Since Google made its debut in September 1998, the web designers, developers, programmers, and consultants of this world have been going crazy ensuring that their websites are "Google friendly". Just how do they do it?
Making a website "Google friendly" refers to optimising every single element on every single page of the site by paying more attention that what you'd need for threading string through the eye of a needle. And to stay with that needle idea, once you've totally optimised your site Google will easily be able to find your needle (your site) in the haystack known as the Internet.
In other words, if you optimise your site well, your site will rank well in Google.
::: A Unique Ranking Method :::
The foundation of Google's ranking method is PageRank (PR), named after Google co-founder Larry Page (not after how pages rank). PageRank works by analysing every web page on the Internet to determine how popular pages are - and that is determined by how many pages link to a certain page.
For example, Google.com, at the time of writing this, has about 328,000 inbound links. On the other hand, TechiWarehouse.com has just 93. This has given Google a "PR" of 10 (the highest you can currently get) and TechiWarehouse a PR of 5. So to put it simply, if you search for the phrase "Advanced Search", and both Google and TechiWarehouse have this written on their homepages, Google will most likely rank higher because it has a higher PR (PageRank).
However, PageRank isn't the only calculation Google makes to decide how high it will rank a page. Remember, PageRank doesn't mean "how a page ranks" - it's just named after Larry Page.
::: So, How Can I Rank Well? :::
There are many other calculations Google makes to determine the ranking of a page, including the relevance of the entered keywords. For example, if you sell fishing tackle on your website and you're located in Ohio, then you'd receive a much higher ranking for "fishing tackle ohio" if the title of your page said something similar to "Bob's Fishing Tackle - Columbus, Ohio" rather than "Welcome to Bob's Site" - even if you still mention "fishing tackle" and "ohio" later on in your page.
And you'll receive a higher ranking, and more of your pages will be indexed, if Google can find its way around your site easily. Google can't follow links in a Flash movie, and it doesn't know what image links are saying to the visitor, so if you use either of these on your site you should try and fit in text links as well. And if you are using image links, ensuring that you include meaningful ALT tags in your images will help Google figure out what you're linking to.
Content is another big one. If you have content on your site, Google will index it. Logical, huh? What I mean is, if you want people to find your site if they type in "bait" rather than "fishing tackle", you need to mention bait in your site. So, write an article on bait. Google will find that, see that you know a lot about bait, and so will rank you higher when someone searches for bait. But if your site only said "Bob provides fishing tackle and can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org", Google won't know that you provide bait.
::: Submitting Your Sites To Google :::
Google provides a submission form at http://www.google.com/addurl.html. Entering your website address in there will get you listed in Google. Or will it? Some speculate that this form really does nothing at all, and is just there to keep webmasters happy by making them think they are submitting their site.
It's safe to say that Google depends more on people linking to you than if you submit your site or not. So I'd recommend to not worry about submitting your site, just work on getting links to it instead.
This is my theory on it (which may or may not be fully correct):
- If you DO submit your site to Google but you DO NOT have sites linking to you, Google will not index your site.
- If you DO submit your site to Google and you DO have sites linking to you, Google will index your site.
- If you DO NOT submit your site to Google and you DO NOT have sites linking to you, Google will not index your site.
- If you DO NOT submit your site to Google but you DO have sites linking to you, Google will index your site.
So if my theory is correct, submitting your site to Google does nothing at all. Getting people to link to your site is what works wonders. But as a said, it's only my theory and may not be 100% correct.
::: Getting Inbound Links :::
As has already been mentioned many times, links into your site is what influences your ranking the most. This cannot be stressed enough! But this of course raises the question: how do I get links into my site?
Start with people you know. If you know anyone who runs a site, ask them to link to you, and in return, you should link back to them. This way, you'll both be helping to raise each other's PageRank.
Next, write some articles about something that your site focuses on. If you are a web hosting provider, write an article about choosing a web host, and include things like: what features to look for in a host, how to tell if a host is a fake, and what price is a good price. Then at the end of your article, put a little bit about yourself, and link it to your website. Eg. "About the Author: Joe Bloggs is the CEO of Bloggs Hosting Inc.". Then, submit your article to any website that accepts articles from visitors. You shouldn't have too much trouble finding any of these in Google.
If you submit your article to ten sites, that's potentially ten extra inbound links into your site. And not only that, you've also increased public awareness of your site and hopefully generated more traffic from it.
::: A Further Important Note About PageRank :::
You may have noticed that I said "potentially" above. This is because Google doesn't count all inbound links towards your PageRank. There could be many reasons for this, but the main one probably is to avoid webmasters artificially driving up their ranking by creating new fake websites for the sole purpose of linking back to their main site.
In most cases (I have only seen a few exceptions) Google will only count a link if the page that the link is coming from has a PR of 4 or higher. So if you created a fake page and linked back to your main site, it would make no difference because the new page would have a PR of 0. If you got heaps of people to link to that, it might eventually build up to PR 4, in which case it would count. But you can see what a waste of time that is - why not just get all those people to link directly to you?
Also, how the PR score actually works is this: the page with the link passes a portion of its PR onto the page it is linking to - and this is evenly distributed amongst all the links on that page. So say, for example, that your friend John has a site which has a PR of 6. He links to you, but he also links to five other people. Because there's six links on that page, the PR of John's site is evenly distributed among the links - so each of the sites he links to would get 1 added on to their PR score. However, Google takes into account every single link, even links to other areas in John's site. So John may be linking to six other sites, but he also has, on that same page, about 10 links to other pages in his own site. That's now sixteen links, so each of the pages he links to get a sixteenth of his PR of 6. And that's now a lot less.
::: How Do I Check My PageRank? :::
If you're like me, you'll like to keep an eye on the PageRanks of all your sites to see how they're doing. If you don't already know, there are two main ways the PageRank of a site can be determined - the Google Toolbar, and the Google Directory.
To download the Google Toolbar, visit http://toolbar.google.com/. Once you've installed it, and it is visible in your browser, click the Google logo, then click Options. Make sure the PageRank option is checked, and click OK. Then, for any sites you visit, you should see a green bar which indicates the current site's PageRank - anywhere from 0 (no green bar at all) to 10 (full green bar).
Alternatively, if your site is listed in the dmoz directory, it will also be listed in the Google directory. Simply visit http://directory.google.com/, do a search for your site, click on the category link, and then next to your site you should see a green bar indicating your PageRank. What's great about the directory is that most of the directory pages have a PR of 4 or greater, so you get benefits from the links!
::: The Foundation :::
I've discussed many things to do with Google in this article. Many things that help you rank better, and thus drive more traffic to your site. It is worth mentioning yet again, that inbound links are the greatest factor in determining how your site ranks in Google. So get the links, then think about what else you need to change in your site to make it more Google friendly!
By Tim Malone
Focus Web Design
Affordable small business web site solutions based in Canberra, Australia.