It seems like a pretty simple question, and it’s one we hear quite a lot at Mogul. After all, who doesn’t want that top spot?
Actually, that’s the problem. The entire world wants that spot, so if there was anything you could do to guarantee it, Google would be clogged with spam sites carefully crafted to game the system.
That would be annoying for you and a disaster for Google, which is why the specific details of their search ranking algorithms are a closely-guarded secret (we know quite a lot about PageRank, but that’s only part of the mix).
Google’s own advice is simple: forget about trying to game the system, and focus on making a great site with lots of original content. A good search ranking will follow naturally.
So what makes a great site?
Even though we don’t know Google’s precise formulas, we do know they look at just about every aspect of your site: its age, domain name, freshness of content, HTML and page structure, accessibility, response time, social sharing, incoming links, “authoritativeness” (e.g. government domain names) … the list goes on.
There’s a lot of debate (naturally, it’s the internet) about which of these factors are most important, or whether they are factors at all.
Search engine optimisation (SEO) the part-science, part-art practice of making your site as accessible to search engines as possible, with the aim of increasing your visibility.
It’s a giant topic, but for a good primer see Google’s own SEO starter guide.
Small tweaks and optimisations can make a big difference, but the single most important factor is content. Nothing beats original content, especially if you publish new material regularly.
A simple blog can outperform the most carefully-crafted marketing site simply because the blog provides value to readers, so they keep coming back.
What about other search engines?
In June 2013, Google had almost exactly two thirds of the entire search engine market, according to comScore.
Microsoft’s Bing was at 17.9% and industry old-timer Yahoo at 11.4%
“19.2 billion … searches were conducted in June, with Google Sites ranking first with 12.8 billion. Microsoft Sites ranked second with 3.4 billion searches, followed by Yahoo! Sites with 2.2 billion, Ask Network with 524 million and AOL, Inc. with 253 million.”
That makes it pretty clear where to focus your efforts, but almost everything you do for Google will benefit your position on the alternative search engines too.
You don’t even need a website to do some basic SEO for your company or organisation.
If you haven’t already, head over to Google Places for Business and claim your listing for free.
This data feeds through to other services like Google Maps and Google Search – in fact you can get a giant search result which takes up half of the top of a Google Search screen when people search for your company name.
That’s a pretty good return for a few minutes spent claiming the listing.
We haven’t even scraped the surface of the subject, but you can see why getting to #1 is not as straightforward as it might seem.
Feel free to contact Mogul if you’d like to discuss your site’s SEO performance.