Home > Blog > What Does Google Actually Look For In A Website?

August 4, 2017

What Does Google Actually Look For In A Website?

Understanding SEO and its purpose can be difficult, particularly if you’re new to the concept of search engine optimisation, or you simply own a website and have never really looked into it before. Google is constantly changing and updating its algorithm, so what Google might be looking for today doesn’t necessarily mean that is going to be the same a year, or even a few months, down the line. In order to make the understanding of search engine optimisation easier for you to digest, we’re breaking down what Google is actually looking for in a website, and how you can adopt your practices in order to help your site to rank on SERPs.

Robots.txt

If you have any parts of your website that is blocked by robots.txt, then you’re essentially telling Google that it can’t look at certain parts of it. If there are any files, pages or sections on your site that are blocked with robots.txt, then Google will simply not index that particular page. This means your page won’t rank in Google SERPs. When Google begins to crawl your site, it will instantly look at what it does and does not have permission to crawl, meaning it will be looking for a robots.txt file. If you want to allow Google to crawl your entire site, then the robots.txt file should look like this:

User-agent: *
Disallow:

Or

User-agent: *

Allow: /

Anything that is placed after the disallow, for example /wp-admin/ or /contact/, then Google will not index that page. Google likes to be able to crawl everything, and while you may not be penalised for having some pages that disallow crawlers, it’s better if you simply allow Google to have free reign across your site.

There are a number of ways that you can check to see whether your site has a robot.txt file, by typing in your URL, followed by /robots.txt. Alternatively, you can see whether or not Google is fetching robots.txt files on Google Webmaster Tools.

Robots.txt File

Site-Level Signals

One of the most important things to consider when it comes to what Google is looking for in a website is the different elements that make up a differentiation between site-level and page-level signals. While Google looks at the entire domain in terms of link-building, Trust elements and internal link ratios, it actually tends to look a lot more closely at individual pages. However, there are a number of site-level signals that you will need to know about when it comes to optimising your site.

Authority & Trust

Authority and trust is an all-encompassing concept of both site level and page level signals. For example, if you have spammy outbound links or sneaky re-directs within the pages on your site then Google will recognise this. If your website is associated with a spammy backlink profile, or social spam, then Google will also understand this as an untrustworthy factor of your site. Trust is extremely difficult to build with a website – but it is very easy to lose.

Domain History

One of the more insignificant factors that Google can somewhat take into account is the history of a domain – however there isn’t a huge amount of evidence to suggest that this is a highly important trust factor. If a site carries penalties after somebody else purchases the domain, then Google can take this into account when it comes to the site’s authority and trust.

Thin Content

While this is something that is accounted for on individual pages, if a site features thin content or duplicate content across the entire site, then this can have a sincere effect on the site’s rankings. This became even more prominent after the Google Panda algorithm update and to some extent Google’s page layout algorithm improvement which was implemented in 2012.

Internal Link Ratios

Internal links are growing in importance with every Google algorithm update that comes into play. With internal linking, you’re going to want to link to your most important pages more than your least important pages, while providing users and bots with a simple journey throughout your site.

Page Signals

Google generally crawls individual pages, which is an important distinction to remember, and there are a number of factors that Google bots take into consideration when it comes to page signals.

Page Titles & Meta Descriptions

Meta-data is one of the easiest things to optimise on your site, and keeping every page title and meta-description unique is exceptionally important. While the meta-description is not a ranking factor, it can help with a site’s click-through rate. You can optimise your title and meta description with relevant keywords. Other meta-data that Google bots will look for when crawling your site includes canonical tags, which help to tell Google how to treat a specific page.

SERP Result

Alt-Tags

Google crawlers cannot see images, so if an alt-tag is not in place in order to describe what the image is for a Google bot, it will see the image as an empty space on a page. While this will not be extremely detrimental to a site, it is something that should always be in place.

Classification

The pages themselves will all fall under certain classifications, and this can help you to communicate what the intent and elements of the individual pages are. These classifications can include content type, intent and localisation.

Temporal Signals

Temporal signals are a range of factors that Google can look for which can help to evaluate the authority of a particular page. There are a number of temporal signals which Google can consider, including:

  • Document Age
  • Freshness
  • Niche Trends
  • Content Update Rates
  • Historic Query
  • Click Data

Semantic Signals

Semantic signals are also important because of the way Google loves content. Some form of semantic analysis can be taken into account by Google bots, with categorisation of content, relevant terms and phrases, related keyword uses, citations and more all being included.

Prominence

While prominence is not necessarily a ranking signal, Google are looking a lot closer at user experience, meaning prominence factors could very quickly get a look in. Understanding how to make your content easier to read for users and also for Google bots is important. Including things like headings (h1-h5), bold, italic and underlining keywords, bullet pointed and numbered lists and other stylistic qualities can help to keep people on a page for longer, because your content is easier to digest.

Off-Site Signals

While Google begun to switch its focus towards on-site factors in recent years, many SEOs still believe that a domain’s off-site activities are extremely important. A site’s backlink profile in particular is of a huge importance when it comes to the rankings of a site.

There are a huge number of factors that influence the way Google sees a site’s backlink profile. Firstly, they are going to be looking at the temporal factors, the authority and trust of the backlinks and ultimately the reach that the backlinks provide.

Temporal Factors

The temporal factors that Google looks for include:

  • A link’s velocity
  • The age of a link
  • The relevancy of a link
  • The authority of a link
  • The link’s social visibility.

Reach

Reach is an extremely important factor when it comes to a successful organic outreach campaign, and the reach of a particular page or creative campaign for a client can be measured in a number of ways by Google. Firstly, Google can look at how many organic links a particular page on a site has. Then, it will look at how this reach has been distributed, across news, social and video.

Spam

One of the biggest crackdowns Google has had when it comes to search engines is spam. This is across links and also content, and with the Panda and Penguin algorithm updates as a core focus on changes, Google penalise sites that feature any kind of spam.

To narrow down what we mean by spam, we’re looking at things like tactics that are used to help increase a ranking, known as link spam, and also tactics that are used to mislead and trick the search engine.

There are a number of different areas on a site that can be influenced by spam techniques, so it is important to ensure that you are always looking out for Google Best Practices.

 

Are you in need of a helping hand to help boost your organic search campaign, and bolster your website with everything good that Google is looking for? Then contact our experts today on 01245 287 864.

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Author:

Sophie Brannon

With a background in multimedia and music journalism, Sophie’s writing is as rich and varied as her iTunes library. While her passion for writing led her to seek the challenges of writing for a broad range of industries, Sophie continues to refine her skills with her camera in hand. Whether that’s pursuing her travel journalism or interviewing bands at festivals and awards, Sophie’s musings can be found across the web. When Sophie isn’t behind a keyboard, she can often be found jetting off around the world, or cuddling her collection of pet reptiles.


Email s.brannon@absolutedigitalmedia.com

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