It’s not often that we get a clear-cut answer from Google exec’s, so this week’s latest development comes as quite a surprise. Head of Search at the monster search engine confirmed that there isn’t one set of top ranking factors that apply to every search performed. In fact, depending on the searcher’s intent, what Google considers important can vary wildly.
Obviously, this precise answer isn’t something were used to getting but, when you think about it, it makes complete sense. Why would the same ranking factors apply to local restaurants and major e-commerce sites? After all, the person searching for leather boots clearly isn’t looking for the closest dairy farm.
While we completely understand why Google would work this way, there is one outstanding question: What can we do to improve our rankings if we have no idea what’s contributing to them?
For experienced SEO’s, the answer might seem pretty clear; but, to the novice, it might not seem so simple. In my opinion, it’s safe to assume that those age-old ranking factors apply in some shape or form no matter the case. You want your site to be user friendly, full of informative and keyword rich content, and have a strong technical SEO foundation with proper meta titles and descriptions, etc.
Local businesses would also want to focus on their service area, with emphasis on surrounding suburbs and cities outside of their physical location. It’s always easier to rank locally for searches performed in close range of your office or facility; the challenge here is reaching those people who would probably still be willing to travel to your location but aren’t right next door.
Small business owners should also pay close attention to their Google Business listing (this is where a lot of local businesses go wrong). Take the time to make sure there are updated pictures of your business and employees, that all the listed information is correct, and that every relevant category is listed. BUT, make sure the most important category is set as your primary. As an example, if you were an Animal Hospital owner, you wouldn’t want your primary category to be “Groomer” instead of “Veterinarian.”
Owners of larger, more robust companies have a little less to consider when thinking about this revelation. Instead of focusing on local listings and location based mentions on their site, these business men and women should hone in on their technical SEO and site structure. Make sure that your meta title and description offers the best and most concise snippet of what that page has to offer. Don’t skimp on adding alt and title tags to all images and links. Consistently review your sitemap for errors and check Search Console frequently to ensure there are no 404 errors on your site.
Above all, remember there are a lot of really great resources out there like Moz and Search Engine Journal that can help you stay ahead of the curve and teach you new approaches to these foundational SEO techniques. And, if that’s not enough, the team at thirteen05 creative is always happy to help!