If you’re in an online business, you need to understand something about Google that seems to escape a lot of people.

Google is not the enemy. Google has not set out to destroy businesses. On the other hand, Google is not your friend, either. Google is there for your customer. Not for you.

Google has changed since its early days, and SEO has changed with it

Things have changed a great deal in the search engine business since

Google first set up shop. What Google set out to do in its early days was to warehouse URLs (the individual addresses of websites). To do that, it looked for keywords on each web page.

Then, if someone looked online for one of those keywords, Google fished the relevant URLs out of its repository and slapped them on the screen. This is where the SEO tool got its start: find out what keywords were most searched for, and put them in a webpage. The quality of the content didn’t much matter. Nor did the quality
of the images (if there even were any images). Identify which keywords people you want to sell to look for (and the best SEO tools would tell you that), put them on your webpage, and hey presto!

Customers! It isn’t like that now. If your SEO rank checker tool says your site ranks high for a chosen keyword, you’re doing a lot more than just using the right keywords.

The Google algorithm

In the old days, you might search for something online and find that only ten websites had the answer. You could make that same search today, and the responding websites would be in their thousands.

Google needs a way to “rank” all those websites – to say, “These are the websites that best match your search. These are the ones you should look at.” And they have a way. It’s the famous Google algorithm.

Reality is that most people won’t look beyond – at the very most – the first two pages of results that Google shows them. That’s why SEO rank checker tools exist. You use them to find out how high, among all the competing sites, your site will place.

So, what in the algorithm?

But what’s in that algorithm? What does Google look for? How does Google decide which sites to rate highest in their results?

Today, it isn’t just keywords. There are a number of factors in the algorithm, and all of them are important, but some are more important than others.

Google guards the contents of its algorithm closely. They give out occasional hints, but they don’t spell it out. A lot of reverse engineering goes on, with people studying how a change in a website is reflected in the site’s ranking. The result is that we know quite a lot about what Google looks for.

Google saw people cheating. And Google didn’t like it

“Cheating” is probably not the word that the people doing it would use. It is the word Google would use, and they are the ones with the power. What Google wanted was to encourage high quality websites. What they saw was websites “stuffed” with keywords. “Link farms,” where an interconnected range of websites exist for no other purpose than to provide backlinks. (We’ll get to backlinks in a moment). Comments that weren’t really about the website at all. Meaningless content. And a lot of other things besides.

Google wants a world of good websites

If an SEO rank checker tool finds that a site is highly ranked in comparison with its competitors, you can bet it’s a good site. Good from the following viewpoints:

  • It contains high-quality content
  • It contains high-quality images
  • It links to what Google regards as “authority websites” – and authority websites link to it (those are “backlinks”)

Today, Google also looks for two other things that it didn’t value so highly in the past:

  • The site can be viewed on any kind of device from a small handheld to a 64-inch television. Mobility is increasingly important
  • It does not take long to load

You might wonder how an artificial intelligence (AI) algorithm can measure the quality of the content and images and whether the site is readable. That’s easy: it’s the bounce rate.

Google looks at how long people stay on the site. If they leave quickly, the site’s rating goes down. If they stay, and move from post to post and page to page, the rating goes up. That is also why backlinks from authority websites are important. If a website regarded as authoritative on a particular subject carries a link to your website, it is saying that your website is important in this matter.

Why does Google care about these things? For the reason we gave you at the beginning. Google is on the customer’s side. Google wants visitors to websites to have a good experience there.

Keywords still matter

Following the way the Google algorithm has changed over the last couple years (and is still changing), you may hear that keywords no longer matter.

Ignore that. It isn’t true. The keywords are still the way Google knows what the site is about. When you use an SEO rank checker tool to compare your site’s performance with others, keyword score will be the most important factor.

It is not, though, a good idea to stuff keywords into your H1, H2, and H3 headers. Google sees that, and it doesn’t like it.

Content matters, too

Google will reward a site that keeps visitors on it for a while, and what does that is the quality of the content.

It needs to be well written by someone who is a native speaker of whatever language it’s written in. It should be broken down into paragraphs, and the paragraphs should be fairly short.

Pay attention to the font. Make sure it’s attractive and easily readable. Use images, make sure they are relevant, and don’t steal them.

Which reminds us: whatever you do, don’t copy someone else’s text. If there’s one thing Google hates, it’s plagiarism.

If Google thinks you’ve stolen someone else’s work, they’ll do something worse to you than just push you down the rankings. They’ll blacklist you. It won’t matter how relevant your text is – no one will ever find it by searching Google.

The importance of infographics

An infographic is a marvelous way to combine good text – which you need – with good images – which you also need. It’s also a superb way to keep visitors’ interest, because it enables you to get across a message that, otherwise, might require a huge number of words. And huge numbers of words bore people. And bored visitors leave the website, which has the exact opposite effect from the one you need. Your bounce rate goes up and your Google ranking down.

What about social networking?

Social networking is increasingly used by the Google algorithm as a way of measuring your site’s popularity. How many times is it linked to on Facebook? How often does someone tweet about it? Don’t forget, though, that Google is a commercial enterprise, and it has its own social network, which is Google+. Google+ links get extra brownie points. If you’re not already using Google+, you should be. Start today.

It’s a hard, competitive world out there

According to Netcraft, there are currently more than a hundred million websites active in the world. The same source tells us that the number of registered host names exceeds 1 billion. A huge percentage of these sites are trying to sell something. For a significant number, what they are trying to sell is what you are trying to sell. You have competition, my friend. It’s getting harder. And if you aren’t working better than they are, they’ll win and you’ll lose. Notice: we didn’t say “working harder.” We said, “working better.” What you do has to be better than what the competition is doing. So how do you keep score? How do you know how well you’re doing? Time to talk about an SEO audit.

What you can learn from an SEO audit

SEO audit and a good SEO rank checker tool are two aspects of the same thing: the tool, if it’s a good one, carries out the audit and tells you what the result is. Do you need an SEO audit? Well – when someone who might become your customer searches for a product or service like yours, do you always come at the top of Google’s search results? No? You need an SEO audit.

Here’s what you should learn from the audit:

  • The starting point should be a site crawl. This will tell you everything that Google has indexed about your site. If there’s some important aspect of what you do or what you sell that Google has not indexed, you need to know. Then, when you do know, you need to fix it. But you can’t fix what you don’t know about
  • How fast do the pages load? This is becoming more and more important to Google, and therefore to you. There are various things you can do to fix a slow-load problem but, once again, you can’t fix it till you know it’s there
  • What are the backlinks? How authoritative are they? Would you be better off without them? Or do you need to make it a priority to get more? The audit will tell you where you stand right now
  • What keywords are you using? Even more important, what keywords are your competitors using? Most important of all, what keywords are being used by those competitors who are ranking higher than you?
  • If it comes to that, how does the traffic you are seeing compare with the traffic your competitors are getting? Are you a front runner? One of those leading the bunch? Or are you straggling along at the back? Enjoying a banquet, or picking up the crumbs others leave?
  • What are your social signals like? In other words, how are your links to the various social networking sites?
  • How good does your site look on a mobile device? This is important now, and Google has already let it be known that it will be even more important in the future.

Give yourself the edge with a top-class audit tool

Right now, there’s a special offer on an SEO rank checker tool. You can get a package that would normally cost you $197 for a one-time fee of $19.99.

And not just any package. SEOPop will give you insights into how your site is performing on all the criteria listed above and quite a few more. You’ll get an overall SEO report card, but you’ll also get detailed information on all of the areas that need attention. Actionable information. You’ll find out what you’re doing right, where you’re going wrong, and how to fix it.

But don’t dawdle.

The offer won’t be there forever. And neither might you be, if you stand back and let your competitors make the running.

More than a hundred years ago, when the first Americas Cup was being competed for off the south coast of England, one of her equerries told the watching Queen Victoria the name of the winner. “And who,” asked Her Majesty, “is in second place?”

“Ma’am,” came the reply. “There is no second place.”

You’d better believe it.