Being a small business owner in Sydney myself, I know how important it is to get a Return on Investment (ROI) from every marketing dollar you spend. Especially in the post-Covid recovery years. And given that every one of your customers (and ours) searches for ‘What they Want’ + ‘Where they want it’ on Google, reaching the top of Google organic search is vital to your small business growth. Because if your website is not at the top of Google, the phone calls dry up. And if you want to get the phone ringing in 2023, you’re going to need to understand how organic SEO works in order to get the most out of it.
The article I’ve written below is a comprehensive overview of the subject of Search Engine Optimisation, as it relates to small businesses in 2023. I’ve taken a deliberately in-depth approach because I needed to do justice to both the subject matter, and to your requirements as a small business owner. I’ve broken the article down into two sections: a broader, top-level down overview of what you need to do to rank your website in 2023. And a deep dive into the subject matter. Some information you may already know. Much you won’t. So read the sections you need to read. Because if you’re serious about moving the needle when it comes to your business growth in 2023, then this is the article that will show you how to do it, because I’ve laid SEO bare for you, so you can do what needs doing in the new year to get that phone ringing.
As someone who has been doing SEO full-time since 1999/2000, and has seen Google change the rules ad nauseam, I understand more than most that what was in yesterday, may be out tomorrow, so far as Google is concerned. As they are constantly moving the goalposts and changing the rules (whether we like it or not), in an effort to make SEO harder and harder to comprehend. They do this because Google doesn’t want you to understand how to rank your website organically, as they don’t make any money from organic search. They make their money from Pay Per Click. And the more obfuscation they pump out around the subject of organic SEO, the more you’re likely you’re going to give up on it and put your money into PPC. Which is exactly what Google wants, because PPC is where Google makes its billions each year.
The article below is, as I’ve mentioned, in-depth in its approach. And while I obviously can’t download all the SEO knowledge I’ve learned over the last 22 years into a single article, I’ve done my level best to give you, an owner of your own small business, enough up-to-date information so you might better understand the subject matter. Because skirting over a subject as important to your business growth as this, is an insult to both your business needs and your intelligence.
However, if you’re simply too busy to spend time learning about SEO, call me on 0425 204 887 and hire SEO North Sydney & Web Design to do the SEO for you. With Google first pages guaranteed in writing in the contract, there’s very little risk and a whole world of upside. And unlike other so-called ‘SEO Experts’, we don’t outsource the SEO on the down-low to India behind your back. All our SEO work is done locally, under the strictest ‘White Hat’ SEO protocols. Because at SEO North Sydney & Web Design, we don’t sweat the hours. We sweat the outcomes.
Brian M Logan
The Doyen of All Things Digital.
Easy-to-Read SEO Information in Bite-Sized Chunks
I’ve broken down the topics covered in this article through a technique known as ‘chunking’ to ensure it’s easier for a layperson to understand. Starting more simply, and then drilling down into the information in more depth, for those who really want to know the skinny on how SEO works. This compartmentalising of pertinent information allows you to skim over the sections you already understand, and do a deep dive into the sections you don’t.
Google’s Ranking Factors for 2023 Explained
Okay, let’s get after it by starting with the SEO basics!
Ranking factors are the core algorithmic elements Google looks at when determining SEO effectiveness, and are the fundamental indicators that tell Google how to rank your site or business in relation to other sites and businesses on the world wide web. These are measured in what the SEO industry calls: SERPs (Search Engine Ranking Positions). So, if you’re first in Google, you’re SERP #1. If you’re halfway down page 2 (for example), you’re SERP #15 (as there are 10 organic listings per Google search page), etc. So SERP #1 is the only place to be in Google-land!
Google Ranking Explained
The importance of dove-tailing your SEO with Google’s algorithms is greater today than ever before, as these algorithms are essential for helping Google determine which websites to trust/rank, and which websites to ignore.
Google is the most popular search engine in the world, with a 92.47% market share. So if you’re not on the first page of Google, your small business is likely to whither and die on the vine.
Google has been dominating the search engine market for over a decade. It doesn’t matter what niche you operate in or where your target audience hangs out online – if your website appears on the first page of Google results with relevant keywords, you’re going to be found. The more popular your website, the higher it will rank in Google searches.
That means sites with high Google rankings have an easier time getting found by users who are looking for information about them via Google Search.
What is Google Ranking?
Google Ranking is the process by which Google chooses where to place a website on the search engine results page (the SERPs). This is based on many thousands of different factors, but mainly it’s dependent on the quality of content found on the website and how relevant that content is to the keyword/phrase used, and the power of your website’s link profile (more on that shortly). So, if you want your website to appear higher in Google results when someone searches for your keyword/phrase, you need to make sure that your website contains quality content and is relevant to your target audience, and that your website has a truck load of quality websites linking to it.
(And you thought SEO was complicated!)
But How Exactly Does Google Rank Websites?
Ah, now that’s the $64,000 question! Well, strap in dear reader, because this is where it gets tricky!
Google uses over 200 ranking signals, and over 10,000 sub-ranking signals to work out who goes where in an organic Google search result.
(Oh, so SEO is complicated after all!)
There are many things you can do to increase your chances of ranking your small business website in Google. First and foremost being hiring an award-winning digital marketing agency like SEO North Sydney & Web Design of course!
When a company has over 22 years SEO experience, you can rest assured that your small business growth is assured. Especially when we GUARANTEE GOOGLE 1st PAGES IN THE CONTRACT!
But besides the self-evident axiom of: ‘It’s always better to hire a professional if you want a professional job done,’ there are lots of things that you can focus on as a small business owner if you want to rank your website in Google.
The Importance of Keywords
Keyword research is the first step in understanding what you should be trying to rank for in Google. Keyword research helps you identify keywords that are both long-tail and short-tail that are relevant to your product or service.
Long-tail keywords are those which have low competition but are relevant to your business. Short-tail keywords are ones with a lot of competition and offer the most search volume each month. For example: ‘SEO Sydney’ is a high-value, short-tail keyword string. Whereas ‘How to get my website on the first page of Google?’ is a low-value (but still relevant) long-tail keyword string. Both searches are ultimately looking for the same thing. And as the Hummingbird and Rank Brain algorithms demonstrated, 60% of all search is long-tail. So, ignore the longtail search at your peril!
Keyword research is the starting point that every small business owner researching SEO should look at. Not because keywords are ‘all that’ (like they were pre-the Panda algorithm release in 2012), but because keywords help Google (and your audience) understand the overall SEO strategy your website is running. In 2023, think of keywords like road signs rather than superhighways.
Armed with keyword research, you’ll know what keywords your audience is searching for, and what conversations are happening around these keywords (semantically speaking). This way you can build new pages on your website that target the keywords or phrases your audience is searching for. Thus, expanding your digital footprint in Google’s eyes.
How Google Ranks Websites
Google ranks websites based by a multitude of trust factors, including (but not limited to):
- Number of pages (more pages are BETTER than fewer pages, so long as the quality of the writing is top-notch).
- Quality of the content on these pages.
- Quality and volume of backlinks pointing at the URL.
- Trustworthiness of the brand, the site, and the URL.
- Keywords utilised in the SEO strategy.
- Age of domain (how long a website has been online/in-existence?)
- The freshness of content (how often is the content updated?)
The Importance of User Behaviour
However, it’s important to remember that Google ranks websites not only based on trust, but also on user behaviour.
With over 1,500 Google updates per year, you (or better still, your Sydney SEO company) should be monitoring your website’s rankings regularly. Because SEO is a moving target, and you (or your SEO agency) constantly need to re-adjust your overall strategy to maximise your ROI.
Another relevant point to take note of, is that while Google naturally trusts its own algorithms, it also references the behaviour of people who visit your site, tracking things like dwell time, bounce rate, how many pages visited, keywords used to find the site, entrance, and exit pages, etc.
This human user data is used by Google to determine which pages are performing well, and which pages aren’t performing well, in relation to a particular keyword or set of keywords being targeted. This is information that is as vital to you as it is to Google.
Or at least it should be!
The Importance of Local SEO
Back in 2005, IBM (remember them!) had a wonderful slogan that I always thought should’ve been used by Google: ‘Think Global, Act Local.’. I say this because Google is a big fan of helping local businesses, locally. And it does this via Google Maps and Search, which is also known as Google My Business.
Google doesn’t just rank local websites based on popularity or relevance. That would be far too easy! They also rank them based on their local SEO footprint. So, if you want a high ranking for your website on Google maps (and who doesn’t!) you need to make sure that your small business website is optimised for the Pigeon, Possum, and Hawk algorithms (amongst others).
One of the easiest ways to optimise your website for Google Maps (in its most basic sense) is by tagging your geo-location and ‘area serviced’ correctly. This should be self-evident, but you’d be amazed at how many times I’ve seen this stuffed up!
If you make sure that your business is listed in Google Maps, then you’re going to have a much easier time getting found by potential customers who happen to be in the area where you operate. In addition, if your business has a physical location and it appears on the first page of the organic search results, you will have an even better chance of getting found by customers looking online with that specific keyword or phrase.
Finally, I thought I’d briefly touch on Pay Per Click advertising before heading down the rabbit hole into the SEO deep dive. Not because it’s relevant to organic search in any way – because it’s not – but because it’s something that small business owners in Sydney always want to know about. So I figured I’d better touch on it here, just so you’ll have context in relation to the paid/sponsored ads side of digital marketing.
Should I Do Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Ads Instead of SEO?
This is a common question I get from small business owners. And the answer is: sure, do PPC if you can afford it and if it works! PPC has its place in an ‘Omni-channel’ digital marketing strategy because PPC ads on Google can be targeted to specific keywords in specific areas, which means your ads will only be seen by people who are actively searching for those keywords in those geographic locations.
However, keep in mind that PPC ads are a transactional environment, driven by a blind-biding auction. Whereas organic SEO is a relational environment, where monthly costs are fixed. And one which is driven by the quality and trust given to your website by Google. Both SEO and PPC can work. But PPC, if done badly, can be a bottomless pit of expense. Not so, SEO.
PPC ads are popular because of their simplicity: if you bid more than your competitors, you will appear above them. It’s rudimentary math when all’s said and done. Whereas SEO is part math, part alchemy. And just because you’re paying someone a wedge of cash each month, doesn’t mean they know how to use it wisely to get your website to the top of Google (despite what they say).
How Much Does PPC Cost?
This is one of those, ‘How long is a piece of string’ questions. Because you can spend a fortune doing PPC, you really can! I’ve got clients spending everything from $50k a month at the top end, down to $1,200 a month at the bottom end. But for most companies advertising on PPC in Sydney, you’ll likely need to spend between $2,400 per month and $9,600 a month for an effective PPC campaign, depending on how competitive your industry vertical is, and how expensive each keyword is to bid on. Whereas SEO with us starts at just $1,000 per month (plus GST), with the cost being fixed each month and not subject to change like with PPC.
What is the Difference Between Organic SEO and PPC?
This is an important question to ask because both have their pros and their cons. Ultimately, human beings prefer organic results over paid ones, because these are the results ‘trusted’ by Google, and by extension, are the ‘best’ brand/product/service in their industry vertical.
It’s worth noting that the websites shown in organic search results answer the searcher’s question or intent by providing relevant information/answers’, whereas PPC ads simply try to ‘sell’ something to someone who has typed in a keyword or two. This is why organic search always gets a better conversion rate than PPC ads because it’s a ‘relational’ response, based on perceived ‘quality’ and ‘trust’, rather than a ‘transactional’ one based on price.
Both organic search and Pay Per Click can work well, of course. But due to the cost, PPC should always be viewed as a bolt-on strategy to an organic search campaign (which is always much more cost effective). PPC should never as a stand-alone strategy because if it doesn’t work, it’s a bottomless pit of cost. Whereas if organic SEO isn’t working, you never pay more than whatever the monthly SEO stipend is. Using both Organic and PPC strategies together provides the best results by far, as running an ‘omnichannel’ digital marketing strategy’ means you never have all your eggs in one basket.
PPC advertising can often be prohibitively expensive due to the cost per click (for example, in my industry, paid clicks can cost upward of $30-$50 per click!). And if you don’t have very deep pockets, then it’s best to focus on organic SEO for your Sydney business, as this will give you better opportunities for success with minimal financial outlay each month.
SEO – Time for the Deep Dive!
Okay, now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s do a deeper dive into the subject. Because the Devil, as the old saying goes, is in the detail.
On-page SEO Factors
On-page SEO factors are what you do on your actual website that influences your SEO. These include the quality of your content, the amount of content per page, the number of pages on your website, keyword density, use of keywords in the titles, meta descriptions, on-site linking structure, your IA (Information Architecture), et al.
Quality of Your Content (Better is Best)
The content on your website is the bedrock of your ranking in Google. This is driven by a multitude of factors, but is primarily underpinned by the Panda algorithm. Which is an algorithm created by Navneet Panda, a software engineer for Google who specialises in Machine Learning. In 2023, Panda can read a page like a human being. Literally. It can tell great content from good content, good content from bad content. So, whatever you do, make sure you hire a professional SEO copywriter to write your content for you, and never, ever, outsource to India (or wherever), where English is a second language. Because when it comes to content: QUALITY IS EVERYTHING. I cannot stress this enough. It’s the foundation on which the house is built. Skimp on this at your peril. Because if you skimp on this part of your digital marketing strategy, then the house will be built on quicksand. So, bite the bullet and pay the asking price to get the high-end content you need, written by a professional. It’ll be the best money you ever spend.
As the late, great Red Adair was famous for saying:
Amount of Words (More is Better)
The more words per page you have, the better that page is likely to rank in Google. With the very big caveat to this statement being that you have to have QUALITY content on your website, not just trite waffle that is ultimately just there to sell your widgets. Because more content is better than less content, ONLY WHEN THE CONTENT IS BRILLIANTLY WRITTEN.
Google doesn’t care a hill of beans about you selling your widgets, any more that it cares about me selling mine. All Google cares about is giving the user the BEST USER EXPERIENCE BASED ON THEIR SEARCH QUERY. And (quality) long-form content has been shown time and again, to significantly increase user engagement, and boost a website’s rankings in Google. With the average word count for sites ranking SERP #1 in Google, as measured across hundreds of thousands of industry verticals, and via millions of data sets, is between 1,750 and 2,500 words!
Number of Pages (More is Best)
The more pages you have on your website, the more Google is likely to trust your website and rank it in Google. Not pages for page’s sake, but individual pages targeting a specific product or service. Or pages that add BENEFIT TO THE END USER. Because quality, relevant, useful content, is ultimately all Google cares about. If you can give that to your user, then the future roads you trek will be paved with gold.
Page layout refers to how well-organised, easy to use, and visually appealing a website looks on a desktop computer, mobile device, or tablet. All of which drives the UX (User eXperience) and engagement metrics. The more engagement from the user, the lower the bounce rate, the longer time on the page, on the site, the more pages they go to, et al, the better Google thinks your content must be. The better your content is, the higher it’ll rank in the SERPs. That’s why the well-used axiom (which was around when I started in SEO in 1999/2000!) that ‘CONTENT IS KING’, is still as relevant today as it ever was.
When ranking mobile sites, Google looks at how intuitive they are on devices such as smartphones or tablets. As above, the UX is vital for both human beings and for Google. The better the mobile usability, the longer people stay on our website, and the better their ‘User eXperience’. Factors that Google uses to rank your website.
Age of Domain
This is how long your domain has been in existence. The longer your domain has been around, the more Google is likely to trust it. Note: the age of your domain isn’t the super-powerful factor it used to be, but it is still important.
Additional On-Page SEO Factors to Reference
- Internal linking matrix. Google is trying to understand your website. Internal links help it do just this.
- Use of H-Tags. This is an old-school SEO tactic that’s no longer anywhere near as important as it was a decade or two ago. But correctly using the H-tags in your code helps Google understand what your pages are all about.
- Page loading speed. If your website, or individual web page, takes longer than two seconds to load, then Google will likely penalise you, and users will click the back button. Both of which will negatively impact your site’s rankings in Google.
- UX/User Experience metrics (measured via Google Analytics). Panda is 90% about the content, and 10% about the UX of your website, so make sure you’ve done both things correctly.
- Use of multi-media elements such as videos. Videos or audio files give the user another way to interact with the website. And the more they interact with your small business website, the better Google will think your content is.
Off-page SEO Factors
Off-page factors help Google work out how much to ‘trust’ your website. This is primarily (though not exclusively) driven by your website’s back link profile, which can account for 50-75% of the love Google gives your website. The more links you have pointing at your website, the better. With the caveat being: the links all need to be ‘good’ links in Google’s eyes. Because bad or ‘toxic’ links can actually get your website penalised in Google.
Other off-page factors can include social signals, citations, bookmarking, brand mentions, etc (amongst others).
External links are the fuel in the tank when it comes to SEO. Because links power Page Rank. And Page Rank powers Google search. With more links being better than less links. So long as the links are legitimate (not ‘toxic’) links, and so long as the links pass Page Rank (which diminishes at a rate of -15% per link). The more Page Rank your website gets from other sites around the web, the more it’s trusted by Google, and the better it ranks.
Amount of TLD’s (Top Level Domains) is a major factor in Google’s Penguin algorithm determining how much Page Rank to give your website. With Google’s utopian view of this meaning that your website should get one link per TLD (per website). What this means in lay terms is that if you have 5 links from a website, the first link will get the maximum permissible Page Rank passed to your website. Whereas links 2-5 will get ever-diminishing amounts of Page Rank passed to your site. And as link building is a time-consuming process, you’re much better off spending that time acquiring individual links from an individual, high DA, Top Level Domain that already links to you.
Page Rank is an algorithm created in 1997 by Larry Page (one of the two co-founders of Google), and is used to measure link equity (how many links are pointing at your site, and how good those links are, in Google’s eyes).
Unfortunately, we can no longer tell what Page Rank (PR) a website has, because Google stopped telling us, back in 2011/2. Google used to update Page Rank every three months, back in the day. But when Google absorbed Page Rank into its core algorithm in 2011/2, they hid it from the world. Meaning we no longer know what the PR of a site linking to us, is.
Domain Authority (DA)
Nature abhors a vacuum however, and when Google stopped telling us what the Page Rank of a website was, the SEO industry had to come up with another way of estimating how much trust/love Google is going to give your website, based on your backlink profile. This is where Domain Authority (DA) comes in. DA was created by a company called Moz, and uses thousands of algorithms that mirror (as best they can) what the Google Page Rank algorithm does when looking at your website’s back link profile. And while there are now lots of SEO software companies who have their own version of DA, Domain Authority still remains the most accurate.
Unlike Page Rank (which was out of 10), Domain Authority is measured out of 100. The higher the DA, the more likely Google will ‘trust’ your website based on the quality and amount of your back links.
Like Domain Authority, PA is created by Moz, and estimates the ‘trust’ an individual page within your website (rather than the website as a whole), has in Google, based on the back link profile to that specific page. Like DA, PA is a score out of 100. The higher the number, the better the page will rank in Google.
Social signals are referenced by Google, but not really given any ‘weight’ in Google’s organic search (they largely ignore ‘Likes’ and ‘shares’ etc). However social signals are still a good way of getting the Google bot to come from a web 2.0 platform such as Facebook or Twitter or Instagram to crawl your website. But beyond this, the benefits are sketchy at best, despite the warm-fuzzy dopamine hit you might get from getting a whole bunch of likes!
Like social signals, directories tend not to pass on Page Rank, so don’t directly help your site rank in Google’s organic search. But they are very relevant for algorithms such as Pigeon, Possum, and Hawk, which underpin Local Search and Google Maps, etc.
Also known as ‘Social Bookmarking’, is where you save information on a website online, rather than on your individual device, so you can access it later. Bookmarking your website allows the Google bot to jump from the bookmarked hyperlink, to your website. Thus helping with increasing your site’s indexing rate.
Brand mentions tie into the semantic web, and are referenced by algorithms such as Hummingbird and Rank Brain. The logic being that the words that surround your brand mention, help influence how Google view your brand online. Even if there is no hyperlink to your website present in the sentence being referenced.
Google Takes a MINIMUM of 3 Months to Rank Anything
Organic leads will invariably be better than PPC leads and will cost you less in the long run. Both are great to have, as more leads are better than fewer leads, of course (and ultimately, who cares where they come from, so long as the phone rings!). But ‘Cost of Lead Acquisition’ is something that has to come into it when working out where to put your company’s hard-earned money.
The other thing to keep in mind is that organic SEO takes time to work. It’s ‘long-pipe’ (to put it in sales-speak). Because Google takes a minimum of 3 months to start trusting anything an SEO company in Sydney does on your website, today. With first page results usually taking 6-12 month (sometimes longer, if you’re in a super-competitive industry). Whereas PPC results are instantaneous. And who doesn’t love instantaneous results! However, everything comes with a price. And the price for doing PPC runs into the thousands (sometimes tens of thousands!) per month. And as in all marketing, there are no guarantees. So, you might spend $2-10k a month running PPC ads in Sydney (more if your PPC campaign is national), and get nothing but tyre-kickers and your competition clicking on your ads, both of which drain your bank account with little to show for it by way of ROI. So always use organic SEO as your main digital marketing strategy, but supplement it with PPC as required. Then, when organic SEO starts doing most of the heavy lifting, you can lower your PPC spend accordingly.
User Behaviour as a Ranking Factor
The more a user engages with your site, the higher it’ll rank. This is why writing engaging content is key to ranking your Sydney small business website on Google, and why optimising your website for keyword density will have little to no effect. Because SEO hasn’t been about keywords since 2011/12 when Google launched the Panda algorithm. As I always say: Keywords are a function of content. Content is a function of STRATEGY. Get the strategy right, and everything else falls into place. Because in 2023 it’s all about putting the horse before the cart, not the other way around.
Google views user behaviour through many lenses. Metrics such as bounce rates, time on page, time on site, dwell time, landing and exit pages, etc, being the most well-known.
Users who engage with a website for longer periods of time, and engage with the website by clicking on multi-media elements and/or going to other pages within the website, can be seen to be having a much better user experience. Which means that Google are a lot more likely to want to send you more traffic to the same page. The logic being: the last person who searched for X or Y and came to this page on your small business website, stayed for X number of minutes, and went to Y number of pages, staying on the website as a whole for Z minutes. Which means that the next person who is interested in this topic/keyword string, will likely have an equally good experience if they end up on this website. So why don’t we rank them higher, to send them more traffic?
Plus, if a user likes what they see, they are can be expected to call your small business, fill out a quote form or contact form, or opt-in to signing up to an e-newsletter to be kept informed about your products or services.
E-A-T as a Lynchpin of SEO
E-A-T in the world of SEO stands for ‘Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness’. This is an overarching modelling methodology tied in to Google’s Quality Raters’ Guidelines. Demonstrating E-A-T on your Sydney business website will help improve your Google rankings. And as I’ve said dozens of times in this article (and apologies for sounding like a broken record!) but CONTENT IS KING. Or to put it more appropriately: QUALITY/RELEVANT/AUTHORITATIVE CONTENT IS KING. And the more quality, informative, long-form content (as in, 1,000 words per page minimum), the more Google will love (and rank) your Sydney business.
It’s worth noting that Google uses this rule on themselves, and on how they run their business online, too:
To read how Google views EAT in their own words, click here:
Local Search for SEO – The Importance of NAP
Everyone knows that Google wants to rank local Sydney businesses, locally. And to do that, the first thing Google utilises is N-A-P (NAP).
NAP is an acronym that stands for Name + Address + Phone Number. And coming first in Google maps is underpinned by having an exceptional SEO campaign targeting this.
Just look at us doing it for ourselves:
NAP is utilised by algorithms such a Pigeon, Possum and Hawk, and ties into the logic that a legitimate business never (or very rarely) changes their Name, their Address, or their Phone Number. So those ‘Trust Factors’ should be a) correct, and b) the same on any website where they appear.
Mobile-Friendly Website Design for Your Sydney Business
From July 1, 2019, Google moved to what is known as ‘Mobile First Indexing’. To understand what this means; we must understand the context underpinning it.
How Does Google Crawl the Web?
Most people assume that Google crawls the entire internet, and when they search for a Sydney business or service, they are seeing a real time representation of the World Wide Web. But that is not the case. It’s close, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not real-time.
When you search for something on the web, you get to see a copy of the internet, as saved on thousands of Google Edge Servers around the world. This used to mean that when Google crawled your website (everyone’s website) it was done based on how your website was viewed on a DESKTOP device at that moment in time. Which meant it indexed desktops first (and more frequently), and mobiles/tablets second (and a lot less frequently). Thus, weighting desktop searches above mobile search.
On July 1, 2019, Google started flipping the paradigm on its head when they rolled out the ‘Mobile First Index’. They did this because they’d worked out that most people search on mobile devices now. Which meant that from mid-2019, Google started indexing MOBILE devices first (and more frequently), and Desktops second (and a lot less frequently).
What this means to your SEO, is that if your website isn’t (at the very minimum) mobile optimised, the chances of ranking the site in Google organic search is slim to none. It’s not impossible, mind you. I have a client ranking SERP #1 nationally in their very competitive industry for a whole bunch of super-competitive keywords, and they’ve got a very old website that is the web equivalent of a Model T Ford! The fact that they still rank first amongst equals is due to them being our client for over ten years. Which means they’ve got over a decade’s worth of high-end SEO supporting the site in Google’s eyes. Meaning that the fact that their site isn’t mobile optimised gets mitigated by all the other positive SEO factors that we’ve built for them over the last decade and a bit.
However, they are the exception to the rule. And if you want to rank in Google, you’ll need a website that looks amazing on mobile devices.
Security of Your Website as a Ranking Factor
Until July 2018, the vast majority of websites in the world had a HTTP before their url. This would’ve appeared like: http://www.blahblah.com.au or whatever. I won’t bore you with the technobabble on this topic too much, but HTTP stands for ‘Hyper Text Transfer Protocol’, which is the foundation blocks of the world wide web, and is used to load web sites using hypertextual links.
However, in July 2018, Google started bullying everyone to force them to move to HTTPS, which stands for ‘Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure’. This was done under the guise of ‘making the internet more secure’. At least, that’s how Google sold the heavy-handed tactics which forced everyone to move to HTTPS (whether they liked it or not).
HTTPS was initially used with the SSL (Secure Socket Layer) protocol. But as SSL evolved into what became known as Transport Layer Security (TLS), HTTPS became de rigueur. Which means that in 2023, if your website doesn’t have an SSL certificate in place, it will now show as “Not Secure” when searched on Google Chrome. And this will negatively impact both your ability to rank your Sydney website in Google, and your ability to convert the traffic you do get (as ‘Not Secure’ infers that your website has been hacked, or is in some way compromised).
Content is King, in 2023 More Than Ever
I’ve spoken ad nauseum on the topic of content. But – as the old saying goes – ‘Repetition is the mother of learning!’. I’ve mentioned how more content is better than less content, so long as it’s well-written and relevant to the audience being targeted. That more pages are better than fewer pages. That brilliantly written content is vital to everything that you do online (and I mean everything!). But these things have never been truer than when Google released their recent ‘Helpful Content’ update. An update that serves to reinforce what I’ve said for the last 22 years: ‘Write for humans, SEO for Google‘.
Using Language to Target an International Audience
Chances are you won’t need to do this, but if you happen to own a large, international company targeting the entire globe, you’ll need to build a website for an international audience. Something that requires many additional layers of SEO. The foundational being the use of the Hreflang Tag Attribute, so Google knows which language to serve a particular page to a particular audience in.
However, if you do have to do this, don’t make the rookie mistake of getting all your content re-written by ‘Google Translate’ or similar. To do it properly (and thus rank the page in the language of choice), you need to get each and every page rewritten in that language by a professional SEO copywriter who speaks the language you’re targeting. Skip this step at your peril.
The Importance of Your Website’s Information Architecture (IA) in Google Rankings
Your website’s IA (Information Architecture) is the road map that Google uses to crawl your website. It encompasses the site’s pages, referencing them in a hierarchical structure which it then submits to Google. Most websites have a ‘flat structure’ which informs Google that all pages are equally important. But as business owners we are all too aware of the Pareto principle, which states that 80% of your business comes from 20% of what you do. When applied to our website’s IA, we very quickly understand that 80% of our website’s traffic will come from 20% of our website’s pages. This 20% are what we dub the ‘Money Pages’. With all other pages on the site being of far less importance. And it’s this 20% that we spend all our time SEOing. Because it is these pages that are going to make the phone ring.
Backlink Profiles – Quantity & Quality Wins the Race
As I mentioned previously, the number (and the quality) of the backlinks pointing at a site has been one of the most important ranking factors since Google first launched back in 1997/98. Link equity is driven by ‘Page Rank’, an amazingly complex algorithm that effectively ranks pages from 1-10 based on the ‘strength’ of the originating website’s backlink profile. And, while Page Rank has been hidden from the eyes of the general public since 2011/12, it is still the big dog in the yard, algorithmically speaking, with links being super-important to ranking your website in Google in 2023. And I mean SUPER IMPORTANT.
Note: a backlink is a hyperlink from another website that points to your website. And in so doing, shares some of their website’s trust, with your website. A hyperlink is a tacit endorsement of the quality of the page it’s pointing to. Google’s logic is that the only reason someone would link from their website to your website is if they think the page being linked to is ‘good’. And thus, the Page Rank algorithm passes on some of the trust Google gives to the originating website, to your website.
Not all links are created equal of course, as not all websites they come from have an equal amount of trust in Google’s eyes. For example, if you had a hundred links from a hundred random blogs that have only just launched (and thus are not really trusted by Google), they wouldn’t be worth one link from the homepage of CNN.com, which (at time of writing) has 343,300,000 links pointing at their homepage alone!
Not all links are good, however. And if the website linking to your site has been penalised by Google for ‘Black Hat’ SEO (being SEO that contravenes Google’s Guidelines), then the penalty Google has imposed on that website, or a percentage thereof, gets passed in the link to your site. Something that negatively impacts your site’s rankings in Google. Think of it (metaphorically) like someone who has a disease connecting their blood to yours, and passing on the disease to you. That’s why it’s very important that your SEO company only do ‘White Hat’ link building for your website.
Anchor Text in Link Building
Anchor text is the text you include in your hyperlinks. This is something that used to be very important when doing link building. The logic being, if you wanted to rank for ‘SEO Sydney’ (for example), you hyperlinked the words like this: ‘SEO Sydney’, with the link going to a page that’s optimised in Google’s eyes for the term, ‘SEO Sydney’.
However, this technique was over-indulged in by SEO companies to a point that it’s now actually more likely to get your site penalised. With ‘branded’ or ‘naked links’ being the order of the day in 2023.
In Conclusion – The Takeaways
When viewed from a distance, SEO is relatively simple. Great content plus loads of good links, and Bob’s your uncle, you’re the king of the world! But SEO is like an iceberg, and as with all icebergs, you can only see 10% of it above the water. And it’s the other 90% that you need to worry about!
Google loves complicating organic search. It wants nothing more than for the other 90% of SEO to be hidden from view. Google thrives on this technical obfuscation because if they make SEO ‘mysterious’, it forces small business owners like you to throw your arms up in frustration and do PPC instead! All of which puts money into Google’s back pocket every time someone clicks on your ad. Ker-ching, Ker-ching, next sucker please!
Google is in the business of making money. And Google doesn’t make any money on SEO. So why on earth would they want you to understand how it all works? Why on earth would they want to make SEO easy? Far better to keep you docile and worshiping at the altar of the cash cow that is Google Adwords. Because, like every addict, if you’re 100% dependent on PPC, you will always have to come back to them for just one more hit. Just one more! And there’s the rub of it. And the very reason why SEO will always be the bedrock of a small business’ online marketing strategy. Because if you (or your Sydney SEO agency) understand SEO, then you are no longer dependent on the ever-increasing prices charged by Google for doing PPC.
Call Today to Get Your Business to the Top of Google!
I hope the above goes some way to pulling back the curtain on how SEO works, so you can better decide if you want to a) try to do SEO yourself, or b) arm yourself with the requisite amount of knowledge that’ll allow you to hire the right Sydney SEO company to do it for you.
A no-obligation call to 0425 204 887 will get me on the phone. No sales pitch, no BS. Just business owner to business owner talking through the unique requirements of your company’s digital marketing strategy. Whether your small business needs SEO, PPC, Facebook, Instagram, or a whole new website design, we’re a one-stop award-winning local Sydney agency that can do it all.
We don’t sweat the hours it takes to do the job. We sweat the outcomes.
For an even deeper dive into the subject of SEO, read this article on ‘What is SEO‘.