“How can I be Number One on Google?” It’s a common goal we hear from businesses trying to grow their marketing, but the answer to that question is not as simple as it may seem. When it comes to ranking on Google, it actually is a complex process, and even the term “ranking” makes it seem like it’s just a standard order of your site versus others. However, it goes deeper than this. Let’s break down a few of those items to clear up confusion. 

What Does “Ranking” Actually Mean?

One of the largest misunderstandings about ranking is that it is not one overall master number. What ranking means is how you will show up on Google based off the words someone searches for (also called a “search term”). For example, let’s say your business is a coffee shop here in town that also sells a variety of baked goods. If someone searches the term “local coffee shop”, you want to rank high, to show up at the top of the results, for that search term. Now if someone searches “local baker”, you might not care as much about showing up in that search, but you could still potentially rank. 

So rankings are per each individual phrase being searched, and this is why it is a little more complicated than just ranking number one overall. You could rank number 1 on “local coffee shop”, number 12 for “coffee shop near me”, number 80 for “artisan baked goods and coffee”, so this just helps illustrate how rankings vary widely. Rankings will fluctuate throughout the year, so it is not a static one-time number that is assigned. 

Based off this understanding of ranking per search terms, the best question to ask is, “what words would I like to show up for that people are searching for?” rather than just “am I number one on Google?”

Can I Make My Site Rank Higher?

The next layer deeper is that not only are rankings based on individual search terms, the rankings are also going to vary by the pages of your site. There is no one overall ranking for your site as a whole. Search engines are looking at every page and what they individually are about, as well as considering technical components. 

Going back to our coffee shop example, let’s say you have a page specifically about your baked goods. While that page might not rank in search results if someone searches “local coffee shop”, it might rank in search results for terms like “artisan baked goods” or similar.  

If you use Google Search Console, you’ll be able to see a performance report that shows exactly what terms people are searching and then which pages people see in the results associated with those terms. As you identify these terms, you can consider which words are ones to continue to optimize for in your page content. 

Why Am I Not Seeing Changes Quickly?

A common misconception when it comes to ranking for terms is that once you’ve added those keywords/phrases onto your site that you will start showing up right away at the top of those results. There are multiple factors that go into how a search engine evaluates how high your content should rank, and sometimes even that initial process can take several months. Here are a few of the factors that go into this: 

  • Competition: Depending on the search term you want to be able to rank for, there may be many other pieces of content that already exist. For example, if you search “local coffee shop”, there are over 573 million results! If you are trying to rank for a term with a lot of competition or content volume, it may be more challenging to show up in top positions. Rankings can improve over time as your page gains more visits and Google understands its value, but overall competition still has a major impact on this. 
  • Authority: With millions of pages of content, Google has to look at factors beyond just the content on your page. They look at your site as a whole to assess your site’s authority. Part of what will help your pages rank better is if your site is considered credible and authoritative. Factors Google evaluates include: 
    • Do other sites talk about you and link back to you?  
    • Do people spend time on your site and not just leave quickly? 
    • Will your site answer the questions people have when they search? 
  • Technical Optimizations: Google also assesses many other technical components of your site to consider if it will be a positive user experience. Things like site speed, mobile friendliness, and easy-to-read page layouts all influence how Google assesses your site and whether its pages should be prioritized in rankings. 

As you can see from these areas, ranking on Google is a complex process that requires a strategic and ongoing approach. With algorithms for ranking continuing to change even monthly, it is an ever-evolving learning and adapting process. Starting simply by evaluating your data can give you insight into areas for improvement as you begin to plan your strategic approach. 

A strategic partner can make all the difference in navigating the ever-changing world of SEO and Google rankings. At Strategy, we would love to walk with you in that process and empower you with content and search engine expertise. Contact us today to learn more. 

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