Did you know 93% of all online experiences begin on a search engine? With a stat like this, you can’t ignore your search engine rankings.
But how do you improve your Google positioning without risking penalties?
In this guide, we’ll provide you with an understanding of how Google ranks websites and how you can improve your standings in the top search engine without engaging in what’s known as black hat SEO.
Keep reading to learn how to improve your rankings.
How Does Google Rank?
The top organic position on Google’s SERP (search engine results page) takes home 33% of search traffic. After that, traffic share significantly decreases for spot number two and subsequent ranking positions.
But how does a search engine like Google decide how to rank sites?
They have a secret algorithm. Before you feel frustrated with this secrecy, remember it helps you as much as it helps them.
By keeping the algorithm secret, Google is able to perform search engine ranking fairly, which benefits businesses and consumers alike.
We do know some things about the algorithm because sometimes, Google releases major updates and publicizes those updates. If you’ve heard of the Mobile-friendly Update, Pigeon, Hummingbird, or Penguin, you’ve heard of some of the major algorithm changes over the last handful of years.
Google sites ranking based on these and other algorithm updates we know of have prioritized the following:
- Websites that offer mobile-friendly use
- Local search utilizing Google Maps and the Local 3-pack
- An understanding of user intent and search context
- Ridding their top results of unnatural links
- Ridding their index of private blog networks (PBNs)
What we do know about the algorithm is that it changes frequently. It’s been estimated that the algorithm updates more than once a day.
And we know that use of black hat tactics can get your site penalized or banned.
One way to start on the path toward white hat SEO is to keep up with checking your site ranking like these popular domains.
Keep reading to find out how to avoid black hat tactics and improve your rankings at the same time.
What Is Black Hat SEO?
There are several different hats you can wear when you perform search engine optimization or SEO. The whole point of SEO is to improve your organic search ranking.
But there’s a right way to do it and a wrong way. There’s white hat SEO, which follows a search engine’s terms of service.
White hat SEO can–and usually does–require more patience. It can take months or even a year or more to see significant improvements in organic traffic.
Black hat SEO, on the other hand, can bring fast results. It does so by breaching the terms of service to improve Google search engine ranking.
Some black hat SEO practices include:
- Buying links
- Spammy guest posting
- Keyword stuffing
- Cloaking and doorway pages
- Hidden text
These are just some of the common black hat tricks. Then there’s grey hat SEO, which involves tactics not clearly sanctioned or not in a search engine’s terms of service.
Both black and grey hat SEO leave you at risk for penalties. Only white hat SEO tactics can help you improve organic rankings without risking being penalized or banned.
All of our suggestions in the next section are white hat tactics and strategies. They will all require your patience and dedication, but the results can be rewarding.
How To Improve Your Google Positioning
How can you improve your keyword search results? The best place to start is to know where you are.
We’ll discuss how to get your benchmarks and then guide you through a process to help you on the path to white hat search engine ranking optimization.
How Do You Rank Now?
You won’t know where you’re going until you know where you’ve been. For this reason, we recommend you begin your white hat SEO journey with finding out how you rank for specific keywords like the sites in this ranking directory.
A free ranking tool can help you understand how you’re ranking for specific keywords, but that’s not all. You can also find out information such as:
- Search volume
- Traffic percentage
- Month to month change in rankings
- How many results appear in SERPs for each keyword
- Search trends for each keyword
You should make note of this information and then set a calendar reminder to check again every month.
You’ll also want to know what your site speed is. Google tends to favor faster sites because they provide a better user experience.
You can use a free site speed tool to see how many seconds it takes your site to load.
Whether or not your site is already being penalized is something you should find out too. Only then can you take steps to improve your site health.
If your search traffic has suddenly plummeted, it can be a sign that you’ve been penalized. You should request that any low-quality links to your site be removed, and if they’re not, disavow them with Google.
Set Realistic Goals
The next step in your white hat SEO journey is to set realistic goals. We stress the importance of their being realistic because this will help you remain patient.
Where do you want to rank for certain keywords in a month? Write this down and remember these goals are not set in stone.
You can revisit them whenever you need to, though we recommend every month when you check your rankings.
Set Yourself Up To Track
Tracking certain metrics will tell you month-to-month (and more frequently) how your site is benefiting from your white hat SEO tactics. Make sure you can track at least these metrics:
- Organic traffic
- Conversions from organic traffic
- Commercial keyword ranking
If you’re wondering what a commercial keyword is, wonder no longer. It’s a keyword that suggests a user is ready to buy.
An example of a commercial keyword is one that contains the word, “reviews.” If a user is seeking reviews of a product or service, they’re closer to conversion.
By contrast, there are also informational keywords, which contain words like “how to” and represent a buyer who is not yet ready to convert. These are also important but won’t impact your ROI as quickly as commercial keyword rankings and conversions.
You Need To Be Mobile-Friendly
It’s been years since the Mobile-Friendly Update to Google’s algorithm. If your site isn’t mobile-friendly, it’s time to get on that.
A responsive design will take care of most issues with mobile-friendliness, but you should also repair these issues if they crop up:
- Page loading errors or issues
- Redirect errors
- Situations where robots.txt prevents a crawl by the Googlebot
Now that you’ve fixed problems that could be hurting your ranking or putting you at risk for penalties, it’s time to build on this new foundation of a healthy site. There are a few ways you can find the best keywords for your site:
- Use Google’s Keyword Planner
- Play around with Google Suggest
- Copy competitors’ keywords
Once you have these new keywords, go ahead and add them to your goals before moving on to help your site rank for them.
Improve On-Page SEO
On-page SEO is just what it sounds like: actions you take on your website to improve your organic search rankings. To improve your on-page SEO, you’ll want to:
- Add your new keywords to your title tags to optimize them
- Add Schema or another structured markup
- Generate a sitemap and submit it to search engines like Google
Once you’ve completed these steps, it’s time to approach your site’s content. The average length of the first-SERP-ranking content is 1,890 words.
Known as long-form content, this type of in-depth content improves the user experience. To write content that will perform the best on search engines, make sure it has these properties:
- Address consumer pain points
- Integrate your new keywords into the title, headings, intro, and conclusion
- Tell a story
- Utilize data
- Incorporate multimedia
- Include a call-to-action (CTA)
- Make the headline shareable
You should always avoid duplicate content since that can damage the user experience and get you penalized on search engines. Also, make sure to update frequently and consistently on your blog.
Link building is a type of off-page SEO–in other words, actions you take off of your website. It’s been abused in the past, so you’ll want to make sure you take steps to ensure your links are natural and high-quality.
High-quality links are editorial, relevant, and come from domains and pages with high authority.
As you can see, Google positioning using white hat SEO requires patience and persistence. It won’t happen overnight.
You’ll also need to tap into your creativity and resourcefulness. And you should make sure you rely on data from recent ranking checks and other metrics to assess the success of your efforts.
Get started on your path to organic search success by checking your ranking for various keywords. Stay the path of the white hat SEO, and you’ll reap rewards without risking penalties from search engines.