Google uses a number of things to rank your website for search results. Their algorithm is a tightly held secret but they do share best practices. Here are some of the things I do when optimizing a website to improve page rank.
Content – The most important thing to Google is content. Your site should have content related to what the user is searching for. How does Google know the content is correct though. There are key indicators to them that the page may have content related to what the user is searching for.
- The text on the page – Google will essentially read the page and look for a keyword or phrase the closest matches what the user has search for. The more times that keyword or phrase is used it gives it more value. Hold on though, use it too much and you will get penalized. Google will think you are stuff the content. They can also tell if it’s used naturally in the writing. Things to think about when you are writing content are: a. What keywords or phrases are your visitors searching for? b. Will they be typing in a keyword or will they be typing a full question that you can rank high on? UPDATE: A recent article on Mashable gives more detail on writing to accommodate Google’s Hummingbird update.
- The URL of the page – Does the URL of your page have keywords related to the content in it? For example is you url for your about page www.mysite.comabout.html or something more descriptive like www.mysite.comabout-keyword->or-phrase-related-to-the-content.html. Best practice is to use the same or a modified version of the title of your page, which leads to the next item.
- Page Title – This is the title that shows in the tab of your browser. This is set in a meta tag in the source of your webpage. Since the title is not visible on the page but is more for search engines this is an opportunity to be descriptive about the content of your page. Remember keywords or phrases.
- Article Heading – Remember those grammar lessons and the basic outline? Google likes these. An outline makes it easy for the user to scan the content of the page and find the content they are looking for. Each section of the outline will have a heading. In the source these are marked with heading tags. They go in order of importance and start with h1,h2 and move on as much as needed. More value is given to the h1 tag but you should really try to limit it to 1 or 2 per page. What is enclosed in this tag is usually the Article Heading which most of the time closely matches the page title, url and content of the page.
- Meta Description – This information is in the source code of the page and describes the content of the page. It is not visible on the page but is visible to the user when searching and visible to Google to help decide what the page is about. I usually start the meta description with the keyword or phrase for the page and then describe the content of the page. Instead of trying to trick Google I think about what the user is going to see for a search result. If I can explain the page accurately and capture their attention they are more likely to click on it. If they click on it Google takes note and if you get lots of clicks Google will show you more for that search request.
- Backlinks – Backlinks are links from other websites to your website. Google ranks each website on a scale of 0 to 10. This is called your pagerank. Websites that get more traffic and provide more valuable information usually rank higher. A link back to your site from a higher pagerank site will be more valuable thank from a lower pagerank page. For example, a link from CNN is better than a link from the local coffee shop. Try finding industry related websites and getting linked from them or if they have forums participate and include links back to your site. If you are knowledgeable about your field you could guest blog on another site and link back to your site. It really boils down to quality not quantity when it comes to backlinks.
Social Linking – Often overlooked, social linking can be valuable if done right. Social linking is when you use social media sites like facebook, twitter and linked in to link back to information on your website. This is a great way to build traffic on your site. That traffic in turns tells Google people are interested in the content on your site and increases the likelihood of you showing in the results for a query. The tricky part in creating compelling content. Posting a question with a hint to the answer in the beginning text might just be teaser you need to get someone to click on the link and read more. Maybe an image or a video will do the trick. You really have to think, what will grab the readers attention. Try and keep their attention when they get to your site with compelling reading there too. The longer they stay on your site the better for your Google results.
Blogging/Freshness – Most of my clients cringe when I tell them they need to blog. Remember #1 up there, content? Content really is king. The only thing better is “Fresh” content. You create your website and want visitors. When you create it its new, fresh. As time goes by it begins to get old, stale. If someone else comes along with content similar to yours and is fresh they may rank higher. A blog ensures a steady stream of fresh content on your site. Not to mention each post is an opportunity to optimize for new keywords or phrases.
Optimizing – I mentioned “new” keywords or phrases for a reason. Imagine you create a page and a blog post on your site and both are optimized for the same keyword. Now they are competing against each other. You see, although Google may look at your site as a whole, they also look at it in its parts. Each page is an opportunity to optimize for a different keyword or phrase. Do you think a visitor to your site always enters through the main page? More often than not they are entering through a page or post on your site. From there they can navigate to where they want.
Images – Another way people enter is through image searches. Could someone be looking for an image related to what you’re offering. Wouldn’t you like to get them back to your site, increasing your traffic and value, therefore improving your rank? You can optimize your images for search results. In the source code of the page you have the opportunity to include title and alt tags. Using your keywords and phrases in them will improve search results for your page and your images.
Sitemap/Analytics – A sitemap comes in two forms a visual one for visitors to the site and one for the search engines. The one for the search engines is usually a xml file. It provides information to Google about the structure of your site, what pages to follow or not follow and how often to come back and check the site. Google Analytics is a tool for finding out what keywords or phrases are bringing visitors to your site, what links are bringing them, how long they are staying, where they are going when they get there and various other information about their visit. Use Google Analytics and Google Webmaster tools. Webmaster tools is where you can submit your sitemap rather than waiting for Google to find it.
Advertising – If you really have valuable content on your site advertising can be a great way to fast track your exposure and build your reputation. Google Adwords will expose your site on websites all over the web. Most people think they are just paying to advertise in Google search results. Google has another program called Adsense that give website owners the opportunity to sell advertising on their site. When you purchase advertising with Google you are purchasing advertising on those sites as well. Adwords works by bid. You don’t have to manage the bidding it’s all handled by Google. You can bid for exposure or clicks. This isn’t for everyone but if you have an advertising budget this can be helpful.
I wish I could tell you there was something easy you could do that would ensure you rank well but if that were true everyone would be doing it. As with everything, those who are willing to work harder will get greater reward.
For more information or help improving page rank for your business, contact Ed Booth.