actually used to reward this crap which was nutz and although I never cashed in on black hat tactics I did have some success during these lost years, if you will. I never felt good about it though. I felt empty, manipulating to get.
I feel 100% better now and more than that I am building my blog on fundamentals which bring me near and long term success. And Google sure digs what I’m doing too….even if search traffic is flowing in slowly.
Fab post Ramsay.
Thanks much for sharing.
Ah the good old days, few backlinks and an exact match domain name and you were set!
This is what I needed at this moment! I have set up a new blog recently and this type of advice is what I am looking for.
I definitely agree with the points you have made. I also made my peace about publishing content. If I publish useful and shareable information, I will rank higher than others. I just have to publish great content and put it in front of the people.
I’m glad it helped!
Cool article bro!
Couple of things spot on
Where can i find number 7. ? 😛
Haha.. smart lad!
While SEO may remain somewhat a mystery as to exactly what Google are looking for. The place I often start is by checking that I’m following most of their page guidelines and checking my sites through the Google page insights scanner:
If they’re recommending something needs fixing on your site, then it might be worth listening.
I love natural.
I think your blog is truly one of those rare diamonds on the internet. Taking all the complexities of blog building (such as seo, wordpress, etc) and making it easy to understand.
(also I apologize for the double comment here and on twitter). I’m a recent fan 😀
Glad you’re enjoying it. Means a lot to me.
hahaha I’ve done the “forget a point” thing too. I ended up opening it up to readers to fill in their idea 😉
That is a better idea than what I did! Ha.
When Google first released the animals my well performing sites were totally wiped out. I have recently decided to have another go so many thanks for all the info.
Did you ever determine the reason for that?
Although I was promoting genuine products I was guilty of keyword stuffing, dubious links etc, etc, many things that Google took exception to. Unfortunately, because of many othet things going on in my life then I did not have the time or energy to address the issues so gave up.
C’est la vie
Being a social media marketing guy, I thoroughly appreciate your article. I even linked to it from a web page and from Twitter. I sure wish you would add point #7.
It will remain a mystery forever! HA.
Have a heart. I linked to you from Twitter & my blog &, I think, from Digg. You owe me something. Go into your archives and find the seventh thing Google wants to see on my blog.
[…] Source link […]
Great information! Quality content with keywords in blog post is necessary but adding visuals and videos engage the readers.
Well explained post. With all the updates to algorithm big G wants only the quality site which benefits the readers. I did make some of the mistakes and my site completely vanished. However, I recovered after hitting back to the basics.
How long did it take to come back?
Where do they even come up with the names for these things? Lol. I understand “panda” and “penguin” (because there’s “blackhat” and “whitehat” SEO) but why pigeon?
Hey Terence. Actually, the Panda update name came from Navneet Panda who was one of the engineers who worked on the update! Weird huh?