I thought I’d shed some light on what factors affect placement in the search results and what a new website owner can do to move his or her website towards page one of Google™.
The most basic check
Type your entire URL into the google search box, if your website is in the search results when you do this then you’re good to go, move on to the next step. If you aren’t appearing in the search results when you do this then drink a bottle of whiskey, smoke a little, perform the next step below, wait a week or so, and try again. If you still aren’t showing in the results after a week then chances are you may have done something really naughty. Use my contact form and I’ll try to help.
Submit a Sitemap
Make sure that you’ve done the basics or if you hired a web designer, then make sure they have submitted a site map via Google Webmaster Tools. This is perhaps the most basic thing that you can do. Check back frequently with Webmaster Tools to see if there are any messages or alerts that need your attention.
Check your on page SEO
If you’ve hired a professional web designer to build your website then this “should” have already been done. You can do a quick check however for the basics. Load your homepage up and right click on the page then select “view source”. You should see quite a lot of writing here, what you are looking for in particular is something that will start with
<title> there will then be some writing, a short sentence or so to describe your website home page, then it will end with </title>
In addition, you should see a line that looks something like:
<META NAME=”Description” CONTENT=”Your descriptive sentence or two goes here.”>
Once you’ve done that, hover your mouse over your photos that appear on your webpage. After a moment there should be some writing appear giving a description of the photo, This is called an “alt tag” and it’s important that each image has one. Google can’t’ really read photos so it relies on alt tags to determine the content of your photos.
There are lots of things that you can do to improve your on page SEO like including a physical address, ensuring that there are no grammatical or spelling errors (this catches even the best of us our when we’re rushing to complete a website). You should perform all the above tests on each page of your website. There are lots more ways to optimise your on page SEO but I’ll cover that in another post.
Make sure that your website content is relevant
Do a Google search that relates to your website, open up a new window and do it right now, for instance, if it was me I’d search for “Web Designer St Helens” or “SEO Merseyside” bear in mind that these searches both have a geographical modifier in the search term so the results will be much narrower than a generic term such as “web designer”. None the less, the search term “Web Designer St Helens” returns 8,970,000 results! nearly 9 million results all competing for the front page of Google.
You’d be shocked, I mean truly shocked at the number of people who want to know why their website doesn’t show up in the search results. When you ask them for a search term that they want to appear for it is staggering just how many times that search term simply doesn’t appear in their content or in their meta information. If you want to be in the results for “really good red widgets in Manchester” then you have to make sure that your website mentions that a few times, maybe also one or two mentions of it in alt tags and meta information. It’s basic stuff but you simply wouldn’t believe how many times people overlook it.
Keep adding Content
If your new website has been designed using a CMS (content management system) then it’ll be easy to add new content. I always recommend a news page. This can be updated weekly with news of products, services, industry changes, customer news and so on. Google loves fresh content for lots of reasons. One, it shows that your website is up to date and constantly evolving but also new content provides the opportunity to insert more relevant key phrases with each article that you post. It helps you build “authority” on your chosen subject. This is the perhaps the most overlooked aspect of gaining a good position in the search results. Fresh, relevant content! read my article “how to get higher up on Google” for more information about creating content.
Open a Google Places account
This works particularly well for small local businesses but also shouldn’t be overlooked for businesses covering a large area. Simply go to Google Places for Business and claim your business.
A few years ago all people did was build a website, build a few links and hey presto they’d make page one of Google. Things have really changed. Not least because of the algorithm changes that Google have made with Panda and Penguin but because of the sheer number of websites competing for that top spot. So what can be done? Well in the wake of Panda and Penguin many web masters are scared to build links, what once worked now carries severe penalties. SEO agencies up and down the country have a distinct smell of whiskey and an air of disillusion.
The answer is simple, it always was simple really, it’s just that some SEO professionals lost their way a little. There really isn’t a secret sauce, all that needs to be done is to obtain natural links, How so? I hear you ask, well there’s lots and lots of ways.
Remember this statement whenever you’re performing any SEO work
Google tries to return the most relevant results and so improve user experience
Got it? If you’re now looking at the computer screen with your mouth open then snap out of it. It’s not that difficult. All you need to do is to socialise in the areas where your competitors and your customers will socialise. For instance, Google+ Twitter, Facebook, Forums, Blog posts and comments, Yahoo Answers, Digg, Reddit, Youtube etc.
If you are active in forums (and you should be) then add your website URL as your signature. Don’t go spamming the forums with your adverts as this will only serve to annoy other forum members. Simply add your URL as your signature and join in some conversations, solve someones problems, help out with suggestions, be polite and courteous and most of all helpful and people will visit your site, you’ll get them linking to you and each time you post your website address will appear under your comment. Easy huh?
Get yourself a Facebook page, Don’t know how? Contact me and I’ll help you. Link your page to Twitter, Start following people in your area or in your industry. Open a Linkedin account, open a free index account. register with free local directories, submit your site to dmoz, the list is endless.
All this activity will be picked up by the Google Bot as it munches it’s way through the internet. In turn each time it comes across your website URL it’ll think (in it’s hexadecimal way) “hmm, this website keeps cropping up a bit, it must be important”. And that’s the thing. As long as you blog, post, chat, link in your own related circles then you’ll be amazed at how quickly you gain momentum in the search results.
It’s quite obvious now that Google have latched on to the dubious linking strategies of old which were, get as many links as possible. To be fair it’s partly Google’s fault that the practice existed. Many SEOs turned to this grey hat area of SEO as they witnessed quick results. The reality however was a poor user experience for the end users of Google and Google will simply not entertain this. Google makes its cash from adwords, in fact it makes obscene amounts of cash simply because of it’s market share and because it provides quality results. People come back every day and search for information and goods. Google has to continually tweak it’s algorithm to ensure that unscrupulous web masters don’t “game” the system.
It therefore follows that 10 links from related websites, forums, groups, blogs etc are of far more value than 1000 links from spammy USA and Indian directories or article submission sites. As I mentioned earlier, I use some quite sophisticated software to research keywords called Market Samurai. One of the features of this software is the ability to check out the competitions back linking strategy. It’s amazing to see some of my new domains with a PR1 out rank an aged domain that has several thousand back links. It’s true though, that is how much the game has changed of late.
Be a Rock Star on YouTube
You tube is the second largest search engine in the world. It is remarkably easy to make a video using just a smartphone or iPad. Make a brief video, introduce yourself or your product, make an instructional video, give some information or tips away in the video. Post it to youtube and be sure to include the link to your website.
So in a nutshell, these are the basic things that you should be doing to get your website on page one of Google. Of course domain age still plays a big part. There’s little you can do however to speed up the maturing of your website. Some of the changes we’ve covered here may take a month or two to filter through. You could always bolster your efforts with an adwords campaign in the short term. I’m a member of the Google Engage Program and can offer help and advice on Google Adwords. Contact me for further details.
If all the above has given you a headache then I’m available for hire to do website SEO services on your behalf on a month by month basis.