This a complicated question. There are hundreds of factors that contribute to Google’s search algorithm, and no one knows for sure exactly what it’s comprised of, but I’ll try to give you the view from 10,000 feet here based on factors we know correlate into higher rankings.
Links are votes
One of the big reasons certain sites appear in Google search while others do not, is links. Google’s search algorithm is still predicated on a concept known as Page Rank. Put simply, when one website links to another, link juice flows to the site receiving the link. Google views links as votes. Votes build authority. The more high-quality sites that are linking to your site, the better your site will perform in search results. You can use tools like Open Site Explorer to research the link profile of your site, as well as competing sites.
See also: Link Building Strategies For 2015
Penguin: when links can hurt
One of the big issues faced by site owners over the last year and a half has been linking penalties. Not all links will help your website, some can hurt.
Part of the reason some SEO’s have earned less than stellar reputations over the years, has to do with link spam. Prior to algorithm updates like Penguin, Google was not as effective at gauging the quality of the link. As a result, SEO campaigns often focused on building as many links as possible, without any interest in the value of the link. This is exactly what Google does not want. Google does not want site owners building links for the sake of building links, they want links to act as votes, editorial endorsements of content that one site owner find useful for his or her audience. To encourage “democratic linking” and punish spam, Google updated its algorithm to remove sites with questionable link profiles from search. Your site may fail to appear in Google because it lacks links and authority, or because its existing links have been identified as spam.
The big lesson from Penguin is that building links for the sake of links is a dead tactic. When you read this article and see that a lack of links may be hindering your site’s performance, the lesson is not to go out and indiscriminately acquire links. The best strategy is to promote your business on the Internet and achieve links as a byproduct of those efforts. Publicity, marketing, sharing information. All of these are good goals. It just so happens, that they also result in links.
Links should be a byproduct of marketing, not the goal of marketing
For example, perhaps you’ve recently taken part in a speaking engagement and created a PowerPoint to go along with the presentation. You’d like a larger audience than just the audience that was present in the conference hall, so you put your presentation on a platform like Slide Share. You create a profile, which includes a link to your website. The link from Slide Share will pass some link juice to your website, and you’ve built a link that is compliant with Google Webmaster guidelines. Your purpose was not to build a link, your purpose was to promote your business.
Don’t build all the links to the homepage: understanding page authority
Yes, you want quality links pointing to your website. Quality links pointing to your website will help it appear in Google search results. However, one of the big mistakes small business make, is to maintain a homepage centric SEO strategy. You don’t want to build all of your inbound links to your homepage. As a practical matter, your homepage is only going to rank for a handful of targeted terms that are dictated by the page title. Each webpage has its own stand alone authority, that is dictated by the links, shares, and level of engagement it receives. While strong domain authority at the root domain level can help attract long tail traffic to internal pages, you don’t want to focus exclusively on building links to your home page. In fact, Moz’s 2013 ranking factors contained data that showed a higher correlation between page level linking metrics, than domain level linking metrics.
The goal should be to earn links by building a great website. Going out and manually submitting internal pages of your website to different directories, or guest blogging, may get you some traction, however, the primary goal should be to create a page that is so useful that everyone will want to link to it. In other words, focus on the meritocracy of search. Build links to internal pages by making sure that you’ve created one of the 10 best pages on your subject. Once the pages have been built, there is nothing wrong with promoting them via traditional PR channels.
It’s no secret, Google is emphasizing Google plus. In order to decipher experts from wannabes, Google will begin ranking content based on the authority of a given author. Part of becoming a “Google trusted author,” will be engaging on Google plus. You build Author Rank by creating digital evidence of your authority in your niche. This means adding thought leaders to your circles, and having them reciprocate. It means publishing on your blog, as well as on other authoritative sites.
While there is a running debate as to the current effectiveness of Google plus as a ranking factor, there is a tremendous amount of correlation data which suggests that “plus ones” and have a big impact on the visibility of content in search results. Going forward, building authority in your niche as a subject matter expert will help you gain visibility in search results. If you’re reading this article, you are either my Mother, or you’re interested in SEO and search, and if that is the case, you should be investing in Google Plus.
When you publish content, share it on Google Plus. Make sure it’s synced with your Google Plus profile. Add peers in your industry to your circles.
If you’re not on Google Plus and are wondering why your website doesn’t appear in search, you’ve just found a good place to begin.