SEO, or search engine optimization, is a vital component when marketing a website on the internet. If you want to sell your products or services online, you need to stand out from the mob, the clutter, the noise that fills the online world. In fact, this is a good description of the goal of applying SEO: standing out. When users go online, you want your website to be the first one that they see in the Google search results.
However, before explaining how you can get onto the first page, it is important that you understand how the search engine indexes websites.
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How Does the Free Part of Google Work?
Google uses search robots, also called crawlers or spiders, and a cache memory to index websites. The crawlers trail the web 24/7 in search of website content to index. This content is then stored in the cache memory. Google also stores about two hundred variables on every website, and these variables ultimately determine the websites’ rankings.
You can see why it is important that Google has access to all the relevant information on your website, but how do you know if you have achieved this? There are two ways to test if Google has indexed your site properly.
- Select and copy a piece of text of about ten words or more from a random page of your website. Next, paste the text into Google’s search window, and see if the right page comes up in the search results.
- Enter your site’s URL into Google’s search window preceded by the word site and a colon, for example site:www.yourdomain.com. Now you will see a list of all the pages of your website that Google has indexed. This feature enables you to check if Google has missed any pages.
When a user carries out a search, Google performs a complicated mathematical calculation, incorporating those 200 variables mentioned earlier, and it looks for the websites with the highest scores. The exact algorithm that Google uses is a closely guarded secret, but some features have remained consistent. Even though the algorithm is subject to change from time to time (remember Panda and Penguin) there are several things that can be done to positively influence search ranking results.
How to Get Onto the First Page
To optimize your website for a better ranking in Google’s search results you need to focus on five key areas.
Finding the right keywords to use for your website is one of the most important things you can do to improve your website’s ranking. Find those keywords that your competitors haven’t thought of yet, and beat them to the punch.
Once you have decided on which keywords to use in your optimization project, take a look at your website’s current position in the rankings. This is what is called your zero measurement (also known as a baseline or benchmark). Based on this zero measurement you can keep track of the monthly fluctuations of your position across the different keywords that you want to use. This is the best way to measure the success of a set of keywords.
More specifically, I’m talking about the measurement of how your keywords are doing (per web page url) by using rank tracking tools such as the full version of Market Samurai or the free Rank Checker tool from SEOBook. There are other rank tracking tools available as well. Below are screenshots of some rank tracking tools that can show you a record of progress:
2011 history chart in Market Samurai for a specific keyword phrase on a specific url -
Recent history chart exported from the Rank Checker tool for multiple keyword phrases on multiple urls within a website -
Whenever I do a keyword research project and optimization project, the first thing I do after I know what keywords we are optimizing for is to check the rankings for their site for each of the keyword phrases. This creates my Zero Measurement or baseline. And then do rank checks weekly for the first month or so, then one to two times a month thereafter.
After time, you’ll be able to follow along the progress and make whatever adjustments in your optimization and content strategies as needed. This allows you to massage and modify your online strategies regularly. You’ll be able to spot trends that are taking place on your website, as well as being able to see if an implemented strategy is not performing as you had planned. Remember, this is a fluid environment. It’s up to you (or who you hire) to continue the efforts that will move your website pages higher within the search engine results pages.
Many website owners make the mistake of repeating the same keywords on every page of their website. That is not how it works. It is important to show search engines that each page contains unique content, and this should be reflected in the use of unique keywords. If you use the same keywords across your website, you will get internal competition between pages, and this could lead to a lower ranking in search engine results. Try to see your web pages from a crawler’s perspective, and analyze which pages have the highest quality content to match particular keywords.
The metadata of each web page acts like a calling card for that page, so every page should have its own unique metadata. Another thing that is important about metadata is that it should reflect the user, your target audience. Metadata can be written to include a “call to action”. Why, you might ask? Because the metadata is displayed in the Google search results, so this is a chance for you to convince users to click on your result and not that of a competitor.
A final important aspect of search engine optimization is link building. Link building is a mirror of your website’s reputation. So if you want to make sure that your reputation stays untarnished, you will need to keep track of all the websites that are linking to your site. Find out what their anchor text (the text that makes up the link) says, and if they will let you optimize it.
When talking about search engine optimization, we are really talking about developing a strong strategy on a long-term basis. While it is possible to “trick” Google into giving you a quick result short term, these so-called black hat techniques rarely go unpunished. When you play dirty, you risk being excluded from the search results altogether, and there is no coming back from that. But if you take the long-term view, and you make sure that you implement best practice SEO techniques into your web pages, you can get to Google’s first page.