Getting to the top of Google for one’s primary keywords is the aim of all Google SEO professionals. To do this, it becomes necessary to perform a thorough Google SEO audit, which is essentially a Google rules compliance checklist.
Google has over two-hundred signals it looks to when figuring out how and where to index the various sites located around the web.
Before we get to the audit and how it’s performed, so that you can optimize your own sites for maximum rankings and exposure, it helps to learn all you can about Google and where the search engine gets its rules you’ll need to abide by.
Google is simply everywhere. In fact, the search engine has become so ubiquitous that the term “Google” has colloquially become a verb meaning “to conduct an online search.”
Everyone uses Google, from teens with their smartphones and iPads to Facebook-using parents and grandparents. When someone wants to know something, including product and business information, they take to Google.
Therefore, to get ahead digitally in today’s tech-driven world, you must become familiar with Google and the search engine’s philosophy when it comes to selecting its most prominent site listings.
Protip: To get the rankings you want in Google, the best move is to think about your audience and what it craves most. Google’s philosophy is essentially this: Appease your audience and Google will reward you.
But it goes a bit deeper than that. Google published its philosophy titled “Ten things we know to be true” a few years after the search engine’s inception. I’ll do my best to paraphrase.
1. Focus on the user and all else will follow:
Here Google is telling you to focus on the user experience and not so much on how to “game” the search engine.
2. It’s best to do one thing really, really well:
Here Google’s talking about the power of search, which they certainly do better than any other search engine out there.
3. Fast is better than slow:
Here Google is letting us know that speed will be the word of the day when it comes to the search engine, its Chrome browser, and even support response times. Your site should be fast-loading in kind.
4. Democracy on the web works:
Google is letting you know that none of its rankings are personal, whether good or bad. They’re based on others “voting” with their clicks, traffic, reviews, and attention so that Google knows which ones are worthy of higher rankings.
5. You don’t need to be at your desk to need an answer:
Here’s where Google is focusing on mobile users. As you’ll soon see, a Google SEO audit needs to ensure there’s an optimized mobile presence. How does your site look and feel on mobile devices?
6. You can make money without doing evil:
This point speaks to Google’s business model and how the search giant earns through its paid advertising platform, which it monitors vigorously to ensure ads are customer-centric and quality-made.
7. There’s always more information out there:
Google is constantly indexing new material and its AI algorithms are constantly learning. This means that Google has not only become a source for website searches, but entire books are now scanned with regularity, in many varying languages, making Google one of the top sources for information in the world.
8. The need for information crosses all borders:
The Google search platform is offered in more than 130 languages and the company is constantly trying to improve the volume and quality of its search results in far-flung areas of the globe.
9. You can be serious without a suit:
You can see this concept play out in images of Google’s 60 campuses worldwide, where the atmosphere is challenging but fun. This is a great lesson for all Google SEO professionals.
10. Great just isn’t good enough:
This is another excellent lesson from Google. Never rest on your laurels. There are always more ways to grow. If you’re constantly dissatisfied with each level of your success, you’ll never stop reaching for the stars.
I encourage you to read Google’s entire philosophy in the company’s official words. The bottom line is to focus on customers, never take rankings personally, and use techniques that take advantage of Google’s democratic system.
So you see, Google isn’t some oppressive gatekeeper that you need to please in order to gain entry to mass attention and search traffic. That’s the wrong approach entirely and can lead to you engaging in nefarious “black-hat” search tactics in order to thwart Google’s algorithm.
Instead, think of Google as a business that provides a valuable service. To make your website part of that service and to gain all the attention that Google can give to you, give your customers what they expect. And have a great time doing it!
In a way, you could say that Google SEO is largely common sense. Don’t engage in any trickery and provide a memorable web experience. Aside from a few highly-technical aspects of this guide that I’ll do my best to explain in laymen’s terms if you look at Google SEO as an exercise in common sense, you will always do well.
When the Internet was first opened for commercial use in the 90s, there was no Google, and that meant that getting the information you wanted was sort of tricky. No one had yet figured out how to filter all the web content into easily discernible listings. There were other search engines in those early days, of course, namely Yahoo and AskJeeves. But when you searched online with those engines, you never really knew what you were going to get.
Then, Google came on the scene. There’s a fantastic book about the history of Silicon Valley called Valley of Genius – The Uncensored History of Silicon Valley that talks about the beginnings of the Google search engine.
Long story short, Larry Page was trying to download the entire internet for his college thesis. Sergei Brynn was a young genius who aced all his tests and largely screwed off while coming up with the latest and greatest ways to help Larry Page complete his ambitions of indexing the search results. Google soon emerged as the search engine to beat all search engines.
Where did the name come from? The brand name “Google” refers to the numeric value determined by multiplying 10 to the 100th power, otherwise known as a googol. Page and Brynn simply altered the spelling, added the (e) and the search engine – and verb we now associate with online search – were born.
Around the year 2000 or so, Google began to spread by word of mouth right around the time e-commerce hit the scene with eBay, PayPal, and others. In those days, Google determined its search rankings by way of keywords and backlinks.
Keywords provided context and relevance while backlinks, those links from other sites that point back to yours, helped to lend credibility. If a bank or college links to your site, the thinking goes, then your site must be worthy of higher rankings.
Google has enjoyed quite an upward climb since those early days. So much in fact, that today the search giant earns upwards of a whopping $100 Billion per year, most of that revenue originating from paid ads.
Back then, the money wasn’t as good, but Google has always earned big from paid advertisements. However, not long after the Internet became available for commercial use, people began figuring out that there was big money to be made by gaming Google’s search system.
Even in those early days, and so it continues today, underground forums exist to discuss Google’s algorithm changes and how to engage in the latest and greatest trickery to essentially “steal” higher profits. That’s where the battle of white-hat vs. black-hat SEO comes into play.
Black-hat SEO is the term reserved for that very search engine trickery, such as showing search users one thing only to deliver quite another. As you can imagine, black-hat SEO leaves users feeling duped and frustrated, which isn’t good for Google, search users, or the Internet as a whole. Therefore, black-hat SEO should be avoided at all costs. Black-hat SEO tactics involve cloaking, hidden text, and blog comment spam, for example.
White-hat SEO techniques provide users with quality content. The search results are accurate, relevant, and customer-centric. These involve using relevant H-tags, anchor text, and inbound and outbound links. Common-sense type stuff.
Google continues to change its algorithms hundreds of times per year in an attempt to keep search listings scrubbed of black-hat, spammy, and otherwise low-quality listings.
Protip: You don’t have to walk on eggshells around Google to avoid penalties and banishment from the search engine results pages. You merely have to give Google – and your audience – what it wants.
The techniques in this book, as I’ve mentioned, are entirely white-hat. They are focused on doing what’s right and following the rules. These took me and my team years of learning, trial and error to figure out. Most of all, they work. Our clients’ results prove it.
In order to conduct a thorough SEO audit (and be successful on Google in general), it helps to understand each element of the search listings. Once you know how each element works, you can strive to optimize every aspect of your listings for Google dominance.
The title that appears in the search results are influenced by a few factors. Google prefers titles that are condensed (around 70 characters), descriptive and relevant to users’ search queries.
Google likes short and meaningful URLs. If your URL is too long, Google will shorten it for you in the SERPs.
Google may include timestamps under your URL, especially if you are a news publisher, host a blog, or have a site with frequently fresh content.
A snippet offers a description of the indexed web page. Google can populate the snippet using some of the page’s content. Of course, you can provide Google with your own snippet by creating the page’s meta description tag.
For best results, keep your descriptions to around 156 characters and make them enticing to encourage the “click-through” to the web page in question.
Now that you’re familiar with Google, the company’s philosophy, and the anatomy of search, it’s time to prepare for your first comprehensive Google SEO audit.