Grabbing the top spot on Google search results — and staying there — is every website owner’s dream. But it doesn’t happen through sheer luck or magic.
The truth is, if you’re not dedicated and persistent, it’s hard to stop your ranking from falling. Especially so because of the constantly-changing nature of Google’s policies and algorithm.
Here are some tips to increase your site’s ranking while avoiding penalties.
1. Know the Ranking Algorithms
According to Search Engine Land, “Google is reported to change its search algorithm around 500 to 600 times each year. While most of these updates are small and often aren’t even picked up by users and SEO, every once in a while, Google releases major updates.”
These updates affect site owners differently, so you can’t conclusively blame an algorithm change for a drop in your rankings.
From mobile-friendliness, backlinks, content quality, sneaky redirects, and site architecture to social media presence and brand mentions, there are over 200 ranking factors that influence Google’s decisions to rank your website. Staying on top of updates and ranking factors allows you to tweak your website accordingly, so your site remains compliant.
2. Know Your Current Search Ranking
It’s important to evaluate your search ranking from time to time in order to make sure you are where you need to be on the SERP. Even new sites can benefit from knowing where they stand. Luckily, there are tools that can help you in this exercise.
- Ahrefs to see how well your site ranks for its target keywords.
- Google PageSpeed Insights to check your site’s speed
- MxToolBox Domain Health Report tool to assess the major issues with your site including overall health, mail server, blacklist, web server, and DNS.
- FE International’s Website Penalty Indicator tool and Google Search Console to check if your site has been hit by a Google penalty, which can sink your ranking.
3. Stay Away from “Shortcuts”
Or, as we call them in the business — black-hat SEO tactics. These are a bunch of techniques — keyword stuffing, duplicate content, clickbait, and link buying to name a few — that will earn you the wrath of Google. If you’re doing any of these, you’re risking a ranking loss or even a total ban.
As a thumb rule, prevention is always better than cure. So, it’s always a safe bet to practice white hat SEO, which not only aligns with Google’s policies but will also lead to more positive SEO outcomes in the long run.
4. Identify and Fix Your Current Penalties
Once you’ve understood which penalties can affect your website and how, your next step should be to assess your site and check for any penalties it might have incurred. You can use the penalty checker tools we mentioned above for this purpose. List down all the issues and fix them one by one. Here’s a guide on how to recover from all types of Google penalties.
5. Monitor and Measure the Right SEO Metrics
If there’s one thing paramount to earning the top ranking for your website, it is spending time to track some vital SEO metrics. After all, it is only when you measure something that you make any attempts to improve it. Some of the most important metrics to track include:
- Organic traffic
- Organic conversions
- Keyword rankings
- Local visibility
- Page speed
- Organic landing page metrics
Maintaining a top site ranking is an ongoing battle against thousands of changes and updates that Google throws your way. In order to build a sustainable web presence, you have to put consistent efforts. So, if you don’t have the time or the inclination to do all of these on your own, resist the temptation to cut corners. It will almost always backfire. Rather, using an SEO agency can help get your site in the good books of Google, while it reaps the benefits of maintaining a rock steady ranking on the top SERP.