Several months after I launch new websites, I check on their results in my page rank software as it takes upwards of 60 days for Google’s spider bots to “crawl” the site and rank its search success. When I see that most of the keyword terms we optimized the site for generate a #1 or #2 ranking in Google results (as I did for the client above), it’s like getting a nice pat on the back…by myself! (“Oh, look! By jove, I got these keywords just right,” said Goldilocks, the website designer.)

That means anyone entering those keywords into Google to find “XYZ services in Sonoma” (an example) will see my client’s website at the top of the search results list. Bingo! More traffic when visitors click through to investigate.

If your site isn’t found for the products or services you offer, what’s the point?   …not much. The gorgeous website can be just as empty of visitor results as the proverbially airhead with nothing between the ears. So my job is to ensure the site not only looks appealing to the visitor and is easy to navigate but also has all the necessary technical preparation behind it to receive top ranking results.

How keyword phrases get ranked for search results

Some keyword phrases are extremely competitive and difficult to rank high on the first page of search results, such as “Sonoma real estate agent” or “best Napa winery.” (Yeah, right. Good luck with that!) There are many businesses who would like to be #1 for those search terms, which means obtaining that #1 ranking requires considerable technical work to “optimize” your site for those results. They’re wildly competitive keyword terms.

“Sonoma real estate agent specializing in accessible homes” is likely not nearly as competitive as the latter phrase and is directed to a niche market. Achieving #1 ranking for this phrase would be vastly easier. But these examples merely scratch the surface of the complex algorithm used to calculate ranking.

200+ Criteria feed into ranking results

The criteria used to rank a website in search results is not hidden like the Wizard of Oz behind a curtain, leaving website designers and optimizers to guess at the magic formula. Google (and Bing and Yahoo) have published not only what the criteria are but also why the criteria are important for accuracy and relevancy in ranking.

Short answer: Ranking is highly complicated with so many factors to rank. This is precisely why achieving a high ranking isn’t an overnight fix (or often one that is inexpensive). Anyone who states they can get you page 1 (or #1 ranking) easy-peasy is lying. Google cannot be manipulated through black hat SEO techniques to produce #1 results.

How does Google know if searchers like the results they see?

Play along with me: Jane in Pain searches for “Sonoma chiropractor” as she doesn’t want to drive far to get relief for her pain. My client’s website pops up in the #2 result. (See the chart in the photo.) She clicks on site #1 first.

At site #1, the chiropractor’s home page describes his/her general services but doesn’t mention the specific ailment Jane in Pain knows she’s experiencing from a past problem. She clicks the back button within 30-seconds to return to Google. Next, she clicks my client’s site #2. Here she repeats the same process of searching for the specific ailment. It may be listed on the home page or show up in a sub-page listing, for which she clicks on the menu item.

In just that one transaction, Google internally records that the searcher rejected site #1 after 30 seconds of visiting. Its ranking gets decreased slightly for the keyword phrase that was searched. My client’s site is scored slightly higher internally because Jane in Pain stayed longer on the site.

Every day Google is slightly re-ranking sites for millions of keyword phrases. When visitors return immediately to Google, it knows the results delivered didn’t satisfy the visitor. If the visitor stays on the site awhile, it knows it delivered the correct answer (and the site is ranked higher for the keyword phrase).

How do you know if your site is ranking well for your keywords?

Ask me! Ask your search engine optimizer. Ask your website designer. We can help.

Before I begin a site redesign I always review the site’s keyword ranking in my software. This provides a benchmark (low or high) demonstrating how well the site is performing for a client’s business. If results show the site ranking at 42 or 155 for various keyword phrases, I know the redesign (or optimization) is overdue.

After the new site is published I run the review again to see how much improvement has been made. It’s not always perfectly successful. Many businesses are very competitive as are their keyword phrases, making high ranking difficult to achieve.

In the case of this client, the same keyword phrases had ranked very poorly before we redesigned the site. Now we have the pleasure of tweaking these results for even better ranking.

Do you know how high your site’s keywords are ranking? And do you know what ranking you’d like it achieve?