"How to stand out in Google search results" is a common question marketers and business owners alike will ask themselves often over the course of their years in business.
In its simplest of terms, the best way to ensure you appear at the top of search results is by using relevant keywords throughout your content. If you want to rank higher than your competition, it’s important to focus on creating high-quality content that includes those keywords. This will help your website show up in searches related to your niche.
But what about the search engine results themselves?
When a user is researching a specific subject or topic, they are presented with the most relevant pages that Google has determined to represent their query. That being said, it is our job as business owners to do everything in our power for our content to perform in as many places and ways as possible in a competitive search.
This takes the efforts of search engine optimization to a whole new level.
Not All Search Results Pages Are Created Equal
Have you ever noticed that the layout of the Google Search results page changes with each query you do?
Try it (we'll wait).
See! The layout of this page adjusts with the content available to show - but not just links, videos, images, and other helpful content that gives you valuable info without even needing to click on the link where the content originated.
Also, notice how the interface also includes map results when the search query changes to "dogs for adoption" as that search input is indicative of someone looking for something in their geographic region.
Let's take a look at these ranking factors in relevant searches a bit closer to see how you can deliver more organic traffic (free traffic) to your organization's website.
Best Practices to Make Your Website Stand Out On Google Search
The most important thing to remember when it comes to SEO (search engine optimization) is that search engines don't care what you want – they only care about what people want.
This means that if you're not getting any traffic from organic searches, then you're doing something wrong.
Do Your Research
When writing content that represents your business, it is important to first do some research and make sure that what you are going to write about is actually something people are searching to find.
There are a variety of tools that can help you with determining this - such as Google Trends, which shows the volume of queries on a specific topic from around the world.
Another great way to determine if you are on track with a topic to write about is (slowly) start typing the phrase or title of the article or your possible article headings into Google and see what it suggests to you as the rest of your phrase or sentence.
This feature, first released in 2017 as part of Google's "caffeine" update, is not only helpful for a lazy user who would rather click than type, but it is also helpful to us as content creators to affirm our content aligns with what Google is showing us as popular queries.
Armed with this new-found knowledge and confirmed direction, you are ready to write blog posts that will attract potential customers - starting with a great page title.
Your Page Title In Google Search Results
The title tag is one of the most important elements of SEO because of its prominent appearance in search results.
It should include keywords related to what your page is about - and also align with the research described above so that it is most relevant and specific to what the content is about.
It is a good practice to keep your title tags under the target character limit of 55 characters so that it is displayed as you want them to be across a variety of devices - such as mobile phones, tablets, and computers.
Your Page's Meta Description
Like your page title, the meta description of your page is also extremely important for your content and SEO - as it appears directly under the title tag in search results.
Your page's meta description should tell Google (and the user) what the page is about, as well as enticing them to visit. Using phrases like “Learn More”, “Click Here”, or “Shop Now,” can help direct the user to click into your content from SERPs (search engine results pages).
The more accurate your meta description is, the more likely you are to increase your clickthrough rate, while decreasing your site's bounce rate (someone leaving from the same page they entered on).
Pay Attention to Your URLs
Currently located at the very top of each search result is the article's destination URL.
Improving your website's URLs or ensuring you are crafting new ones in the best format possible is easier than you think.
Here are a few tips to start off with to help improve your website's SEO with regard to URLs:
- Make sure the URL is clean and readable.
- Include your primary keyword in the URL whenever possible.
- Use hyphens to separate words in the URL (as opposed to underscores or placing words right next to each other).
- Avoid adding numbers to the end of the URL.
- Remove unnecessary words where possible.
The length of your URLs is also important. Try to keep your URLs to as close to 75 characters as possible to allow for maximum readability and performance.
Use Structured Data & Featured Snippets
Google uses "rich snippets" to display content in search results. Structured data and the featured snippets are examples of rich snippets and allow the user to get the data they are searching for (in many cases) without even clicking on your site.
What Is Clickless Search?
You might be thinking "If my goal is to drive traffic to my site, why would I want to show in rich snippet results?"
Although the content being shown as a rich snippet does not always equate to a visit to your site, the snippets do still denote the site where the information is derived from - giving your brand the appropriate recognition.
Let's take a look at structured data and featured snippets more closely below.
What Is Structured Data?
Think of structured data as a set of tags that are embedded into your page's source code to be read by search engines.
These tags say things like "here's the title of your page", "this is the author", "this is a phone number", which allows search engines to "understand" a website closer to the way that humans do.
In that sense, structured data helps search engines to categorize and index the pages of your website correctly, which leads to better search results.
To learn more about structured data and the best ways to use and test it on your site, visit Google's Structured Data Testing Tools.
What Are Featured Snippets?
Featured snippets appear in Google search results as a summary or portion of a web page from indexed content of a site.
As with other forms of content marketing, this type of content is a great opportunity to improve your SEO by being shown most prominently as "the best answer" for a given search query.
For more information on featured snippets and how they work, visit schema.org
Using Glossary Pages to Improve SEO
A glossary page is the easiest way to make your website more accessible to search engine spiders and therefore is a great way to increase your SEO.
Depending on the nature of your organization, the industry you are in, and/or the products and services you offer, a glossary page can list special terms, abbreviations, and jargon commonly used in your business.
Additionally, your glossary page should be prominently placed in your header and footer navigation menus and used to link visitors to other pages on your website.
Using FAQ Pages to Improve SEO
An FAQ (frequently asked questions) page on a website is a great way to quickly direct users to the answers they're looking for - while also improving your search ranking.
In a sense, the FAQ page of your site should act as a mini-site unto itself, and often contains helpful information and answers to questions that users are looking for - related to your specific business, industry, or the products and services you offer.
If you're thinking of adding an FAQ page to your website, but don't know where to start - consider the following:
- What are the most common questions we get calls or emails about?
- What are the most common questions being asked about the industry you are in?
- What are the most important things for people need to know about you and the products/services you offer?
Pro Tip: When building Frequently Asked Questions pages for our clients, we often build tracking into their search functionalities so the client knows what pieces of content they might need to build out or improve upon in the future.
Leveraging Google Reviews to Improve Search Results
Although it is unclear as to how much your online reviews impact search results currently, we do know that Google does use buyer sentiment as a ranking signal.
This means that the more positive Google reviews your brand has, the higher your average rating and the better the opportunity for your business to receive prominent placement in search results. Your reviews matter.
One common misnomer is that you can "hack" the algorithm factors related to buyer sentiment by placing 5-star ratings on your website. This is not the case however, as Google knows it's too easy to omit reviews that are damaging to the brand from your own website.
In addition to the 2 sites above, Google will factor an aggregate rating from your business profiles on other sites around the web - such as Facebook, Yelp, TripAdvisor, Clutch, and others (depending on your industry).
For more information on the importance of Google Reviews, check out our blog post on the matter.
How Do I Manage My Google Reviews?
Google Reviews can be accessed and managed via the business dashboard of your brand's Google Business Profile Page, formerly known as your Google My Business Page.
Currently, changes are being made so that all updates to your Google Business Profile can be made via Google Maps (both online and mobile versions).
Video Content in Search Results
Videos are a great way to draw more visitors to your website.
In many cases, video content can attract more views than simple text articles, encouraging users to stay longer on your site, but did you know you can also optimize your video content to appear in search results? Yup.
There are two main ways by which this happens:
- Adding the video to your YouTube Channel and tailoring your associated descriptions to link back to your main website, or
- Adding the videos to your own website and using the connected schema markup mentioned above to inform Google of the specific details of the content.
The more video content you create for your specific business, industry, or niche the higher the probability of your brand reaching higher average positions in search.
Pro Tip: Leveraging affordable transcription services to convert the spoken content of your videos to text gives you a more accurate transcript to provide to YouTube than what is auto-generated, and can also make for additional, written, content on your site.
Write, Review, Optimize, Repeat
Simply put, Google is focused on delivering the most timely, relevant, and useful content to the searcher - year over year. It is the backbone of search as they see it.
By following the tips outlined above and leveraging a solid keyword strategy with simple keyword analysis, you can turn a site that is just ranking for a couple of keywords to an authority in your industry or business sector.
Think about your ideal customers or clients that you have now, as well as your prospective customers. What are they looking for? What is their user intent? What user experience are you trying to deliver?
Then, it's on to building captivating content, original content, and optimizing along the way for maximum keyword visibility.
Keep your attention and focus on the target keyword or phrase and avoid placing tons of other less relevant keywords into your content (otherwise known as keyword stuffing).
Once your content is live and out in the wild, develop a plan to revisit it at least once a year making sure it is still relevant to your industry and reader.
Using a content management system such as WordPress, along with a reputable SEO plugin will also help you to keep your content at the top of the heap - delivering you the most search traffic possible.
(and if this SEO stuff isn't really your thing, we're here to help.)