Understanding Google & Ranking

October 24, 2009

Old dog, new tricks

While most website owners are concerned about ranking well in Google, most do not have a full understanding of how Google operates and what it takes to have a well-ranking site.

Some of you may be completely new to the whole industry of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), which means optimizing your website so that it ranks higher on search engines.  Others may have read many articles on the subject and know the difference between “white hat SEO” (acceptable optimization practices) and “black hat SEO” (un-acceptable optimization practices).  And some of you may have already worked with SEO companies in the past and are wondering why the “tricks” don’t work anymore.

In the end, your level of experience does not really matter.  Google has gone through major changes in the last year so we all need to be re-educated and, at the very least, adjust our plans and expectations.

Google a,b,c’s

Very simply put, Google owns and operates a free search engine and attempts to provide its customers with a list of the most relevant websites based on the keywords typed into its search box.  The operative words here are “free” and “relevant”.  Since you do not pay to be included in Google’s organic index (natural, unpaid listings), you also have no say over whether or not your website is listed.  Google alone (through its search formula) determines which sites they believe are most relevant and contain the most useful information.

Google does offer a PAID sponsored link program for website owners who would like to ensure a first page listing.  This program is called Adwords.

What do Google & Hitler have in common?

Nothing.  It is amazing how many website owners view Google as an evil dictator, bent on destroying their business by not putting their site on the first page of its results.  In reality, website owners are not Google’s main concern or target audience, searchers are.  As a company, Google has earned a reputation for being the best search engine on the planet.  Relevant results are all it has to offer.  If results aren’t relevant, searchers go away, and so does its business.  To improve ranking, website owners must first understand that Google does not owe them a listing.  Rather, a listing must be earned.

Obtaining Google zen

Although Google is moving with the times and is starting to put an equal amount of attention on shopping, media and social networking, its first love is information and education.

A website that contains good information, especially information that is in demand, is considered relevant to Google and stands the best chance of earning a higher rank.  Since there are so many websites on the Internet though, other factors have to be taken into consideration to whittle down and order top results.

Google DOES like websites that:

  1. Contain unique, educational or sought-after content
  2. Are book marked or suggested to friends
  3. Have been linked to (naturally) by other authoritative websites
  4. Include media (videos), FAQ’s, Tutorials, Articles and active blogs
  5. Are created in a structure that allows their search “spiders” to move from one page to another through the site’s links
  6. Meet their quality guidelines

Google DOES NOT like websites that:

  1. Contain un-useful, duplicate, or stolen content
  2. Have tons of incoming links with the same anchor text, i.e., alabama attorney (This is a red flag that the links were paid for or exchanged, and therefore of little value)
  3. Show signs of deception, such as hidden links or pages stuffed with keywords
  4. Are created for search engines and not people

1 + 2 = first page on Google?

Not necessarily.  However, if you don’t follow the guidelines or design your site using the correct structure then you basically have little to no chance at all and your long-term outlook is gloomy.

Even if you do everything right, a high listing cannot be guaranteed because there are ranking factors you have no control over, such as:

  • Level of competition
    If you are selling really cute nursing t-shirts to moms you have a much better chance of ranking well then someone selling Adidas tennis shoes simply because the market is smaller and the competition not as great.  Also, it is easier to rank higher when you own a regional business because you are not competing with the world, only your area of the country.
  • Your website is new
    Google gives more weight to “mature” websites.  There may be a delay (6 months or more) before a new website sees any appreciable ranking.
  • The Inn is full
    Large, well-known, educational websites are already filling the top ten slots.  Face it; you are not going to bump Nike, CNN or Amazon.
  • Behavioral search
    Over the past year, behavioral search (a user’s search history and the geographic location from which they are searching) has greatly affected the way Google serves up its search results.  By signing up for a Google account (and with the popularity of gmail millions of people have) you give Google the right to use your search history and i.p. address to customize search results to better fit your profile.  That means, when signed into your Google account you may be seeing completely different search results than your aunt in Florida, and possibly even your next-door-neighbor.

So ranking is not important??

No, ranking is important – in that more exposure means more possible sales, but it should be kept in perspective.  It cannot be accurately measured by typing your key phrase into Google and some elements of ranking are completely out of your control.  Constant monitoring of ranking only serves to create paranoia.  It’s like worrying over the weather.  You can worry, but it won’t change anything.  Also, ranking is not everything.  Of more importance is that your website is bringing in good, targeted traffic – traffic that converts to sales.

Balance + patience = success

Like a healthy diet, balance is everything for a website owner.  Obsessing over your website’s rank for one set of keywords is unhealthy and it will stunt your growth!!  Instead, a more accurate, “bigger” picture should be developed by spending time going through the logs/statistics provided by your web host.  Information should also be gathered through analytical software such as Google Analytics (free) which provides much more in-depth, specific information about visits to your website and how people arrive.

Also, instead of putting all of your eggs into one basket and obsessing over one major key phrase, spread out and target multiple popular key phrases.  It is much more effective to bring in traffic from many sources then to spend all of your energy targeting one, highly competitive phrase.

1 Comment

  1. Brody Dorland

    As usual…nice work. Always good to get a little refresher course on the latest techniques. I particularly need to remember to mix up my anchor text. I get lazy at times on client websites and put “website design by Something Creative, Inc.” on each one.

    Hope things are well with you Kim!


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