How To Optimize A Website For Google

How To Optimize A Website For Google

The Google Secret

So you have a website and want to get more visitors. You may have heard that Google is king in the SEO arena. Google gets about 10 times the amount of traffic that Yahoo, MSN and other popular search engines are getting.

Fortunately, there is more documentation on how to get good rankings in Google than the others. However, the Google algorithm is a secret only known to Google insiders. Google seems to be getting wise to those who try to exploit its algorithm.

There was a time when stuffing your website and meta tags full of keywords, and using mass article submission did the trick. But it has become clear, through trial and error runs by established SEO experts, that these no longer work.

Google Panda

Google Panda, first released on February 2011 has changed the playing field for about 12% of all established websites.

Google Panda is a change to the Google algorithm that is aimed at lowering the ranks for ‘low quality sites’. Low quality sites include ‘content farms’, sites with a lot of advertising, and sites with a lot of spam backlinks. At the same time, there was a surge in rankings for social media websites.

Soon after Panda was rolled out, the Google Webmaster forum was filled with website owners complaining about how some low quality websites were ranking better now than high quality sites. The Google Panda update was not perfect, but now, Google employs hundreds of quality testers that do manual reviews of websites that are ranked highest.

Google claims that none of the feedback from these testers is directly used for an individual website. It is in fact used to determine the quality of current rankings. There have been several updates to the Google algorithm since Google Panda. To help website publishers rank well, Google has established an advisory on its blog.

Google Webmaster Guidelines

The following summary of Google Webmaster Guidelines. Keep in mind that Google’s guidelines is not an exhaustive list of the criteria used by the Google algorithm to determine how a website will rank. In the next section, I will delve further into what website publishers have been doing in order to get better rankings. But for now, here is the list of the bare minimum, and they are divided by Google into 3 categories.

Design and Content Guidelines

Submit your website to http://www.google.com/submityourcontent/.
Have a clear hierarchy for your navigation. All of the pages should be accessible by a link from another page.
Include a sitemap on your website and submit your sitemap to Google Webmaster Tools.
Don’t put too many links on your webpages.
Write useful, original content that is relevant to your niche. Use words that your visitors might use to do a search.
Use descriptive ‘al’t and ‘title’ elements for your images.
Remember that image navigation buttons do not index your navigation menu unless you include ‘alt’ elements.

Technical Guidelines

Google has to pick up your navigation links in order to index your pages. Sometimes, if Javascript, DHTML, or Flash is used, it won’t detect the links. Try viewing your website using an HTML browser called Lynx. It will display your website as Google sees it. Make sure that all text links are viewable.
Use a robots.txt file to let Google know which directories or pages should not be crawled. Use the robots.txt analysis tool to make sure you are using it properly.
Make sure your website appears correctly by testing it in different browsers.
Use the Site Performance tool in Google Webmaster Tools to determine the speed at which your website loads. Google gives preference to sites that load fast so that users can have the best experience possible.

Quality Guidelines

These guidelines cover deceptive techniques used by webmasters to increase rankings in Google.

Do not choose a domain name based on a misspelled word.
Do not ‘cloak’ your pages by presenting content to users that is different from content presented to search engines.
Do not involve yourself in backlinking schemes aimed at improve search engine rankings. Also avoid putting backlinks on websites that are from a ‘bad neighbourhood’ (meaning that they have used spammy techniques to get rankings).
Avoid hidden text or links.
Do not use substantially duplicate content.
If you have an affiliate website, provide users with relevant and useful content instead of creating ‘doorway’ pages.

Website Reconsideration

If you feel that your website has been unjustly penalized, or, you have updated your website to conform with the above quality guidelines, you can submit your website for reconsideration with Google. Just send a Reconsideration Request.

Other Ways to Optimize For Google

The above Google guidelines are not an exhaustive list of SEO techniques, as other techniques have been tried and have tested true. The following list is one that Google has not mentioned in its guidelines, but are very powerful indeed.

Include your main keywords in the meta tags.
Ensure that you have a keyword density between 1-3%, but no more than 5%.
Keeps the keywords in your pages specific to the page url’s.
Include your pages’ main keyword in the page title and within the first few sentences.
Use LSI keywords. LSI stands for ‘Latent Semantic Indexing’, which alludes to the text in your pages being synonymous to the main keyword for the page.

Closing Words

These guidelines are essential in any long term SEO plan. But keep in mind that these are just the basics, and that the Google algorithm is more sophisticated than it may seem. For example, it is not enough to add keywords to your webpages, the algorithm also takes into account the complexity of the content. In the end, it’s about providing useful content to the user. Another thing to remember is that Google like websites that get natural backlinks. If it appears that you have been actively backlinking to your website yourself, you will get penalized. The name of the game is content. Content is king in the eyes of Google, which is congruent with the whole point of a website.

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