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Google SEO

How Google Finds Your Website

Search engines like Google follow links. It follows links from one web page to another web page. A search engine like Google consists of a web crawler, an index and an index algorithm. A web crawler follows all links on the internet. It goes around the web 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and saves an HTML-version of all your web pages in a gigantic database, called the Google Index.

The Google Index is updated if Google has come around your website on a repeat visit and found a new or revised version of it. Depending on the traffic on your site and the amount of changes you make on your website, Google comes around more or less often.

For Google to know of the existence of your website, there first has to be a link to it from another site or your site has to be registered with Google in Webmaster Tools and an initial index created. Following a link from either another website or Tools will lead to the first crawler-session and the first save in the index.

Google’s secret indexing algorithm

After indexing your website, Google may show your website in search results.

It’s important to Google that they only show “relevant” website content in search results – e.g. content that relates to the search, as specifically as possible. Google has a specific algorithm that decides which pages are shown in which order. How this algorithm works is Google’s trade secret. Nobody knows exactly which factors decide the ordering of search results. Moreover, factors and their importance change quite often. Testing and experimenting gives us a relatively good feel for the important factors and the changes in these factors. Search engine experts spend most of their time analyzing search results to determine ranking factors.

For example, on April 22, 2015, Google made a new release of their ranking algorithm.  It introduced a major new ranking factor called “mobile-friendliness”.  If your website is not considered mobile-friendly, it will lose ranking positions on Google’s Results Page. You can check a webpage to see if Google considers it mobile friendly using their test tool:

https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/

There are also numerous factors that can affect rankings negatively.  For example, if your website uses techniques to artificially influence search results – like “link farms” from other websites – Google may demote or eliminate you from search results.  Google is constantly adding to these negative factors, as people try more ways to influence search results.

Also, if there are numerous errors on your website, like broken or invalid links, duplicate page content, which makes indexing more difficult, Google will demote your page in search results.

Google’s search results page

Google’s search results page shows up to 10 links to sites which best fit the search phrase keyword entered by the person searching. We refer to these results as “organic search results”. If you click to the second page, more results are shown. Above these organic search results are typically two or three ‘paid’ links. These links are ads; people have paid Google to put these links at the top of the site when people search for a specific term. Prices for these ads vary greatly, depending on the competitiveness of the search term. Similar ads may often appear on the right of Google’s search result pages as well.

It’s very important to have a basic understanding of how Google and most other search engines use links!  Our next article will go more deeply into this and other ranking influences.

Interested in more information on optimizing your website for Google search?

 

 

Google - Yahoo - SEO

Google Page 1 – How to Get There – How to Stay There

Getting your website’s pages to appear on Google Page 1 should be your primary website marketing objective, and every update to your website should have this in mind. There are a few simple rules to follow, and some technical expertise required, to make this happen, but it can transform your website from wallpaper to a lead generation machine.

Here are a few important “top tier” components – and you need to do them all.

  1. Understand Google Search RulesWebsite pages are ranked, and appear in search results, NOT websites.  The more you focus each page on a single topic, the more likely the page will be ranked well.  A search term for each page helps you develop focused content – a term someone would use in a Google search – like “designer shoes”.  Have at most two search terms, but usually one – for each page, to help you focus and develop page content that allows the search engine to better understand what’s on the page.  Too many terms means confusion, and confusion inevitably means lower rankings.
  2. Create Quality Content.  Nothing helps search results more than quality content, and nothing hurts more than bad content. Google gets smarter every year about content – they actually look at Videos now – so make it good and appropriate to the page focus.
  3. Pay Attention to Page Titles and Descriptions.  How well you write your page titles and meta descriptions can dramatically affect rankings and click-through rates.  See your web developer or SEO expert for guidance and support. See our newsletter article here. subject.
  4. Update Website Content Frequently. Google likes to see an active website, and the more active it is, the more often they’ll visit. A blog is a perfect way to provide ongoing activity.
  5. Use Images and Videos. Pictures and videos make a website come alive. Google increasingly likes video content, since YouTube is part of their corporate family. Post videos on YouTube and link to them from your website – you’ll see a ranking “pop” follow.
  6. Use HTML headers. Your web developer can help you with this one – internal HTML headers help Google understand the content, and there are rules that need to be followed.
  7. Backlinks, Backlinks, Backlinks. There’s nothing Google likes more than a popular website, and links from other  websites to your pages – “backlinks” – means other people like your content. Pursue them aggressively.  Just make sure the links are appropriate. Old “tricks” – like link farms you pay to connect to your site – can quickly get your website demoted permanently.
  8. Use Social Media. Social Media, like Facebook, can drive website traffic and can be a potent source of new business. If you still think it’s for kids, you’re missing significant opportunities.  See our service offering here.
  9. Mobile Friendly.  If your website won’t show properly on a mobile phone, or someone can’t submit a registration from a mobile phone, Google doesn’t like it.  Not only will they flag your page in search results as “not mobile friendly”, they’ll demote your page’s ranking.  You need to get it corrected now.  See our newsletter article here.
  10. Eliminate Page Errors. Invalid links, slow pages, missing pages, selectors that don’t work – all are search results poison. Your webmaster or developer is an invaluable resource to eliminate these errors.
  11. Optimize Your Website for Search with a Knowledgeable Technical Expert.  All of the work above won’t matter if it’s not communicated properly at a technical level. A search engine expert should be used as part of your regular website maintenance to make sure all your website pages are properly optimized, and updated to the latest Google Standards. It’s a complicated and never ending process – Google keeps changing the rules – but it needs to be done or all this good work will be wasted.  See our service offering here.

How Can You Determine If Your Website is Up to Speed?

Your web developer can help with many of these tasks.  If you don’t have a current developer, we have web development tools available that allow us to quickly look at each page on your website just like the search engine looks at it.  If you’d like us to do a quick audit of your website and give you a short report, you can request it here:

Google Search

Page Titles and Descriptions – A Key to Better Rankings and More Clicks

Getting your website pages to appear on Page 1 of Google Search results is your first task, but the real objective is getting people to click on your links, and go to your website, instead of your competitors.  The key to better page rankings and high click-through rates is simple: keyword-rich Page Titles and Descriptions, written properly to encourage a click-through.  But they have to conform to Google’s latest “rules”, or they may get ignored.

The Latest Google Update – Less is Now More

Google’s latest update changed the display of the Page Titles and Descriptions displayed in search results.  This information can have a dramatic affect on rankings and click-through rates, since this is what people see when they search for products or services and your web page is listed.   The latest update almost always means less information is now being displayed.

Here is a sample display from a Google Search for one of our clients – Organic Plant Care LLC.  They currently receive a #1 position in organic search results for the search phrase “organic plant care“:

Google Search

 

  • The first line is the Page Title (with a new size limit)
  • The second line is the Page URL
  • The rest of the display is the Page Meta Description (with a new size limit)

How these are written – both size and content – for each of your pages helps determine search position and click-through rates.

Good Page Titles Mean Higher Rankings and More Clicks

The Page Title is what appears in the browser tab or title bar when someone looks at a page on your website.  Google will use your page title in the first line of search results – if you have an effective title and it passes their “rules”. They also look for keywords in the title – what the person was searching for – to help rank the page and they highlight those words to make them stand out.

New Rules For Page Titles

Google’s recent release made one change that has a real impact on how this works. They now limit the page title to a display ‘pixel’ width instead of length, and if your title doesn’t comply, you’ll end of losing all or part of it in search results.

The length calculation used to be simple – just keep your page title under a certain number of characters – about 70 – and Google would use it. Unfortunately, they now do this using the actual display width of the title – e.g. after rendering your title in their results font, and after applying their rules, it can only be a certain pixel width.  If it’s too wide, it won’t be displayed as you expect.  Display width is affected by the following factors:

  1. The font used for display.  Different fonts have different letter spacing and width.
  2. Narrow letters are narrow. Three lowercase l’s are actually narrower than one lowercase w.
  3. ALL CAPS take up more space. Capital letters are wider than lowercase letters
  4. Width varies with the query. Google highlights (bolds) the query keywords, so a longer query will bold more keywords. Bold characters take up slightly more space. So, even if you found a title that just squeezed into the width “limit”, the actual display of that title would change depending on the keywords searchers use to find it.
  5. Cut-off titles have fewer characters. Google is cutting off titles with CSS, and the browser appends “…” whenever a title is truncated.

So, what limit should you use?

Various analysts now suggest 55 characters as the maximum size for a search title – resulting in a display just as you enter it about 95% of the time. We also feel that 55 characters is a reasonable title-length limit under Google’s new design. In addition, a cut-off title isn’t the kiss of death – Google still processes keywords beyond the cut-off (including for ranking purposes), and other formats, like vertical results and Google+, may display your full titles – so stick with 55, and you should be OK.

Good Meta Descriptions Mean Higher Rankings and Even More Clicks

The Page Description – actually the “Meta Description” – is what is shown under the Page Title and actual Page URL in search results.  It is not visible on the actual web page – your web developer maintains it in the page “meta-data” – invisibly embedded in the page with other page information but not physically visible on the page.  If you are a WordPress user, there are plug-ins that allow you to maintain the page description along with the page content.

The Page Description should contain the search keyword(s) on which the page is focused, but it should also be a “call to action” – e.g. something that will make the person want to click on the link to learn more about what you can do for them.  It needs to be concise, and it needs to be interesting.  Writing this properly can be the difference in a high performing click through rate

All the size considerations that apply to Page Titles also apply to Page Descriptions, with some more complications, since titles cover multiple lines, and multiple lines mean breaking after words.

Beware:  If your meta description isn’t present, or doesn’t pass Google’s rules, or can’t be shown because it is too big, Google will just select random text on the page to display in search results.  They may do this anyway, but a good meta description makes it much less likely.

We suggest, for the moment, you make these the Meta Description no longer than 115 characters – down from the old standard of 156 characters.

Do Your Website Pages Comply With These New Standards?

Keep your titles and meta descriptions to the suggested lengths, and you should be OK.  If you aren’t sure how to do this, ask your web developer.

We have web development search tools available that allow us to quickly look at each page on your website, just like the search engine looks at it, and audit Titles and Descriptions based on pixel size instead of length.  If you’d like us to do a quick audit of your website and give you a short report, you can request it here: