A common question that many developers seek to answer, “How to make Google like you.” When successful webmasters, developers, or business owners brag about how high their site ranks, they’re usually talking about Google. While having your website appear on the first page of results in Yahoo!, Bing, Ask, AOL and other search engines is nothing to scoff at, the fact is that Google is the measure by which webmasters and SEO experts gauge how well they’ve done their job of driving website traffic, and, ultimately, dollars, to a site.
Having your website show up at or near the top of search results in Google for your desired keywords is truly boast-worthy. So, how do you get there?
Google uses a proprietary algorithm to assign positions or its own PageRank number to sites its spiders or robots crawl, or index. While some of what can boost rank (such as age of the domain) may be out of your control, there are still a lot of things you can do to make your site more “likable” to Google and increase the chances that your URL will be the one sitting pretty at the top of the search results.
Years ago, there were ways to “trick” Google and other search engines. Either through clever, illegitimate strategies or unethical “Black Hat” techniques, sites could get near the top — at least for awhile. But ultimately, the goal of Google as a company (well, besides making money) is to give searchers relevant results with good, usable content. Serving up bad results doesn’t do Google any good, so it has cleaned house. Nowadays, link farms (sites that irrelevantly link to one another just to try to rank higher), keyword stuffing, lots of invisible text and duplicate content won’t help most sites and will probably hurt them – and in some cases even get them banned from Google’s index. Being exiled from Google usually spells death for a website, and you do not want to be in that situation.
The No. 1 way to set the stage for high rankings in Google is to have relevant, helpful information for your site visitors. It’s as simple as that. You could spend a lot of time and money trying to artificially manipulate the results, or you can “do it right” by having well-written, usable content that sets your site up as an authority on the topic at hand.
Of course, once you have good content, that doesn’t mean you can sit back and watch the traffic and revenue roll in. There are a number of things you can do to legitimately stack the deck in your favor.
1. Understand organic search. While it can be a great business strategy to buy online advertisements, including Pay Per Click (PPC) placement, showing up in organic (non-paid) search results is a must. In fact, Google maintains that users click on organic search results more often than they do paid advertisements. Study up on what your customers or site visitors are searching for and what keywords they’re typing in to get there, or hire a reputable web developer or SEO expert to help you out. If you are a DIY’r, opting for our Custom Monthly Reports will get you the information you need to create a website strategy to improve your rank results.
2. Get good links. Your site is more likely to rank high if it has not only relevant content but also inbound “backlinks” from reputable websites, ideally in the same general field. Google uses a link analysis algorithm to assign PageRank and influence search results. Its sophisticated robots can distinguish link farms from legitimate sites. And the more quality links the better.
When you ask another site to link to yours, it’s polite to offer to link to theirs as well. Which text is hyperlinked is important, too, so ask that they set it up so your keywords of choice are the words (anchor text) that will be clicked upon. To make it even easier, provide them with the HTML code to cut and paste.
3. Submit a sitemap. Some people put up a website and, weeks later, wonder why no one is stopping by for a visit. Turns out, Google has never “crawled” their site. Perhaps the site includes HTML coding that is blocking Google’s robots. Or, maybe the bots just haven’t gotten around to it.
Indexing a new site can take a few days, or even longer, but you can speed up the process by creating a Google Sitemap account through Webmaster Tools and following the instructions to generate an XML sitemap and point Google directly to it. Be sure to go back into your account a day or so later and “Verify” that the site is yours. There are also plugins for WordPress and other content management programs that can make the sitemap creation and submission process even simpler.
Bonus: Once you have this set up, you can use Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics to track performance of your site in all kinds of ways. Or, take it a step further and receive monthly reports that are tailored for your business, easy to understand and are visually powerful. Check out Custom Monthly Reports to see if this service may be right for you.
4. Don’t confuse the bots. Like in a bad sci fi movie, Google’s robots will go running if they see something they don’t like. The biggest offender is Flash. There is a place for Adobe’s Flash platform, which can add attractive multimedia functionality to a website, but it’s rarely a good idea to place it on your site’s main page. Some people find it annoying and many mobile devices can’t read it. Rather than try to get around the Flash barrier, the robots will probably just move on the next page or site without indexing yours. These bots can’t read images, only text. So, all photos and videos should have alternative text as well.
Google’s bots love to be told what’s what. Keep them happy and fed and you’ll be well on your way to a high-ranking, successful website.