Search engines like Google use many different factors to decide how and where they're going to rank your website in search listings. Does your web designer know what they are?
Google Search uses an algorithm that takes into account hundreds of factors that change slightly from time to time. In order to deter abuse, Google only publicizes some of these factors.
This list is a summary of just a few factors that Google Search considers when ranking websites. Some of these factors are more important than others, but an experienced, knowledgeable web designer strives to incorporate as many of these into your website as possible to make it more search friendly.
- Age: Older domain names and websites rank better than newer.
- Registration Length: Register your domain name for as many years as you can (5-10 years is better than 1-3 years, as it tells Google that your company is in it for the long haul).
- Domain Length: Strive for shorter, more concise domains. For instance, for the company "Joe's Excavating LLC", the domain "joesexcavating.com" could have a slight edge over "joesexcavatingllc.com".
- Domain Keywords: Your domain name should contain your keyword(s). For instance, the domain "joesexcavating.com" is better than "joesllc.com" (although the second, shorter domain is best for business cards, trucks, shirts, etc., and can be forwarded to your main domain).
- Exact Match: For the company "South Jersey Excavating", the domain "southjerseyexcavating.com" is better than "southjerseyexcavators.com".
- Page Address Length: Strive for shorter, more concise page addresses. For instance, the URL "www.joesexcavating.com/excavating.html" is better than "www.joesexcavating.com/
- Page Address Keywords: The page address "joesexcavating.com/excavating.html" is much better than "joesexcavating.com/ page1.html".
As of April 2015, Google made mobile friendliness a "major ranking factor". This means NON mobile-friendly websites are getting pushed to the bottom of rankings, especially on mobile devices. Luckily, 90% of websites built since around 2017 are mobile-friendly (and if your web designer did NOT make your 2017+ website mobile-friendly, shame on them!)
NAP (Name, Address, Phone)
If your company name is associated with a different phone number in other online locations than the phone number on your website, or if the address doesn't match, or if the company name is different, Google may drop your website in its rankings. This is a very important search ranking factor. So if your website says, "Joe's Excavating, LLC", your Google My Business listing says, "Joe's Excavating, Inc.", and your Facebook page says, "Joseph's Excavating", that's a problem.
Each page should have a different title tag, and the title should contain at least one keyword. So if the company name is "Joe's Excavating", a good title might be "Joe's Excavating - South Jersey" or even "South Jersey Excavating" (in which case the company name would go in the Description Tag). Search engines only show a maximum of around 65 to 78 characters of a title tag, and you shouldn't make the tag longer than that.
This is a summary sentence that describes your products and services and your geographical region, as well as important keywords. Search engines show a maximum of around 160 characters, but "may" show up to 300, so you should keep the number of characters within that limit. Keywords in the description tag should also match some of the keywords throughout the web page, particularly those within the first few sentences of the page. And the description tag must be in complete sentences rather than just words.
- Quality Content: The text on your website should be helpful and describe your company and services, rather than just "marketing fluff" (everybody says they provide top-notch work and the best customer service!).
- Amount of Text: The more text, the better, but to a point. Too much text can bore readers. And pages consisting of only images will not rank well.
- Original Content: Your text should be original, not copied from someone else's website. In fact, Google Search may remove pages with duplicate or plagiarized content from their listings.
- Grammar and Spelling: Avoid misspellings and poor grammar.
- Reading Level: Wording should be at a basic reading level, rather than advanced, technical, or overly sophisticated.
Page Loading Speed
Websites that load quickly rank better than those with slow loading pages (WordPress websites often load very slowly).
Search engines prefer websites with recently updated content that's frequently updated (at least once every few weeks, even if you're just changing a few words around).
Images and Videos
Sites with images and videos rank better than those without. Websites with embedded YouTube videos rank even better, especially since Google owns YouTube.
Website Layout, Pages, and Coding
- User Friendly and Organized: Website layout should be user-friendly, organized, and easy to navigate.
- Number of Pages: The more pages on your website, the better, but to a point. A 4-page website may be better than a 3-page website, but a 20-page website is not necessarily better than a 15-page website. Three pages is the "bare" minimum that Google likes to see, which is why those really long one-page websites that look like multiple page sites don't rank well.
- Coding Errors: Coding errors, code that strays too far from W3C coding standards, and proprietary coding (such as those used by template websites and WordPress) may not rank well.
- Bulleted and Numbered Lists: For some reason, Google likes bulleted or numbered lists.
- Broken Links: Make sure links on your website are working, and that the content you're linking to is available.
- Image Alt Tags: Alt tags added to images help search engines determine what the image is about, since Google can't "read" images.
- H1 Tags: An H1 tag in the body of the page is considered a "secondary title tag". H1 tags rank better than non-H1 text. H2 and H3 tags are also important.
Add your company's contact information (phone and address, or at least phone, city and state) to the website. But never put your email address on your website, as spam bots scour the internet looking for email addresses to add to spam databases. You could end up getting inundated with spam. An email contact form is a much better solution if you want prospective customers to email you.
- Company Social Media Profiles: Companies with social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.) rank better than those without.
- Social Media Shares: The more shares, likes, posts, tweets, comments, etc. on social websites about your website, the better.
- Age and Rank: Shares and likes from high-ranking and older Twitter and Facebook accounts count more than those from newer or unpopular accounts.
A sitemap.xml file helps search engines effectively and accurately index your website, and is utilized by Google Search Console.
Google Search Console and Google Analytics
Google Search Console is VERY important in helping your website rank better in Google Search, and Google Analytics can be quite helpful as well.
Backlinks (Incoming Links from other websites)
- Quantity: The more incoming links your website has from other websites, the better. Very important factor.
- Quality: Links from high-ranking, popular, reputable websites are better than those from low-ranking websites, and backlinks from "link farms" or other low-quality sites can actually hurt your search ranking.
- Age and Popularity: Backlinks from older and/or popular websites are better than those from newer websites.
Bounce rate measures how quickly a visitor "bounces" off your website. You can find your website's bounce rate through your Google Analytics account. A high bounce rate is not ideal. Bounce rate can be high if the website is outdated or not displaying properly, is difficult to navigate, or contains uninteresting content. Videos, images, and interesting content keep the user on the website longer, lowering the bounce rate. Bounce rate can also be high, however, if a lot of spammy websites visit your website, which is something your web designer can't control.
Domain Authority and Page Rank
These are scores that used to be meaningful in determining your website's popularity, but in the mid 2000's they fell out of favor and are no longer used to judge your website. Yet some website analysis reports still include them because they sound important. If a company claims that your website has a low Google page rank, that's a red flag... not for your website, but for the company trying to sell you their services!
User Reviews and Website Reputation
Negative reviews on Google My Business (the map section at the top of Google Search) can affect your website's search ranking.