Different search engines use different algorithms to calculate where you appear on their search results. This article will focus on the factors that we believe affect your results on Google searches. One word of warning, Google does not publish its algorithms and is constantly changing and updating the way it views sites – so these are the guidelines for you to follow, rather than a definitive statement of the processes involved.
We will divide the major factors into two main types, namely, on-page and off-page factors. Basically, on-page factors are those things that you can do to improve your ranking by adapting the actual coding of your site. Off-page factors are those factors mainly relating to incoming links to your site. This article, the second of two will focus on off-page factors.
In terms, of off-page factors the areas we will cover are:
IBLs – inbound links to your site
Directory Listings – which directories feature your site
User Statistics – who visits your site and for how long
Inbound Links (IBLs)
Many of you may not be aware that many sites may be linking to your own site and sending new users and traffic to you. You can check who links to your site using an IBL checker, like the backlink checker that can be found on the free SEO Tools site www.datacoms.co.uk.
These checkers allow you to see which sites have linked to you as identified by Google, Yahoo and MSN. Interesting, the Google list is always smaller and more quirky than the other two. This is because Google has decided that pure volume of links is not a good measure of a site’s attractiveness since this metric can be spammed by the use of links farms, where unscrupulous webmasters can buy loads of links for free.
So Google uses other factors to check your site’s IBLs, and one of these is certainly pagerank. The concept of pagerank was developed by Google to rank sites across the web on a number of factors that overall aim to show how attractive a site is to potential viewers. Your site will have a pagerank, even if you don’t know about it. Again you can check your pagerank for free at www.datacoms.co.uk.
Sites with a pagerank or PR of 4 or more are considered worthy sites by Google and so a link from a site with PR 4 or above is more important to your site’s overall ranking. PR starts at 0 and goes to 10, with only sites like Microsoft, Apple, Google or NASA getting a perfect 10.
It is also very useful to get sites to link to you with consistent anchor text; this is the text description of your sites URL. So we try and use SEO Gurus for all out links, but some sites seem to take pleasure in changing this for us. The point is the more consistent the anchor text is the better you will be found. The old example of keying “miserable failure” into Google is a good one to demonstrate the power of consistent anchor text. This search gives George Bush’s biography on the Whitehouse site – no mention of “miserable failure” on the site, but it has many sites linking to it using those words as anchor text.
So try and get lots of sites of PR 4 or above linking to you, especially if the site has a similar theme to your own site. However, don’t grow your links too fast as Google sees this as spammy, and try and avoid reciprocal links where possible (these are links where each site agrees to link to each other). The best way to get links is with consistently good, well-written content that interests people.
There are many directory listings sites on the internet, but some are much more important than others, because they are big and powerful with a high PR. Top of the list must be DMOZ, with a PR of 9. Also known as the Open Directory Project, DMOZ, is the largest, most comprehensive human-edited directory of the Web. It is constructed and maintained by a vast, global community of volunteer editors. It gets the name DMOZ from the acronym for Directory Mozilla, as it is administered by Netscape Communication Corporation. It costs you nothing to get your site onto DMOZ, except blood, sweat and tears – see www.datacoms.co.uk for more details. DMOZ is important because it is one of the places Google looks when deciding the importance of your site. Hence, a listing on DMOZ almost guarantees better search results performance.
Yahoo is probably the second most important listing, but costs $299 a year to list your site, again a PR of 9. There are many other sites, far too many to mention, that may be useful to you. Some are free, others ask for reciprocal links or a payment. It pays to be selective on your links and we have as yet not paid for any links. Interestingly, even without paying Yahoo you can get high on their searches if you have a listing on DMOZ, so worth persevering.
Google has developed a number of measures to record the amount of visitors your site and individual pages visited. How did they get there (keyword searches), what pages did they visit, how much time did they spend on each page, did they bookmark the site, etc.
After all, a true measure of where you should appear on the search results is how popular and interestingly your site is. The only real way you can have this is by having interesting, or in marketing jargon, “sticky” content. Many sites are trying to add news feeds, puzzles or quotes of the day to try and achieve a greater degree of stickiness. But, in our opinion the reason people come back to your site has to be the quality and quantity of information that you have presented and organised for easy access by them.
Content is king, long live content!