Google presents its own challenges for webmasters who want to achieve higher rankings. They're
famous for their PageRank system of valuing links between websites, but since late 2003 they
have been adding new methods of symantic analysis and other approaches to differentiate between
the good, the bad, and the ugly among the several billion webpages in their index. These
SEO Tips will help you do some fine tuning to improve your rankings and increase the
traffic to your website from all of the major search engines, but with special emphasis on Google.
Since 2002, I have been working hard on search engine ranking for the websites I supervise for myself and my clients. I've had some amazingly good results by just doing the simple things that the search engines beg you to do. No sneaky tricks and no secrets… well, maybe a couple of secrets. Mostly, it's just the basics and a lot of hard work. Google's ever-improving methods of search engine ranking means you have to keep working in order to attract your fair share of the search engine traffic.
Since over 60% of all Internet searches are done on Google, you cannot afford to overlook their
methods. Fortunately, most of search engine optimization techniques that work well on Google will
also tend to have a positive effect on your ranking in other search engines. The difference
is often simply a case on one search engine giving more weight in its ranking algorithm to one
factor over another. Each search engine uses its own formula for ranking web pages. I've
come up with a list of basic principles I think every webmaster needs to focus on in order
to get good results with all search engines, but especially Google, based on what I've learned:
Add fresh, relevant, original content to your web site regularly. All search engines, and Google in particular, like to see new pages and updated content on existing pages. Keeping your website increasingly useful and growing is good for your search engine rankings because it helps to attract more users, giving other webmasters will have more reasons to link to your site, which brings even more users, more links, and thus, higher rankings, and thus, more users, and so on, and so on... Don't just add pages for the sake of adding pages. A good web page needs to have robust content that is rich with information that users would find helpful. If you have an idea for a webpage that only amounts to a single paragraph, it would be better to add that paragraph to an existing page or save it until an opportunity arises to include it with other material you develop. At the end of the day, nothing beats well-written, original content for making a successful website.
Get other relevant websites to link to you. A link that includes your keywords within the <a>nchor tags is much better for Google ranking than simply the URL or the name of the web site. Even simply your business name is much better in the link. There is no substitute for quality links. You simply have to have incoming links in order to get high rankings in search engines for any search terms that are not unique to your website. Links are the sine qua non of search engine rankings. Period. Finito. End of story. In addition to their classic PageRank system, Google is becoming increasingly aware of the content of the page or website where a link originates which has evolved to incorporate what Google calls "trust" and the search engine optimization community has dubbed "TrustRank". Such link analysis is also related to the patented Hilltop method by which links are analyzed for the anchor text (ie. the text between the <a> and </a> that users click on), the position of the link within the page, and the overall content of the page on which the link resides. So, it is very important to emphasize links from pages with relevant content if you want to do well in Google. Link exchanges are no longer helpful in winning the battle for better rankings in the more competitive areas. In addition, posting links on your web site to other relevant sites, regardless of whether or not they link back to you, may have a positive effect on rankings in Google. Such links may help toward making your site an "authority hub" for your site's topics and further building its "trust" status. So put less effort in link exchanges when contacting other websites, and look for opportunities to suggest to other webmasters why they might want to encourage their users to visit your site and include an appropriate link. Be willing to consider their suggestions for posting relevant links on your site as well.
What doesn't help much are links from poor quality online directories, blog rolls and comments, forum signatures, and other links that you create yourself on other websites. Such lower quality links are a place for new websites to start, but you can quickly reach a point where Google actually penalizes you for having a high proportion of artificial links. Google gives the most credit for links that appear in the primary content of a high quality webpage which were included by the page author for the benefit of the user.
Make sure the <title> tag on each page emphasizes the keywords for that page. The page title is the most valuable real estate on the page. Not only is it a vital component of the rankings for the page, it is the text that the user will focus on in the search engine results pages (SERPs). In terms of priority here, keywords come first, and your company/website name is a distant second. We're talking Cliff's Notes here, not "War and Peace". "Concise" and "relevant" are the watchwords for page titles.
Include keyword-rich text on your main page with conventional text links that contain the appropriate keywords within the <a>nchor tags to key pages within your website. Google judges the relevancy of a webpage to the terms in a user's search query, in part, by the proximity of the keywords to each other on the page, and the order in which they appear on the page. This especially includes the <title> tag and headlines tags (ie. <h1>, etc.).
Submit your website to quality web site directories like The Open Directory Project (ODP or DMOZ). A listing in The Open Directory Project will get you a listing in Google and most other search engines because so many websites incorportate The Open Directory Project's listings on their pages that the link itself will present your site to the search engines. The Open Directory Project is owned by America Online through its Netscape subsidiary, but it is operated by volunteer editors. You need to follow their submission rules precisely in order to be approved, so be sure to read their instructions carefully. Getting a site listed in the ODP can take many months, but it does pay off. Other directories like JoeAnt, Jayde, and GoGuides are also valuable listings. Quality local business directories like Minneapolis.com are also worth pursuing.
Install a proper robots.txt file in your root directory. See http://www.robotstxt.org/wc/robots.html for information on creating a proper robots.txt file. It keeps robots away from your private or lower quality pages and directories, and shows an awareness of the search engines that can only help you. If nothing else, it will enhance your control of which files and directories get crawled. For example, you may not want your graphics files listed in the image searches. The robots.txt file can keep the spiders out of your images directory. Preventing the search engines from crawling private or unimportant pages means that your best quality pages will tend to be crawled more often. The Google Webmaster Tools console provides an excellent tool for creating and testing your robots.txt file.
Avoid schemes that try to fool search engines (particularly Google) into giving your website an undeservedly high ranking such as keyword stuffing, invisible text, link farms, automated link directories and link exchange services, doorway pages, three-way linking schemes, throwaway domains, and so on - all of which can get you penalized for a very long time or banished entirely from the search engines.
Google likes well-structured websites with clear, simple navigation links for users, and considers internal links to contribute to a heirarchical structure that enhances usability. This information and much more is available in the Google Information for Webmasters.
This page was last updated on April 25, 2016
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In writing these SEO tips, I'm often reminded of a pearl of wisdom that my high school computer programming teacher passed on from one of his teachers, "Computers are high-speed idiots!" Remember that, and don't let them get under your skin.