You’ve just typed something into Google expecting your website to pop up. But it doesn’t. You search the next page, the next page, and the page after that. Nothing!
Chances are you rely on your website to generate business. Without those leads or customers coming from Google, a big chunk of your potential revenue has just evaporated. So where has your website disappeared to?
First, a background on Google. Google exists to provide the most relevant answers to a user’s search query. For example, if someone were to type in “Painter Subiaco”, Google will try and find websites about Painters in Subiaco. A Painter in Cottesloe probably won’t show up on the first page, neither would a Plumber in Subiaco, because they aren’t relevant to the search query. Google needs to make sure it provides the most relevant answer to its users, otherwise people won’t use Google.
Relevance x Reputation x Social = Rank
The algorithm that Google uses to determine which sites to rank where (from first page to beyond) uses thousands of different factors, which are constantly being refreshed. No one except Google itself knows exactly how it works, and anyone that claims they do is lying. However, we do understand broadly that Google ranks sites based on three overarching factors – Relevance, Reputation, and in more recent years, Social.
Relevance is simple – how relevant your website is in relation to the search query. Let’s pretend you are a Subiaco based Painter. In our example, with the search query “Painter Subiaco", a website from a Painter based in Subiaco (you) would be relevant – because it is about Painting services, in Subiaco. This factor is boosted the more you talk about or include content about Painting in Subiaco on your website.
Having a regularly updated blog is a great on-page factor to do this. There are other slightly more technical on-page relevance factors too, such as title tags, H1 tags, meta descriptions, and alt tags. Site architecture and load speed are factors too.
Reputation is basically how popular your website is on the Internet. The more “popular” a website is, the more valuable the information contained within must be. This assumption has proven fairly successful in practice, as search engines like Google have continued to increase user satisfaction by using metrics that interpret popularity.
Your website becomes more popular by people linking to your site, creating what is known as backlinks. If another website contains a link which leads back to your site, that is a backlink. If a news site or blog wrote an article about your business, and included a link at the bottom of the article back to your site, that is a backlink. If one of your clients or partners wrote a testimonial about your services on their website and included a link to your site, that is a backlink. If someone talks about you on Facebook or any other form of social media, and includes a relevant link – that is a backlink.
Social is actually a subset of Reputation, and includes backlinks from social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn. However, in recent years social media has become so prominent that it should now be considered a significant ranking factor on its own.
Actively updated and popular social media accounts that encourage consistent user engagement and activity create an online “buzz” about your business, which Google assesses as a positive Reputation signal.
A caveat, in relation to the above factors is that keeping them as natural as possible is paramount. Google is very, very intelligent at identifying when a website is trying to abuse these factors in order to rank higher on the search engine results. For example, it will notice you abusing the Relevance factor by containing the phrase “Painter Subiaco” hundreds of times unnaturally throughout your website, or gaming the Reputation factor by manually creating thousands of spammy backlinks all over the internet leading back to your site. Doing these things will result in Google actually penalising a website by removing it from the search engine results completely. Quality over quantity is what Google values!
So why has my site disappeared?
Like I mentioned already, no one knows exactly how Google works, so I can’t tell you exactly why your website ranking has dropped. However, I would place my bets on your website's weakness in one of these two factors. More likely than not, if your website looks good and has plenty of useful, relevant content, you’re lacking in the Reputation factor, with not enough quality domains linking back to your site.
But why the sudden drop? We can only attribute this to a change in Google’s algorithm. If your website was doing well before the drop due to strength in the Relevance or Reputation factor, a change in the algorithm seems to have resulted in your website falling down. Unfortunately, we cannot control Google and the algorithm updates it decides to roll out.
It should be noted that if your competitors are carrying out SEO for their websites, they are likely to rank higher than you if their Relevance factor is similar to yours but their Reputation factor is higher.
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation, which is the process of affecting the visibility of a website in a search engine's "natural" or un-paid ("organic") search results. An important aspect of SEO is making your website easy for both users and search engines to understand. Although search engines have become increasingly sophisticated, in many ways they still can't see and understand a web page the same way a human does. SEO helps the engines figure out what each page is about, and how it may be useful for users.
SEO isn't just about getting the technical details of search-engine friendly web development correct. It's also about marketing. This is perhaps the most important concept to grasp about the functionality of search engines. You can build a perfect website, but its content can remain invisible to search engines unless you promote it. This is due to the nature of search technology, which relies on the metrics of relevance and reputation to display results.
The "tree falls in a forest" adage postulates that if no one is around to hear the sound, it may not exist at all - and this translates perfectly to search engines and web content. Put another way - if no one links to your website content, the search engines may choose to ignore it.
Google itself has no inherent gauge of quality and no potential way to discover fantastic pieces of content on the web. Only humans have this power - to discover, like, comment and link to. Thus, great content cannot simply be created - it must be shared and talked about. Search engines already do a great job of promoting high quality content on websites that have become popular, but they cannot generate this popularity - this is a task for SEO.
If you’d like to know more about Google, search engines, SEO or anything else related to all things online, give the Digital Marketing team at Clue Design a call on 9368 0777 today!