How to get to the top of Google

Want to get listed at the top of the world's most popular search engine? This week's MT Expert, Andrew Atalla, explains everything you need to know about Google and SEO.

by Andrew Atalla
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

How do I get my business to the top of the Google ranking? That's the multi-million pound question which leaves many companies tearing their hair out.

As you will already know, the art of ranking naturally in the search engines is known as SEO, or ‘search engine optimisation’. As a specialism, it has morphed beyond recognition in the last couple of years, with the techniques once viewed as essential now causing ranking reductions rather than improvements.

Here are some things you need to know:

SEO doesn’t exist
Modern SEO is so broad in its reach; it no longer exists as a specialism. It’s more of a mind-set, or awareness, rather than an individual task – and requires many business activities to contribute.

Changing your perception
Before giving you some tips on SEO, I want to first change your perception of it by asking you a simple question: "If you were Google, which sites would you want to rank well in the listings?" Spend a few minutes on this before reading on - you’ll be surprised at how valuable your answer is. Instinctively, you may be thinking "the good ones" – but what exactly makes for a "good site", or more importantly, a good business..?

Good business = Good SEO
If you’ve contributed to the running of a business, you’ll know the answer is an almost endless list. The good news though, is that this list increasingly correlates with what makes great SEO - so the first step is to accept that SEO shouldn’t be fight against the grain of your business, but rather be a natural product of it’s success.

If I were Google, what would I want?
1) I would want sites with no errors in them to appear in the results. Good point.

Check your HTML, your links and even your spelling. There are many tools out there to check your site health, its load time, spelling and  grammar. Google can see all this, and is unlikely to reward a site riddled with errors with a high rankings.
2) I would want sites that users found helpful, informative and easy to use in the results.

Another key point. Check your content is user friendly. Only write as much as you need for the users, not for the search engines. Ensure key information is easy to find. Make sure your site structure is logical and easy to navigate for users. Get it tested with real users and also onsite analytics such as Crazy Egg. Regularly make improvements to your pages so users respond well to them. This can help both your SEO, but also your onsite conversion rate.

3) I would want to reward sites that people recommended and talked about with strong rankings.

Be active as a business. Get involved with your customers in social media. Talk about what your company is doing in PR. Share your insights and thoughts with your market to show Google you’re an authority in the space. Make sure you understand your customers needs, and go the extra mile to service them. This will not only give you an advantage over the competition, but will also get customers recommending you on social networks, or writing positive reviews online. Appear in all the relevant places you can, from local directories, trade press or other business which provide a complementary service to a similar customer base.

All of this can be seen by Google, and will help them understand that your site, your business, should be right at the top of the search results.

- Andrew Atalla is founder of atom42, an online marketing agency which works with companies such as, AOL & Huffington Post, Drinkaware and National Accident Helpline.

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