Why is my competitor at the top of Google for the phrase “web design” and I’m not?

In my industry the company Yoke Design appears at the top of Google’s search results for the phrases “web design” and “web design Melbourne” and I don’t….bugger. At the moment my website is on page two of Google for the phrase “web design”, which attracts no traffic.

Using free and publicly available online tools I’ve analysed the Yoke website according to SEO principles and in no particular order I detail the elements of their site that should impact and explain their high rankings.

1. Links

Since Ancient times (the 1990’s),  the greatest influence on Google rankings has been the quantity and quality of inbound links.

According to MOZ’s open site explorer Yoke have around 9000 links from 144 different domains. A quick scan of the other sites on the first page of Google reveal that this number of links is neither massive nor small.

Backlink checker with the MOZ open site explorer tool.
Backlink checker with the MOZ open site explorer tool.

Here’s how many links the other top ranked sites have:

Magic Dust: 46,000 links from 966 different domains.

Chromatix: 2500 links from 100 different domains.

The variability and number of inbound links the top ranked websites have suggests the quality of the link source is important. The MOZ tool reveals these sites have links from high quality sites such as The Huffington Post (Magic Dust), Ads of the World (Yoke) and North Western University (Chromatix).

So if you haven’t yet done so, you need to think about building some inbound links. Here is a review of some useful link building tools to get you started.

On to our next topic – content.

2. Content, Blogging & Frequency

Yoke keep their content fresh by regularly posting new articles on their blog. Here are some key takeaways from their blogging efforts:

  • Frequency: they posted 14 articles in 2015.
  • Word count: the 14 posts from last year have an average of 1376 words each.
  • Images: they’ve taken great care to add compelling images to each post with an average of seven images per post and one video per post.
  • Social engagement: they’re doing very well to promote their posts via social media. Each post has an average of 300 social media shares with one post clocking 1500 shares.This kind of exposure encourages traffic back to their site, generates interest in their brand, builds their reputation as a ‘thought leader’ in their industry, increases their Google domain authority and helps to build back links to their site which increases their Google rankings.

In summary Yoke are doing a fantastic job generating compelling content on a frequent basis. I would surmise that their high Google rankings are mostly due to this.

3. Domain Age

Although a fairly insignificant factor in determining search engine rankings an older domain has more authority in Google than a younger domain.

According to a whois search, Yoke’s domain has been registered since at least 2008 although I suspect it’s older (certainly the company has been around longer than that).

4. Use of Keywords

hand writing what are your keywords on grey backgroundHow have Yoked integrated important search keywords into their site?

In their homepage source code, the phrase “Web design” appears 10 times and  “Web design Melbourne” appears four times. I would have considered this over doing it a little but it obviously works for them. Importantly both phrases appear in their meta description and page title.

Interestingly their homepage contains almost no text, just a few sentences with links to internal pages with keyword anchor texts. A few years ago it was thought a homepage required a lot of content to rank well but Yoke proves this is not the case.

They haven’t bothered with “meta keywords” as Google doesn’t use meta tag keywords to influence search results.

5. Optimised Images

I mentioned above that Yoke are really good with their use of images. A closer look reveals they’re doing a good job to optimise their images for both usability and SEO in the following ways:

  • Image file size: A quick scan of the blog reveals images between 100kb-350kb, which is nice and low enough to load quickly (and the larger image sizes seem to be animated gifs). As images are the main thing that slows a website load speed it’s super important to have the file size of each image as low as possible whilst maintaining quality.
  • Image file names: they’ve sometimes used keywords in their image file names (so Google knows what the image is about), for example “pause-fest-digital-business-transformations-yoke1.gif” . Naming your images properly also help your images appear in Google’s image search.Interestingly they’ve included their company name in all image file names, further promoting their brand as images get saved and reused around the web.
  • Image alt tags: according to Wikipedia, image alt tags are “Alternative text is text associated with an image that serves the same purpose and conveys the same essential information as the image.” It’s basically a hidden description added to images that appear when the image can’t be shown or for users with visual impairments. Check out Google’s guidelines for using alt tags. Yoke have used alt tags for their images, in most cases copying the filename to the tag.

6. Page Speed

In 2010 Matt Cutts from Google declared that Google will start incorporating site speed as one of the many signals it uses to determine search result rankings. However, he mentioned speed won’t carry much weight in determining rankings and that less than 1% of sites would be affected.

I suspect that because site speed affect other signals used to determine rankings (user behaviour, bounce rate, etc.) the knock on effects of a site’s load time may have a bigger impact on rankings than suggested by Matt Cutts in the article above.

However, I may be wrong; Yoke’s Google page speed scores aren’t particularly great and it certainly hasn’t hurt their rankings:

yoke desktop score
Yoke Desktop Google Page speed score
yoke mobile score
Yoke Mobile Google Page speed score

Still, they beat my current scores of 65 for desktop and 52 for mobile. Something I can improve on.

Another nice tool to analyse page speed is Pingdom’s speed test tool. Yoke score quite well with 87/100 but their load time of 4.62 seconds could definitely be improved. Directly underneath the speed test Pingdom shows a list of every element on the page and it’s file size and load time. An excellent tool for identifying areas of improvement to a site’s load speed.

Pingdom's website speed test tool.
Pingdom’s website speed test tool.


The above analysis shows Yoke are doing all the right things according to Google best practices, but I think what places them at the top of the pack is their successful blogging.

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