Naturally, if you have a website, you want people to be able to find it. The best way to do this is by appearing in search results — specifically Google. But, it takes more than just creating a webpage for it to appear in search listings (much less highly ranked). You have to optimize.
However, before you dip your toe into the depths of search engine optimization (SEO) and advertising your pages, it’s necessary to first understand the basics of how Google Search works.
How Google Works
It’s important to realize when you make a search via Google, you aren’t really searching the entire World Wide Web, but only the sites Google has found (indexed). Of course, this is still an incomprehensible amount of information, and you probably wouldn’t want to search through the whole web anyway since you’d end up with a lot of garbage and irrelevant content. In this way, Google acts as a great filter.
So, how does the search engine find websites? As you probably guessed, Google doesn’t have a bunch of people sitting around reading and cataloging websites all day — that would take way too much time. Instead, it relies on a system of computers, collectively known as Googlebot, which scan and “read” webpages continuously.
Googlebot begins its scan with a relatively small group of websites, but every time it encounters a link it will send out a “spider” to follow that link, which of course leads to another webpage. Once on the new page it will undoubtedly discover more links and send out additional spiders to track those sites. This process continues on and on until Googlebot’s spiders have “crawled” through an infinite number of websites.
Plus, once the search engine knows about a site, it will continue to visit it, look for added content, and follow any new links. So, Google is always growing and expanding its registry. And for each page it analyzes, Google will store a copy, or a “cached” page, to keep in its index.
Then, when someone makes a search, Googlebot will hunt through all the pages it has indexed and, based on the search terms and more than 200 other variables, will provide the user with what it feels is the most appropriate and worthwhile result.
That said, one of the main hurdles in getting your site ranked is making sure Google understands your page and is convinced real people consider it valuable. This is where smart SEO comes into play.
SEO has changed and evolved throughout the years as Google has repeatedly updated its ranking algorithms. Still, SEO is far from dead and is essential if you hope to rise to the top of search engine result pages (SERPs).
There are myriads of tips and tricks for getting on Google’s good side, but here are three of the most powerful which will likely never go out of style.
1. Clean, Google-Friendly Code
Having a well-built website with clean code is the first step of optimization. For this, there is no substitute for a professional website builder who understands how to organize and program the site in a language Google understands.
A responsively built website is the best option. Such a site will give you a huge head start in terms of SEO, since it is accessible and easy to navigate on every type of device (both mobile and static). Google has even plainly said that it prefers responsive sites — this is hard info for any optimizer to ignore.
2. Awesome Content
Nothing else matters if you have terrible content. For this reason, content is king (if you have great outreach). Whether your goal is to entertain or to inform, you have to create things that matter and keep people coming back for more.
Obviously Googlebot can’t read or look at content on its own and judge its worth, but it can monitor how online users respond to that content in order to gauge its value. In other words, if you can please the people, Google will reward you with high SERP rankings.
3. Social Media Integration
With Google’s focus on human signals, it’s more important than ever to use social media as part of your SEO campaign. Social media provides a place for you to promote your content and build loyal followers. From there people will begin to link to your pages, share your content, and talk about your brand (all good things in the eyes of Google).
No longer do savvy optimizers use shady practices, such as buying links or stuffing keywords. In fact, such practices will likely push your rankings lower. Now it is all about getting noticed organically by interacting with real people, and there’s no better place to connect with a bunch of people at once than through social networks.
Advertising on Google (outside SEO)
Once your website is up and running, you have a general idea of how Google operates, and have some basic SEO in place, you might feel inclined to advertise your business. If so, Google Adwords are a great place to start.
Adwords are advertisements you can purchase from Google which put your business listing in a prominent place in the search listings (usually at the top or side of the page). Buying Adwords is an effective way to give your site (especially if it’s newly launched) quick access to massive exposure while you wait for your SEO strategies to kick in.
However, it requires a little more effort than just handing over the money to ensure your ads are seen by the target audience. Like everything with online marketing, it requires optimization.
One of the main factors in where and how often your ad appears is its Quality Score. According to Google, “Quality Score is an estimate of how relevant your ads, keywords, and landing page are to a person seeing your ad.” Having higher Quality Scores “typically lead to lower costs and better ad positions.” You can get more information on Quality Score and learn how to check your own scores by visiting Google’s support page.
So, how can you secure high Quality Scores? Here are some suggestions:
1. Focus on Keyword Relevance — Not Density
Whether it’s your website, blog, or Adwords, keyword stuffing isn’t going to get you anywhere. Instead, you should sprinkle carefully chosen and optimized keywords throughout your ad and landing page content. Google couldn’t care less if you have the “right” words if people aren’t clicking. Getting clicks lets them know your ad is relevant and appropriate to the advertised keywords.
2. Be Patient with New Keywords
If you include a new keyword in your Adwords, Google first rates it based on its known, or historical, performance. This means your initial Quality Score for these words doesn’t truly reflect an accurate rating of what you can do with the word, but instead is based on the performance of people who previously used the keyword. Unfortunately, this may result in a higher cost-per-click (CPC) rate, but if you stick to your guns and prove your keyword’s relevance, Google will gradually increase your rating. It can take a while for the search engine to gather enough data, so try and be patient.
3. Use Unique Keywords
Google’s aim is to help searchers find exactly what they’re looking for in the most efficient means possible. So naturally, they place much more value on exact matches than broad matches since they are more likely to direct users to the specific thing they are after. Thus, if you want to strengthen your click-through-rate (CTR), select keywords that are unique to your product or service — words people will actually use when searching for your items.
4. Aim for Quality Impressions
According to Google, “Each time your ad appears on Google or the Google Network, it’s counted as one impression.” And the more impressions you have, the better Google can judge your CTR rate. With more performance history, they have more information on which to base your quality score.
With that in mind, it’s in your best interest to acquire as many successful impressions as possible, so you can increase both your CTR and Quality Score.
Although there’s a lot of information here, ultimately, Google’s goal is to quickly connect people with what they are really looking for. If you make that your goal as well (with an optimized site and Adwords) you’ll have no problems securing a prominent spot in search rankings and getting more traffic. Keep your focus on delivering the type of content your audience wants most, and everything else should fall into place.