I was at the Dublin Chamber of commerce event in Google headquarters in Dublin to-day and Matt Cutts a highly regarded Googler who started in 2000 gave his expert thoughts on how you rank highly on Google. The basics of ranking highly on Google is very straight forward and well worth everybody at least having a basic understanding of it. As social media starts appearing more and more in traditional search it’s important to understand how you get your information appearing ahead of your competitors!
Google rank pages on websites from 0 to 10, the higher the page rank the more important it is. For example BBC’s index page has a page rank of 9. Your page rank is calculated by looking at the quality of links going from other sites to yours. For example, if BBC’s home page linked to your site this would be such a valuable link. So to improve your page rank try to get relevant, high authority sites to link back to you. If you are getting links from a site with a high page rank Google will increase your page rank based on this. However, if this site has a lot of links to different sites on the same page as your link this dilutes the value.
There is a well known term called ‘back link’ where you get lots of links from lots of sites. Matt said not to focus too much on this. Instead focus on giving people a compelling reason to bookmark you, tweet you, send updates in facebook and link back to you. Getting natural links like this is less work and can be very beneficial.
The process that google uses for indexing content is similar to the index at the back of a book. Matt gave an example searching for ‘Justin Beaver’. Google will find the nearest data centre and send out a request to find matching documents. If for example, you searched in Ireland and the request went to the West Coast you would loose 200 milliseconds. When you want to return every search in less than .5 seconds then 200 milliseconds is significant. Sending out the query is called document selection in Google terminology.
After document selection document ranking occurs. Google typically asks two questions, how relevant is the document and how reputable is it. It then queries to see how many times do these words appear on a particular page and where they are positioned (e.g. having the two words appear together is a better match). They also check to see if the words are in the title and in the web address, this can add additional weight. The idea of keyword stuffing where you put lots and lots of similar keywords into a page is ignored so no point in considering this.
So how do I do better in Google searches?
Google wants to return pages that are relevant and reputable so ask yourself the following questions:
- Is my site crawable – At a minimum check all your pages to make sure all links are valid.
- What will people type when they try to find you
- What am I good at and passionate about – that will produce the best content
Google ranking tips
1. Use appropriate keywords – To improve your ranking on google think about all the keywords that people might type and include then naturally in a post (i.e. don’t just put keywords in the for the sake of them). Matt gave an example of a USB key and asked people in the audience how they would describe it. The response varied – usb drive, thumb drive, flash drive, pen drive and many more. These are the keywords you need to consider. A good tool for checking what people are searching for is google keyword tool.
2. Keyword focused web address - For any of your pages on your website make sure the web address contains appropriate keywords. Quite often you see a web address with numbers in it that don’t make sense. It’s much better to have descriptive text.
3. Use dash instead of underscore -In you include justin_beaver in your web address Google will consider this as one word but if you change it to justin-beaver this is indexed as 2 separate words.
4. Write often – The more often you write the more up to date content you will have. Google loves new content.
How does your website becomes more reputable and linkable?
Be interesting, Update often, focus on a niche area, provide a useful service, do original analysis, provide high quality tutorials, provide free open source code, do live blogging, make lists (people love lists, keep them odd numbered e.g. 11 ways of blogging), create controversy, make videos and finally get involved in social media.
Questions from the audience?
Is site speed important?
Google is adding this to their list of many variables they check when returning search results so it will become more important.
Is it beneficial registering with a lot of website directories?
It depends on the directory. Free directories with no rejection policy would be ranked much lower than well managed paid for directories. So register with the good ones!
Do you get penalised for duplicate content?
If you set up your website under .ie and .com Matt recommends that you, at a minimum, localise the front page. You will not be penalised for duplicate content on other pages as Google knows that razorcoast.ie, razorcoast.com etc are all the same company so similar content is expected.
Is where you have your website hosted important?
This can be important. If you are a .ie site we will assume that you are probably in Ireland. If you are .com site and you are hosted in the US we don’t know if you’re an Irish site unless you tell us using Google webmaster tools. So the tip is to always use Google webmaster tools
So overall a very interesting and very well presented event. Well done to Matt for making it very enjoyable and thanks to the crew in Dublin Chamber of Commerce for organising it.