When it comes to your website, there are a lot of specific things Google cares about: the frequency of your content updates, the way you use keywords and the size of the images you use, just to name a few.
But if we take a step back and look at what Google cares about from a more holistic point of view, we’re talking about general site health. While we all like to think we know what this means, the truth is that we may not have the full picture — which means we’re probably losing points with Google that we could otherwise be winning.
Let’s take a look at a few of the factors that influence site health, as well as how to make sure your website is as healthy as it can be.
Factor #1: The Quality of Your Backlinks
When a reputable outside website links back to your site, Google sees you as more trustworthy because by linking to your content, that other reputable site is saying they trust you and find the information you provide to be valuable.
On the other hand, if you’ve worked with a less-than-reputable SEO company and you have illegitimate backlinks coming into your site from websites that are only set up for the exact purpose of providing false (or “toxic”) backlinks to try to trick Google, then you could end up with worse rankings than if you had no backlinks at all.
Is there a chance Google won’t catch what’s happening? Sure, and you might rank higher for a little while. But ultimately they’ll find out, and you’ll be penalized.
Factor #2: Engagement
One of the things Google values most is high-quality content that people find valuable. If you have indicators of poor engagement, such as a high bounce rate, small session times, high percentage of exits — i.e. people hit your website and then leave quickly — Google assumes you aren’t providing high-quality content because people aren’t sticking around for any significant length of time.
In order to help improve your engagement, you want to make sure the content you provide is clear, valuable and reliable. It is also best to make sure you are giving the user a clear next step. Do you have clear calls to actions that tell them where to go next on your website?
And while you’re analyzing your content, go ahead and take a look at your site’s user experience, too. If it’s hard for people to use your site, they’re probably going to leave even if your content is fantastic.
Factor #3: Site Speed
How patient are you when a website is loading? Do you wait five seconds before you bail? Ten? Let’s be honest: Most of us don’t have the patience for a five-second load speed, much less anything beyond that. Google knows this, and if your site is so weighed down that it’s taking too long to load, it will fall in search results. Even if your content is great and your user experience is superb, if people can’t get your site to pull up, they won’t have a chance to use it at all.
Ideally, your website should load in 3 seconds or less. Aiming for this speed will make your site faster than half of all websites, and if you can get it to load faster, do it. There’s no downside to a quickly-loading website, either in Google’s eyes or for your human audience.
So, How’s Your Site Health?
Website health can be a tricky thing to evaluate on your own. If you need help auditing your site for potential weak spots, reach out to us — we’re passionate about helping people find success with their websites, and we offer free site audits that can help you identify areas of improvement.