BinocularsGoogle’s formula for ranking search results is a well-guarded secret.  Several companies offer services for Search Engine Optimization (SEO) where they use their expertise and experience to help your site rank better when your keywords are part of a search.  These services can be very expensive for a small company.  Below are a few factors that are known to be part of this optimization.  While some of these may require technical expertise, there are several things you can probably do yourself to improve your site.

Number of links to your site (called “back links”).

This is other sites with links to your site.  It demonstrates broad recognition and appeal for your site.  Be cautious though.  If Google finds you have cheated, you will be blacklisted for a long time.  Cheating would be something like setting up dummy sites and adding links to your primary site.  Getting back links is difficult but very beneficial.  Create articles that media outlets might publish along with a link to your site.

Number of site hits

This is the number of visits and unique visits your site receives.  This is why it is important to choose your site carefully at the beginning and stay with it.  One way to drive traffic to your site is to use SEA/SEM (Search Engine Advertising / Marketing).  In Google, this is called AdWords and there is a skill to designing a campaign that is cost effective.  It is worth investing in an agency who specializes in SEA/SEM.

Mobile friendly site

With the move away from desktops and laptops to mobile computing, sites that are “mobile friendly”.  This means that your landing page recognizes that it is being accessed via mobile device and delivers or offers to deliver content optimized for the small screen, limits data traffic, etc.

There are two ways to achieve this:

Responsive – Best.  Recognizes that it is a mobile device and displays content that is mobile friendly.  All of the content is available to all platforms but displays differently on a phone, tablet and computer.

Optimized – redirects to duplicate web site that is optimized for mobile.  Typically, these have less content than the “full” site.

 Frequency of updates

A stale site loses rank.  They want to see a site that remains fresh and has continually updating content.  That is why you see many sites with “blogs” that are updated frequently.  Some create their own blogs and others farm that out to others.

Technical configuration

This is a broad category that includes things like well-structured metadata, image tags, etc.  When search engines crawl a webpage, it tries to determine what the page is actually about.  Metadata (data about data) can help to summarize and reinforce the relevance of a search.  Image tags (and now video tags) support the “pictures” feature you see in Google search results.

Site appearance and quality

The appearance of the site is important to the ranking.  This includes things like the elegance, simplicity, intuitive navigation, etc.  It also requires that your site be free of bugs (broken links, HTML errors, etc.)

Site performance

If your site performs poorly, it will hurt the ranking.  This can happen when the hosting service is underpowered but mostly it happens when the web site is coded poorly.  Some examples of poor coding include large graphic files that take a long time to load, inefficient HTML or Java coding, etc.


A short video can help in many ways.  First, it will improve your Google ranking during searches.  Second, you can post the video to YouTube with a link to your web site.  It helps SEO and it helps market your business.  Consider using a professional service to create the video so that the quality is a positive.


This is how many companies have similar sites with similar search keywords.   For example, someone who sells decor stone housewares will have a significant challenge.  Any mention of “stone” gets lost in a sea of jewelry, yard stones, and a whole host of other meanings of the word “stone”.  When building your metadata and SEA/SEM campaigns, utilize “negative keywords” to avoid impressions from visitors searching for something completely different.  So in the example above, negative keywords might include “jewelry” and “yard”.

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Dan Gillingham is a retired executive, business owner and is currently volunteering as a small business counselor and mentor with SCORE

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