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A Beginners Quick Guide to Google-ing Your Website...
By Eddie Machaalani & Mitchell Harper  Copyright

Introduction

As many of us web developers already know, Google is rated by 
many as the number one search engine in the world. I personally 
know that our website gets about 90% of its search engine traffic 
straight from direct Google searches.

Getting indexed by Google can be a pain, but getting highly 
placed rankings for specific keywords seems to be the nut that 
not many web developers without SEO (search engine optimization) 
experience can crack.

Today I'm going to give you an informative primer on the basics 
of search engine optimization techniques - many of which we use 
everyday to optimize our websites and stay ahead of our 
competitors.

4 Steps to Better Rankings

I personally believe in the "practice what you preach" approach 
to all things business related -- especially SEO. So, before we 
continue, here's a sample of keywords and Google rankings for 
some of our websites:

Website               Keywords                    Ranking in Google
activekb.com          knowledge base software     #2 of 4,980,000
devedit.com           online html editor          #3 of 9,080,000
myfreetemplates.com   free dreamweaver templates  #4 of 93,600

Step 1. Choosing The Right Keywords

Choosing the right keywords to base your site optimization 
around is an important first step. General or generic keywords 
are usually not the best approach, and sometimes it's better to 
be a little more specific and focus on niche keywords relating 
to your product or service.

For example, let's talk about www.devedit.com -- DevEdit is our 
WYSIWYG HTML editing component that drops into browser-based 
applications.

The problem is, there are a LOT of WYSIWYG HTML editors, but how 
can we get DevEdit to appear in Google's top 10 rankings? Well, 
let's see. Trying to optimize for the keyword "HTML" alone would 
be a tough task, as it's too general. There are HTML editors, 
HTML tutorials, HTML articles, etc.

We need to be more specific, which means:

1. targeting a more suitable market that is looking for a content editing solution.

2. competing with fewer websites targeting the same keywords.

3. optimizing for keywords that people actually use when performing searches.

Targeting a suitable market will depend on your website, as well 
as the products and services you offer. Try to be specific with 
your keywords, and remember that people no longer use single 
keyword search phrases - the average search phrase contains 3-5 
related words.

For example, if you're optimizing for a web development site and 
you're located in Sydney, Australia, use keywords such as "web 
development Sydney" or "web development services Australia".

To find out how many websites are competing with your keywords 
-- either intentionally or not -- simply do a search on Google 
and note down how many results are returned. In our case, for 
"online html editor", we're competing with 9,080,000 sites. The 
more sites that are competing for your keywords, the harder it 
will be to get on the front page.

Alternatively, to get a rough indication of how many people are 
actually searching for the keywords you want to optimize your 
site for, use the Overture search suggestion tool. It's not 
exact, and doesn't measure Google searches, but it does give a 
very good estimate: 
http://inventory.overture.com/d/searchinventory/suggestion/

The Overture search suggestion tool will also provide you with a 
list of similar keywords, based on the keywords you enter. This 
can be a great way to find other keywords to optimize your site 
for.

As a rough guideline, try to optimize every page on your site 
for a different search phrase. Each search phrase should contain 
2 to 3 highly targeted keywords.

Step 2. Your URL and Title Tag

Two of the most determining factors in Google's ranking are your 
domain name and title tag. For example, a domain name such as: 
http://www.web-development-sydney.com will generally get ranked 
higher than http://www.companyname.com, assuming that they had 
identical keywords and page content.

For some of us, keywords in the domain name look too 
unprofessional, and we've already registered our domain, so its 
too late to change. An alternative -- and also a useful tactic 
-- is to add your keywords into the names of your pages, such as 
http://www.companyname.com/web-development-services.html

Your title tag is equally as important as your domain name. 
Using keywords in your title tag can improve your Google ranking 
significantly. Trying to achieve a balance of professionalism 
with keyword density in the title tag however, is sometimes a 
little more difficult.

Going back to our example of a web development company earlier, 
a good title tag would be:

<title>"Company name provides professional affordable web 
development services in Sydney Australia."</title>

Usually, the closer to the front of your title tag the keywords 
are placed, the better.
        
Step 3. H1 Tags and Keyword Density

<h1> tags seem to have been depreciated by stylesheets these 
days, and are not used as often as they used to be.

The Google ranking algorithm dictates that if you're using 
a <h1> tag, then the text in between this tag must be more 
important than the content on the rest of the page. Here's a 
quick example:

<h1>Google sees this text as more important</h1>
<p>... than this text</p>
        
By default, H1 tags aren't the prettiest in terms of formatting, 
so using a CSS style to override the default look is usually a 
good idea:

H1 { color: blue; font-family: Verdana; font-size: 16px }

Sprinkling keywords throughout your page content can also 
improve your sites keyword density. Keyword density simply 
means the ratio of optimized keywords to the rest of the 
content on your page. It is usually expressed as a percentage, 
and should be between 7% and 10% for each page on your site.

Don't overdo the keyword density, however, but don't overlook 
it either. A good example would be:

BEFORE

Company name provides web design and site management services 
to our clients.

AFTER

Company name provides web development services to the Sydney 
region in Australia

Notice how we use the keywords more efficiently the second time 
around?

Step 4. Links, Links and More Links

And this leads us to the toughest part of the Google SEO process 
-- back-links. Back links are websites that link directly to your 
website. The general principal is the more back links you have, 
the higher your pages will be ranked, as your website must be 
good if so many other sites are linking back to it.

If you run a web development company, then adding a simple link 
to the bottom of each of your client's websites, such as:

<a href=http://www.yoursite.com>Web development by Company 
Name</a>

... (with your clients permission of course) can help boost 
your back links, which will help boost your ranking position 
in searches.

Submitting your site to dmoz.org (http://www.dmoz.org/), 
Yahoo! (http://www.yahoo.com/) and other directories is also an 
important step to increase the number of sites linking back to 
yours. Do remember however, that setting up back links takes 
time. I would recommend emailing 5-10 websites each and every 
day to request back-links or partnership links (keeping in mind 
that the sites contacted should be relevant but not competitive)
eg. - If you sell chocolate, partnering with a company that sells 
Roses may just be a good idea. Within a couple of weeks, you 
should have a good 100 or so sites happily linking back to yours!

Conclusion

Hopefully in this article I've given you a good outline of how 
to get started with Google search engine optimization for your 
site. Good luck and hope you get Google'd :)

================================================================
Eddie Machaalani and Mitchell Harper are the lead developers at 
Interspire http://www.interspire.com. They provide web 
developers with powerful, re-brandable web tools and free web 
templates http://www.myfreetemplates.com to help them 
increase their customer base and increase revenue.
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