Author: Tom Frederick
Everyone wants their web site to be at the top of the Google rankings, but did you know that it already is?
Before we get stuck in to ways to improve your SEO understanding I want to be clear that no one is ever really at the top, or at the bottom. Google (and the others) are comparing your web site to a search term, depending on the search term you could be at the top or tucked down on page 5000.
My web site sells model trains under the name Tom's Trains. I sell online and post them out to all over the UK from where I am based in Hertfordshire, but also worldwide for an extra fee.
Someone enters the following search term into Google:
My web site is on the list, on page 352. This makes me sad. Then someone enters a new search term:
Tom's Trains model trains Hertfordshire
I now pop up on the first page, although bizarrely not quite at the top of the page. This makes me happy!
What Google is doing is deciding that people searching for trains, are probably not looking for model trains, so I appear way down the list. Then when people are searching for my company name AND model trains AND the county I live in, chances are high my web site will be relevant to them.
All Google is doing is matching search terms to web sites and trying to keep it as relevant as possible. You will be high in some searches and low in others. All good you say, but what happens when our web site isn’t appearing in a search we think it should be? And how do we make sure we are above our competitors?
Google reads your web site, it analyses each page and establishes what it considers to be the most important words or 'keywords'. It does this by counting the number of times you use those words or phrases. So if you mention the phrase Kentucky Fried Chicken 5 times on a page, there is a good chance that the page has something to do with KFC. Google will then rank your web site higher on a search for KFC.
If you use a word 10 times on a page which only has 100 words on it, then 10% of the content of that page consists of that particular keyword. If you have 1000 words on the page then it is only 1%.
This is keyword density. The theory goes that the more times a word or phrase is mentioned, the more relevant the content must be to that particular word or phrase and so the higher up the Google rankings you will be when that word or phrase is searched for.
This leads some people to fill pages up with popular search terms in order drive traffic to their sites. Google got wise to this so called 'keyword stuffing' and penalises pages which use a keyword too often.
The key to writing content which Google ranks highly is to ignore Google completely.
It's a little like trying to impress your Dad, the more you shout 'Look at me look at me' the more he rolls his eyes and despairs at his attention seeking children.
Here are some guidelines for you:
Keep it focussed – Decide what the point of each piece of content is, and stay on topic
Write with enthusiasm – Using plenty of descriptive words
Write what people want to read – Find out what your audience is interested in, this is what they are searching for
If you are using Wordpress or some other CMS then we can assume that the code is written to an acceptable standard. If you are writing it all yourself make sure you validate it, check it for errors and indent it nicely.
Once you have these basics covered, remember that Google looks in the following places when working out what your content is all about:
Make sure that the page title describes the content of the page. Do not just have the same page title for each page, if you do you are wasting a chance to rank well.
Use the <h1> tag to describe the main topic of the page, and only use it the once, make sure to use the other <h> tags for other headings. These may well appear in your Google searches.
If you have a list on your page, format it properly, particularly if it is a list of links such as your main navigation. By properly I mean HTML bullet points or a numbered list.
If you are building an HTML5 web site, and I recommend you do, then use the new components properly such as <nav> for navigation, <article> for separate pieces of content etc.
This is highly likely to appear in a Google search, so use it to describe your page well. Remember to include your keywords.
This is a newer concept, if you have never heard of Micro-Data then follow the link in the resources at the end of this article.
Put simply, Micro-data assigns meaning to specific parts of your content in a way that Google can understand.
Let's say you have your address on your web page. Google doesn't know it is your address, but Micro-data enables you to tag that information and define it as your address.
This means it will turn up in searches, which is what we want.
Just like in the real world, your reputation is built by other people. In this sense it is beyond your control. But of course, what people think of you in real life is dependant on how honest, entertaining, dependable, useful and easy to get along with you are. By being all of these positive things, we can do our best to better our reputation. OK enough of the self-Improvement stuff, how can we do the equivalent on our web site?
I know, I am obsessed with content. But if you invest your efforts in creating user-focussed, well produced and original content then This does three things:
Google reads and ranks your content as relevant and original (Google likes this a lot)
People mention your articles and web site, driving more users to you
People link to your site from theirs, the more links the better (as long as they are from reputable sites themselves)
Google likes longevity, if your web site has been active for years then Google assumes it is successful, after all, if you weren’t turning a profit you would have shut down by now.
Surely I have no influence over this though?
Wrong! Changing your domain name and server essentially wipe out your history. So although you can't fool Google into thinking you are older, you can at least make sure they don't mistake you for a start-up when you aren’t.