Getting your website to rank in Google is not as difficult as you may have been told. There are thousands of articles about search engine optimization on the Internet, 99.9% of which are complete rubbish.
The first step in the process is ensuring that your site is indexed – that is, included in Google’s index of websites. If it’s not in the index, it won’t appear in the search engine results pages.
You can check if your site is included in the index by typing this expression into Google (or most of the other search engines):
If the search engine can’t find any results, your site is not in the index.
Getting your website indexed can be as simple as getting a backlink from a popular website, such as Digg.com.
There are two four factors used by the major search engines to decide on the ranking for a given web page:
The search engines analyze the text content on a web page to determine what the page is about. If your web page doesn’t include a keyword, it’s very unlikely that the page will rank for that keyword.
The most important place for your keyword (or keyword phrase) to appear is in the HTML ‘title’ tag. That’s the line of text that shows up at tthe very top of the browser window, usually in a blue bar. The search engines will usually show the title as the first, bold line of text in the search engine results.
If the title is too long, it will be truncated. 60 characters is safe.
The other important element is the ‘description’ tag. Most of the search engines display the description as the second and third lines of text on their results pages. If it doesn’t exist, they will usually use the first 20 or so words from the page. It’s important to remember that the description should be written in such a way that it encourages people to click through to the web site – in other words, it’s really ad copy.
As I mentioned, your keywords should appear in the page text. The best way to do this is to write about the topic naturally. ‘Keyword stuffing’, where you repeat your keywords in virtually every sentence, is not effective. It alienates human readers, and the search engines detect it and give the page a poor score.
Original content, written for human readers, is the best approach.
Google pretty much revolutionized the search engine business when they introduced their algorithm which determined the authority of a web page by the number of incoming links to the page. Effectively every incoming link (or ‘backlink’) is a vote for the quality of the content on the page.
All the major search engines now use incoming links as a factor in their rankings.
There are hundreds of ways to get incoming links. A few years ago, ‘reciprocal linking’ was popular – ‘You link to my site, and I’ll link to yours’. The search engines quickly realized what was going on, and started discounting these links – in otherr words, giving them less value.
The key strategy these days is to get backlinks from sites which already have a large amount of traffic. Many of these sites depend on user-generated content, and a backlink to your website is your reward for providing your content for free.
These sites include article directories, like EzineArticles.com, social news sites like Digg.com and free webpage sites like Squidoo.com.
Unique, original content – especially controversial content, or ‘linkbait’, can result in thousands of people arriving at your website.
Domain Name and URL
The next factor which affects your search engine ranking is your domain name. The search engines look at the age of your domain, the theory being that if your domain has been around fro some time, it’s less likely to be a spam site. The length of time that your domain is registered for is also a factor.
Having your keywords in your domain name also plays a part in the ranking formula.
Carefully-chosen URLs for each page of your site also have an effect on ranking. If the URL contains a keyword phrase which matches the page title, it’s likely to rank well.
The major search engines employ people to monitor the quality of the websites in their indices. Nobody knows what effect human reviewers have on search engine rankings, but it can be assumed that they look out for spam sites and reduce their rank or remove them from the indices altogether.
If you want to find out more about how to rank in Google, you can read Google’s own excellent Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide.