So What Does Google Want?
If the full answer to this question was indeed understood, you can bet just about every site that wanted top rankings would make changes to the way their site looked and worked in pretty short order, the prize, that top place on the first page of Google being worth a lot of money…
But of course, Google won’t tell anyone just what they want, instead they just give out information about some of the things they want to see and as importantly, don’t want to see. Whilst the knowledge that is imparted is useful, it only gives us a part of the picture.
A Vital Point – Google Often Ignores Its Own Rules
The biggest problem, from my point of view (as a SEO Professional) is that Google don’t only not tell you the rules, they also don’t keep to the ones you know about. This makes applying any scientific approach to the process difficult, its just like trying to find the boiling point of water when someone is altering the air pressure all the time. One time water will boil at 100’C, whilst at another it will boil at 90’C….
You can see this ‘not following their own rules’ phenomenon all the time (if you know what to look for) sites that break the rules still enjoying top ranking positions. This does make life difficult, but does not invalidate the data you can obtain by checking a site’s linking or page structure as it is more than possible (especially when it comes to links) that Google have yet to impose some form of penalty, the site then potentially losing the rankings it currently has.
Some of the Known SEO Rules
In the early days of the web, it was quite easy to trick the Search Engines into providing a first page rank simply by using the target words over and over again…. Things have moved on now though, and if you try this trick today you will (more than likely) get worse rankings and not better ones.
Status – Avoid…
Use of Title Tag
The Title tag is not on the page, but is shown in the Browser Window and is used by Google to ‘understand’ what topic the page I question is all about. It also, importantly forms the phrase that is seen when a site is listed by a Search Engine, so is something that needs to be carefully chosen.
Status – Use Wisely (best to keep to 65-70chrs)
Meta Description Tag
Like the Title tag, the words in this area are not shown on the actual page, instead they are used in the Search Engine listings and are to all intents and purposes an ‘elevator speech’. Their effect on SEO is very limited, expect that if they the same text is used on lots of pages that is. In such instances, it is believed that they may have a negative effect.
Status – Ensure that your website has a unique ‘elevator speech’ and is 165 – 170 characters long.
These tags have a long history, their use dating back to the days when newspapers were printed using lead type in blocks. More recently, they formed a part of the postscript language that allowed computers to communicate with printers. They were then subsumed into HTML and at the very start of the Internet, were the only way of creating bigger text on the screen. There are 6 Header styles, from H1 (the most important) to H6 (the least).
Google have stated in the past that they use the text within these tags <H1>the text</H1> as pointers about what the page is about, but now, as CSS styles are used to control the size of the text on pages there is some debate that Google also treat any BIG text as important..
Status – Use, but only for important phrases (not for Navigation) and only have one H1 tag.
There is evidence that the top pages for many search terms are ones that have over 1,000 words of copy, although this ‘requirement’ can go up and down depending on the level of competition. The most important factor here is to use the ‘right words’ on the page (this best found by reverse engineering the top sites for any term) and to use as many as you can. Size is important here for two reasons, the first is (as explained above) that Google likes lots of words (words are its food after all) but there is another, as important reason to have lot of text.
This second reason is based on the fact that obtaining traffic for ’long tail searches’ can be great for business, such search terms (normally 4 words or longer) often being used by people who are nearer the end of the buying process and thus that more likely to convert.
Status – Try to create pages that are 1,000 words or longer which contain relevant words and terms
Tabs and Accordions (Copy Triggerd by User Interaction)
One of the reasons that pages are often to light in copy is that the site owner (and the designer) rightly points out that a page that looks like a ‘wall of text’ is likely to be off putting to viewers and would therefore increase bounce rates and reduce conversion rates.
There is a way of placing the text on the page so that Google can read it, but at the same time ‘hide’ it from viewers, until that is they want to see it. There are various methods doing this, but in every case, it is a user action that causes the text to be made visible. This process is not treated as hiding text (in the old days people used white text on a white background would you believe), something that Google frown upon and which could get a site banned, but is a practice that Google have reportedly said they are not altogether happy about.
I find this stance of Google’s somewhat strange as they also want sites to offer the best possible ‘user experience’ and makes me feel that Google want the cake and to eat it too. But as I don’t believe they are actively penalising sites that use this in their interface, it seems the best way of providing Google with the words it needs whilst giving users the best way of assimilating the site’s message.
Status – Use with caution.
Internal Links and Links From Your Site
The power of links to sites are well understood, the right type and number enhancing the possibility of a site getting better rankings. However, it is not so widely understood that the links from a site also have their place. The reason that they are important is that they ‘prove’ to Google that the site is a part of the wider community (in that market area) as well as potentially helping users locate other relevant information.
Internal links also have a role in that they allow users to move through a site in an easier way than just using the navigation system. Used carefully these link types can really assist in improving both the ‘user experience’ and Search Engine rankings.
Status – Do implement links to relevant sites, the more powerful the better. Also, consider what internal links you could place on your pages.
Links To Your Site.
Links to a site are still very powerful, accounting for at least 50% of the reason that a site is selected by Google for a ranking and form a VITAL part of any plan to get better Search Engine listings.
There are however some important factors to bear in mind…
- Ensure that the links come from a wide number of locations / sites
- Make sure that the anchor text used contains no more than 25% of ‘money phrases’
- Check to see that the number of ‘other phrases’ is high, at least 30-40%.
- Remember that a site is more than just a home page, links to internal pages also being needed
- Plus when building links, make sure that you don’t build too many too quickly..
There is more to SEO of course, so please do see our site for more details and assistance.