What does Google want? We’re not ashamed to admit that this question keeps the Leeds SEO Agency up at night. We have seen websites rise and fall with Google algorithm changes, sometimes with no rhyme or reason or logic behind their movement.
What we can say with accuracy is that Google wants to return the highest-quality search engine results for its users.
This has led to Google being utterly fixated on user experience (UX). Websites that demonstrate a deep understanding of their users and what they need do well in Google. But there are also technical elements that Google wants.
The grey area in all of this is how Google determines what is high quality, but thankfully, we do have some solid clues to go on.
Getting started with SEO
If you are just beginning your SEO journey, then before you read on, Google has published webmaster guidelines to show up in Google search.
These webmaster guidelines cover general advice, content-specific guidelines and quality guidelines. We recommend reading them to get an understanding of what Google looks for and wants from your website to begin with.
Google has also published an SEO starter guide. It’s a long read, but it contains best practices, tips and advice from the horse’s mouth.
Below, we’ll cover what Google wants in greater detail to help you get your website to the top of Google. If you have any questions fire away.
How Google ranks websites
The Google algorithm is based on three pillars:
If websites don’t have these three pillars, they don’t do well in Google. Here’s a little bit more about these three pillars:
This refers to topical relevance (content) and industry relevance (niche). Your content needs to address the needs and concerns of your audience.
This refers to website security (https), authenticity (unique content) and business legitimacy (address, registered company number, contact information).
This refers to the authority of your domain, which is largely determined by the quality and quantity of the external domains linking to you (backlinks).
Based on these three pillars and Google’s own guidelines and algorithm announcements, there are several things we know Google wants.
Google wants relevance
Google’s algorithms analyse the content of webpages to assess whether they contain information that’s relevant to searchers.
If your webpages don’t contain relevant information, they will never rank.
Relevance is achieved by mentioning keyword terms and phrases in content. These include primary keywords (e.g. Nike shoes), secondary keywords (e.g. Nike shoes size 8) and phrases (e.g. what are the best Nike shoes for running?).
You will need to perform keyword research to determine the best keywords for your business. You should target keywords you have a good chance of ranking for, rather than the big hitters that have too much competition.
For a typical query, there are thousands, even millions, of web pages, so your web pages need to be optimised perfectly to compete.
Google wants optimisation
Google doesn’t just want optimisation — it needs it to determine relevance. We know this because Google says as such in its own SEO guide.
Webpage optimisation includes the following factors:
- Page title
- Meta description*
- Headings (H1, H2, H3, H3)
- Keyword density
- Schema markup (if required)
*Meta descriptions are not a Google ranking factor, but they are your only opportunity to entice clicks.
Optimising your website for keywords is the first step to satisfying Google because it enables Google to determine relevance. Relevance and optimisation go hand-in-hand and will fuel your entire on-site SEO strategy.
Google wants high-quality content
High-quality content is unique, free from grammatical errors, relevant, non-spammy (no keyword stuffing) and properly formatted (with headings and paragraphs).
The length of your content only matters in context. For example, if Google likes to rank articles that are over 1,000-words in length for your chosen keyword, you will also want to create articles that are over 1,000-words in length.
In addition to the above factors, you will also need to mention keywords and phrases within your content so that Google picks up on relevance.
Here are some content ideas:
- Articles and blog posts
- Case studies
- White papers (research papers)
- PDF downloads
- Infographics and images
- Videos (optimised and published on YouTube)
Google wants mobile-friendly web design
Google made mobile-friendly website design a ranking factor in 2015.
The original update only affected search rankings on mobile devices, but nearly 60 percent of all online searches are now carried out on a mobile device. Some sectors like retail see up to 80 percent of search traffic come from mobile.
Here are some tips for mobile-friendly web design:
- Make your website responsive
- Use large font sizes
- Use big CTA buttons
- Make your website fast
- Don’t auto play media
- Ditch pop-ups and dialogue boxes
- Ditch flash
- Create logical navigation menus
- Use internal links in content
- Make your webpage sizes as small as possible
Google wants websites that are fast
Google made webpage speed a ranking factor in 2018.
Importantly, speed is a ranking factor for landing pages in Google Search and Ads, making it an important area of action for all kinds of business.
Google has its own performance audit metrics for website performance. You can use these free Google tools to evaluate your website’ performance:
For a green light, you want to achieve a 90-100 score on desktop and mobile. An orange light, scored at 50–89, is the minimum for Google.
Google wants websites that are secure
Google made HTTPS a ranking factor in 2014.
HTTPS is an encrypted web protocol that protects the integrity and confidentiality of data between your user’s computer and your website.
You can enable HTTPS on your website by installing an SSL certificate. This security certificate will create an encrypted connection. You can get an SSL certificate from your web host, who may offer it for free or charge you for it.
Once you’ve installed an SSL certificate, the URL of your website will changed to a https prefix and you will get a padlock symbol in your web browser URL bar.
The padlock symbol is a sign of trust. It will confirm to your users that your website is secure and trustworthy to use.
Google wants high-quality, relevant websites that are fast and easy to use across all devices so that their users get the best user experience.
The ranking factors in this article cover only a snapshot of what Google wants. There are literally hundreds more tips and tricks, from building up your domain authority to internal link structure, pillar pages and creating citations.
Get in touch if you would like a chat about your SEO. We help online businesses dominate Google and we can help you do the same.
I have been walking the talk with SEO for 18 years and have money-generating web businesses of my own. My background is real-world business and marketing. Search engine optimisation is not black art. If you want your website to do better, contact me.