This article will focus on the factors that, we believe, affect your results on Google searches. But remember, Google does not publish its algorithms and is always 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.
The major factors fall 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. This article will focus on on-page factors, and a second article will cover off-page factors (those factors mainly relating to incoming links to your site).
In terms, of on-page factors the areas we will cover are:
Keywords – not just the meta tag, but throughout the site
Linking – where your site links to and who they are
Content – how big and new your content is and who is viewing it
Funnily enough, probably the least important keywords are those that you put in the actual keyword meta-tag. This feature has become so abused that Google had almost disregarded it, whereas other search engines do pay attention to this tag.
Simple rules for the keyword meta-tag are to make sure its short (less than 10 words), make sure it is relevant (all keywords used appear on the page) and there are no duplicates. Remember search engines work on a page by page basis so always think about the specific page you are working on. We have a feeling that Google only uses this meta-tag negatively, which means that it will mark you down for breaking the rules, but not necessarily mark you up for doing a good job.
Other places where keywords are important are the actual text (see later), your domain name and the other meta tags. We have found that having your keywords in your domain name help, as long as they are not overdone. So www.seo-gurus.co.uk is good whereas www.good-search-engine-optimisation-for-google-that-works.com is bad. Again some other search engines weight the actual domain very highly, as can be seen when you do a search using their engine.
The jury seems to be out on the title tag since duplication of the same keywords here may be seen as spammy or overload by Google. Similarly the description tag should contain a meaningful sentence outlining the theme of the site without overdoing the keywords.
In the actual body of the text, keywords should be apparent without being duplicated so much that Google sees them as spam. Many people use one of the various keyword density analyses, such as the one on the Free SEO Tools site www.datacoms.co.uk, this gives you an idea of the relative density of your keywords compared with the rest of the page. Other good ideas are to have your keywords in H1 tags and also highlighted in bold, both of which Google seems to take into account.
We are not just referring here to external links, but also how you link between pages. In fact, a good internal linking strategy seems to be highly rated by Google. Whereas a complex internal linking hierarchy can mean that some of your pages just don’t get found by Google. We try and keep the maximum number of clicks to reach a page down to three, and preferably two. It is worth considering using Google site maps, since Google seem to be doing a lot of work in this area which means they will probably become more prominent with time.
One last point on internal links, try to make the linking anchor text consistent, Google likes to see the same anchor text on different pages linking to a page.
External links should be used with caution. We saw a site with had an address book that a Russian porn site added its URL into. This led to Google banning the site because we it was deemed to be linking to a bad neighbourhood – sometimes you only learn from your mistakes. It is also worth checking periodically that all the links on your site still work. If you have broken links, Google is more likely to hold your site back in the search results. We also believe that Google rates link stability highly, so don’t keep churning the links of sites that you link onto.
Google likes big, old sites and that’s a fact. A large site that has been around for 5 years is always going to out-gun a small, new site in the results page takes. So as a new site, you have to keep Google interested, and one way of doing this is new well-written content. Try and put up at least a few new pages a month, all nicely linked to the rest of the site. Avoid having no new pages for 3 months then 100 new ones on one day, we have a feeling Google prefers to see a gradual increase in content. Again suddenly increase of content or links may be seen as spammy by Google and your site devalue in its eyes. Google is trying to see if your site is genuine and growing organically.
We have seen sites with pages that run for miles. Short, well-themed pages are again a big attraction to Google, this also allow you to do more clever internal cross linking with consistent anchor text. It is also better for human readers who can be put off when they see how small the scroller button is on the scroll bar – keep pages short and focused.
In the second part of the article we will look at how off-page factors can affect your Google ranking.