New sites, Google’s tips to increase ranking

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Generally, our insights focus on the actions and optimizations that projects that are already online and on the market can perform: but what are the interventions suitable for a new site that wants to set a strategy to improve the ranking of its pages? Some useful advice come from Google, which gives guidance on how to fight to earn better positions in Search right away.

Suggestions for small and brand new sites

The cues come, as frequently as it is, from the hangouts of John Mueller, which answers the questions asked by webmasters and SEOs worldwide: in one of the last appointments, the question asked was precisely about the activities to improve the ranking regardless of backlinks, and the Google Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst took the opportunity to give some practical and useful suggestions to all sites, even just barely “born”.

The question was asked by a small online publisher, who began by saying that “everyone knows that a dofollow link helps to earn rankings along with many other signals, and therefore no one links to my site with a dofollow link because this costs a little bit of their juice link.

How can a small site compete?

The user – that calls himself a newbie – questions Mueller in order to know how could ever a small site grow if anyone “is willing to give me dofollow link”, also taking into account that “a lot of big sites implemented nofollow policies everywhere on the platform, thus it is almost impossible for me to acquire a dofollow link from a big site”.

Ultimately, the central question that actually interests us as well is “how can a small and new site (maybe run by a newbie) grow in 2020? All you have to do is to write contents and wait indefinitely?”.

Do not only focus on backlinks and dofollow links

Mueller adresses the first part of the question, reminding us that for a few months now Google can also use the nofollow links as suggestions for the ranking, and therefore “no longer completely ignores those links”. In fact, especially in some areas “we have seen that many new websites are only linked with nofollow links and it would be a shame for us not to be able to find out those links and show them in Search”, says the Googler, “and that’s why we’re trying to use nofollows more as a signal”.

With this premise – and then clarified that Google is not only based on dofollow links to determine the rankings, nowadays – Mueller widens its reasoning and confirms, once again, that we have to look at the “big picture when it comes to the Web” and not “just suppose that if you have backlinks then you will be shown in Search”.

The right approach to Research for sites

To make us understand the right approach to Research that a small and new site must have, the Googler provides a similitude: “Imagine to be a business opening a store in a larger city. You can’t just wait for someone to recommend your business, and you can’t just open the window and wait outside for someone to pass by and enter the store”.

You do not have to only rely on external help- the backlinks – nor on fate and luck, but “you rather have to try several different things to help and promote your activity”.

By improving the site, users (and links) can be attracted

In Mueller’s experience – and Google’s philosophy – if “you do things to draw attention on your business in a way that encourages people to take notice and realize that this business exists and is doing really great things, customers will come and over time recommendations will too”.

Success “is not something that happens automatically: you may need to advertise for a while to move the waters, or you may need to do some extra special activities to distinguish yourself”.

“Opening a website is in some ways similar to opening a business”, continues the Googler, because “you have to do various things to roll the ball and at some point – if you’re doing a great job, something really great for people – then you’ll get the recommendations”.

Offering something amazing to users

Such recommendations could be in the form of dofollow or nofollow links, or “general mentions on social media in which people recommend your activity because you are doing a great job and so invite others to take a look”. And so the site, although small and new, could simply acquire more people and new traffic.

Six practical tips

From Mueller’s reasoning, we can extract five takeaway tips – highlighted by Roger Montti – useful both for small and new sites and for older projects:

  • Google uses new rules that allow nofollow links to be calculated as signals/ranking factors. Obviously, this does not mean that spammy nofollow comments will be used, but that a normal nofollow link from normal websites can be considered as equal as a dofollow link.
  • This can benefit those who work in niches where sites tend to link each other only with nofollow.
  • Promoting a company means more than just getting links.
  • Building traffic to a website means being proactive and thinking as if we have a traditional store: in both cases we have to understand how to make our business different to be noticed and be better than the competition.
  • You should avoid making excuses about why our site does not rank and focus on what we think is wrong. It is more useful and productive to look at the “big picture” and focus on all the ways to try and emerge.

Making a site grow with multiple actions

In the end, Mueller’s advice is to look beyond the mere links in order to have better placements and more traffic, and to “rather think about how to grow a company in general through all kinds of business”, even promotional and multichannel.

Charging poor results in terms of visits and low ranking to the absence of dofollow links is simply looking for an excuse, it does not represent the explanation to the problem. It’s easy to focus on just one aspect (an excuse) to motivate poor site performance, but by doing so we close the door to understanding how to improve rankings and traffic.

It would be more appropriate to work with an open mind and explore all the reasons why our site is not performing while another competitor’s site is getting results, without being satisfied with superficial reasons (for example, that they have more backlinks) or just fixate on what we think might be wrong.

The best strategy is to try and study the reasons why the best placed sites are so high up, also looking at what innovations they have offered to users that make them more attractive.

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