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How to Rank Well on Google

A comprehensive guide to Google website optimization

 

Increase your Google Rankings

Whether you're just starting out in business or have a thriving company with hundreds of employees, you can increase your market reach by taking advantage of the Internet. One of the Internet's strongest marketing tools is the Google search engine. If you rank well on Google, you'll have the equivalent of a highly visible billboard on the information highway. By learning how to build a Google friendly website and how to get a top Google ranking, you will be able to drive a steady stream of highly targeted Internet traffic to your website. This article will guide you through the process of Google website optimization.

How to Rank Well on Google Outline

  1. Why should I optimize my website for the Google search engine?
  2. How does Google know where to find my site?
    a. What are spiders?
    b. How often do spiders normally index sites?
    c. Impact on site changes
    d. Can I do anything to be listed in Google more quickly?
  3. What are the basic guidelines Google uses to rank pages?
  4. How do I find my Google keyword niche?
  5. How do I construct a Google-optimized web page?
    a. Technical and Design guidelines
        i. Meta tags
            1. Keyword
            2. Title
            3. Description
        ii. Robots.txt file
        iii. Pictures with Alt-tags
        iv. Flash
        v. Dynamic content
        vi. Frames
    b. Content guidelines
        i. Useful and informative copy
        ii. How many keywords should I use per page?
        iii. Keyword density
        iv. Keywords and descriptions on the SERPs
        v. Page length
        vi. Placement of keywords
        vii. Keyword proximity
  6. How do links help me get a top Google ranking?
    a. What is a Google PageRank?
        i. What factors go into determining Google PageRank?
        ii. How can I tell what my Google Page Rank is?
        iii. Why does my Google Page Rank fluctuate?
    b. How can I find good links to help my Google ranking?
        i. Site Map
        ii. Inbound links from related sites
        iii. Listing in directories like Dmoz
    c. How can I tell what sites Google recognizes as linking to mine?
  7. Conclusion
     

 

  1. Why should I worry about Google website optimization?
  2. Google is, by far, the most popular tool for finding information on the Internet. Around 80% of all Internet searches are performed using Google, resulting in well over 200 million searches every single day of the year! This is an enormous amount of information being handled by a single company. Google is so popular in large part because of its commitment to provide useful and informative results to the people who use its search engine.

    Now, some of those people who are using Google for Internet searches are going to be looking for companies just like yours, and you want them to be able to find you. However, there can be hundreds of thousands of results for any given search term, and no one is going to go through more than a few dozen to find what they are looking for. This is where Google website optimization comes into play. By building a Google friendly website and getting better Google rankings, you will show up among the top results for searches that are keyed toward your product. A top Google ranking will help you to attract Internet visitors who are already on the market for what your website has to offer. Because these visitors are highly targeted and interested in your product, it will be much easier to convert them into customers.

    Best of all, the cost to bring these high quality visitors to your website is extremely low. All you really need to rank well on Google is an interesting and informative web site that conforms to good coding practices. Furthermore, because the way to improve your Google ranking is to follow good practices and provide a wealth of useful content, a site that has a top Google ranking will usually perform well on other search engines, too. In summary, Google website optimization is important to Internet marketers because it is a wonderful and expensive way to bring qualified visitors to your website.

  3. How does Google find my website?
  4. a. What are spiders?

    In order to understand how to rank well on Google, you should first know a little bit about how the search engine works. Google constantly combs through the information on the web using programs called "spiders". Spiders work by following links from one website to another and adding the information they find to the search engine's index in a process known as "crawling" the web. Google's spiders look at information like the words that are used on the website, where those words are found on the page, what the page's title and headings are, and what the page's Meta tags say to determine what a website is about and whether it is relevant to a user's search. Helping spiders to find and accurately index your site is one of the ways to ensure a top Google ranking.

    Because Google's spiders travel by moving from one link to another, the pages that are most likely to be crawled are those that have many links leading to them. These include links from other sites as well as good linking structures within your site. A page that stands on its own with no links is unlikely to be crawled often, if at all. This is one reason why links are so important to improve your Google rank.

    b. How often do spiders normally index sites?

    Google's spiders are constantly moving through the web and adding information to the search engine's index. However, this does not mean that changes to your website will show up immediately on Google's search engine. The spiders have billions of pages to crawl through, and it takes time to visit them all. Sites with better Google page ranks will be visited more frequently than poorly ranking sites. Sites that update frequently may be visited more often than static sites.

    Google reviews information that is added to its index before putting it in the search results. Normally, the updated index results are made live on the Google website once a month, in a process known as the "Google Dance". However, the time span between Google Dances can vary from as often as once a day to as long as a couple of months. Therefore, before you can see the results of your Google website optimization, you must wait for your site to be crawled, indexed, and then for your first Google Dance to take place. Only then can you tell if you have achieved a top Google ranking.

    c. Impact on site changes.

    The best way to ensure that your website is indexed in Google quickly is to try to get a better Google page rank by exchanging links with other web sites. Links from other websites are called "inbound links". The most important websites to have link to you are those who have excellent Google page ranks themselves. A good way for a new website to start out with strong inbound links is to find online directories that list your kind of product.

    d. Can I do anything to be listed in Google more quickly?

    Another way to increase your chances of being indexed quickly is to submit your website's URL directly to Google. If you submit your URL to Google, the spiders will look for that web address during their crawl. However, Google makes it clear that this is an inferior way to ensure indexing. If your site is poorly linked, the spiders may have trouble finding it even if they are actively looking for it. Conversely, spiders will find well-linked sites with a better Google page rank even if the URL was not directly submitted. Creating a Google friendly website and finding sites to link to it is the best way to be sure of getting included in Google's search engine as quickly as possible.

  5. What are the basic guidelines I should follow to rank well on Google?
  6. The most important thing to remember when starting your Google website optimization is that Google wants to provide its visitors with helpful and informative websites. The most basic tip to rank well in Google is to provide this kind of website. Google is constantly weeding out websites that try to take shortcuts to better Google rankings at the cost of user experience. If you want your website to have a top Google ranking in the long term, pack it full of information that your target audience is looking for, make it easy to navigate, and keep the coding on your site clean and well-structured.

  7. How do I find my Google niche?
  8. We've already covered how important it is to rank well on Google. However, it's not enough to just have good rankings in general - what you really want is to have top Google rankings for the search terms that people will be using to look for sites like yours. In order to do this, your Google website optimization should focus on certain "keywords" that your potential customers might be entering into the search engine.

    Moreover, you can get better Google rankings and improve your chances of finding customers who are looking for your site by avoiding very general keyword phrases. For example, let's say that you are a realtor in Sonoma County, California. Your first thought might be to optimize your site for keywords like "realty" and "real estate". However, there are two problems with those keywords - for one, there are going to be thousands upon thousands of websites competing for those general keywords, making it very difficult for you to rank well on Google with them. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, even if you get a top ranking with those phrases, you will be attracting many visitors who are looking for something else altogether, such as "realty law" or "real estate in Boston, Massachusetts". Google website optimization is most effective when you use specific niche keyword phrases, like "Sonoma County realty" or "houses for sale in Sonoma County". People who are looking for these phrases are much more likely to want your kind of service, and you'll have a much easier time getting a top Google ranking.

    With some creativity, you can find keyword phrases that describe your product or service well and that have many people searching for them but few competitors who have optimized their sites for those phrases. Try thinking from the point of view of your customers - what are they looking for, and how can your site help them find it? You can look at the websites of competitors that rank well on Google and see what kinds of keywords they have used, to get ideas for keywords that might help you. If you have a website up already, look at your web logs to see what keyword phrases people are already using to find you, and capitalize on those. There are also marketing tools to help you find these niche keyword phrases, including WordTracker, the Overture Suggestion Tool, and the Google AdWords Suggestion Tool.

  9. How do I build a Google-friendly website?
  10. When you're ready to build a Google-friendly website or to optimize your current site to rank well in Google, there are two important aspects to keep in mind - the design and technical setup and the content which will attract visitors and help you to get top Google ranking for your niche keywords.

    a. Technical aspects of building a Google-friendly website

    When it comes to building a website to rank well on Google, it's important to think about what kinds of indicators Google's spiders are looking for to help them identify your site. Clean coding including using standardized HTML, removing any broken links, and avoiding fancy extras whenever possible will improve your chances of getting a top Google ranking.

    i. Meta Tags

    One of the first things that spiders are going to look at when they visit your site is the information found in the page's Meta tags. Meta tags are a type of HTML code that contains information about the web page. Most of the information found in Meta tags is not visible to site visitors, but can be read by Google's spiders. When properly used, Meta tags can help you achieve better Google rankings. There are three kinds of Meta tags that are of interest to search engine spiders - the Title, Description, and Keyword Meta tags.

    Meta Tag Image
    Meta Tag Example
    1. Keyword Meta Tags

    Meta tags have lost some of their influence since the early days of search engine optimization, when they were often used to mislead spiders. For example, Google entirely ignores the Keyword Meta tag because it can be packed with keywords that have nothing to do with the page it's describing. However, it's not a bad idea to use the Keyword tag anyway, because some other search engines still use it to help in site classification, and because it's a good way to remind yourself of what keywords you're targeting for top Google ranking on that page.

    2. Title Meta Tags

    Google continues to place heavy emphasis on the title tag. Building an excellent title tag is vital to achieving a top Google ranking. A common mistake that many sites make with their Google website optimization is to use their company name alone for the website's title tag. Although you can add your company name to the title for branding purposes, you want to be sure to include the keyword phrases that you are targeting as well.

    Title Meta Example
    How the Title Meta tag text looks in a browser window

    The title tag will be visible to site visitors in two places - at the top of their browser windows and as the title of their entry in the Search Engine Results Page (SERPs). It should be short, readable, and compelling as well as optimized to rank well in Google.

    Some important guidelines for writing a title tag to improve your Google ranking:
    bulletYou should try to keep your title under 66 characters in length. If your title is any longer, Google will cut it off in its SERPs.
    bulletStart your title with your most important keyword phrase - leave off articles like "A" or "The" at the start of your title to save room and to maximize the impact of the phrase that you most want to have a top Google ranking.
    bulletMake sure your title doesn't seem like spam by taking care not to repeat the same words in close proximity. For example, "Sonoma County Real Estate - Houses for Sale in Sonoma County" is a more acceptable title than "Real Estate in Sonoma County - Sonoma County Houses for Sale". An example of a typical spam title would look something like "Sonoma County Real Estate, Sonoma County Houses for Sale, Sonoma County Real Estate Agent, Sonoma County Real Estate for Sale". That kind of title is an obvious ploy to rank well in Google at the expense of usefulness to readers, and will most likely be penalized by the search engines.
    bulletAlthough Google's spiders don't pay any attention to capitalization, your title looks most professional when written in Title Case. Writing a title in capital letters looks like spam in the SERPs, making it less likely that visitors will click through to your site.


    How a title looks when it is cut off in Google SERPs
    3. Description Meta Tags

    Like the keyword tag, the importance of the Description Meta tag in achieving a top Google ranking has been decreased in order to prevent abuse by spammers. Although some search engines may still use it to determine a page's relevance to search engine results, Google does not seem to use it for this purpose at all. However, it is still an important part of your marketing technique because it can be used as the description for your site in some search engine results. Google will either use the text in the description tag for the description in the SERPs or it will use the sentence structure around the keyword. Therefore, although it will not directly affect your ability to rank well in Google, it's worthwhile to write a few compelling sentences about your site to add to your description meta tag.

    Some important things to keep in mind when writing a description meta tag:
    bulletKeep the description meta tag short and sweet - one to two compelling sentences is plenty.
    bulletAdd your important keyword phrases, but do it in a way that is readable and attractive to your site visitors.
    bulletBe sure to keep your length below 255 characters - longer description tags will not be indexed by search engines.

    ii. Robots.txt file

    If you've been studying information about how to improve your Google website optimization skills, you might have heard talk about a robots.txt file, which is a short piece of code that instructs search engine spiders not to index certain pages. This is useful if you do not want a portion of your site to show up in search engines. For example, if you are working on a section of the site and don't want those pages to be indexed before they are complete, or if certain pages hold information that is of no interest to anyone other than the site owners, you can use the robots.txt file to prevent those pages from showing up in the search engines.

    But since we're talking about getting pages to rank well in Google and not to stay out of the search engine altogether, why do we bring up this kind of code? Well, even if you do not have any pages that you want to exclude from search engine rankings, it's a good idea to include the robots.txt file on your website. The reason for this is that the robots.txt file is the first thing a Google spider will look for when it arrives on your website. Having a robots.txt file on your site will act as an invitation to the Google spiders and will prevent them from mistaking any other code for the file that they are looking for. Making the Google spiders feel at home is a good feature of a Google friendly website.


    Two robots.txt files with opposite effects

    Important things to keep in mind when writing a robots.txt file:

    The robots.txt file must always be written with all lower-case letters. Google's spiders will not recognize a file saved as Robots.txt or ROBOTS.TXT as the file they are looking for.

    There is only one robots.txt file for the entire domain, you cannot have individual files for each page.

    The standard robots.txt file entry has two lines - one to describe the spider that is to be restricted, and the second to describe which URL is restricted. A robots.txt file can have more than one entry.

    The asterisk symbol ("*") is used to indicate all spiders. The slash symbol ("/") is used to indicate all websites.

    Be sure not to put sensitive web pages directly into your robots.txt file - this is an invitation to hackers to check out those pages! Instead, mask the sensitive URLs so that spiders can still read them, but humans can't.

    Some common barriers to achieving top Google rankings - and how to fix them

    Google's favorite kinds of websites are plain text sites with text links and tons of easily indexed information. However, humans tend to prefer a little bit more visual excitement, like graphic illustrations or navigational aids. Luckily, there are ways to accommodate both humans and Google spiders to achieve top Google rankings with beautifully designed websites.

    iii. Using images to improve Google rankings

    Google spiders are very good at analyzing and categorizing text. However, they have a difficult time knowing what to do with images. This is unfortunate for many sites who use images to add visual appeal for their site visitors, but who overlook the ways that they can use these images to achieve better Google rankings. The trick to using images to help you rank well on Google is to pay attention the alt tag and the image's descriptive text.

    An Alt tag is a small piece of HTML code that is inserted into the link to display an image. The text written in the Alt tag is displayed when the mouse cursor hovers over the picture. It is also used to describe the image if the user has graphics turned off in his browser, and to make sites more accessible to the visually impaired. However, the Alt tag can also help you to get a top Google ranking because you can use it to add descriptive, keyword-heavy phrases that the search engine spiders can recognize. It is very important, however, not to spam your Alt tags by filling them with keywords that do not describe the image in an attempt to fool spiders into giving you better Google rankings. Your site will be heavily penalized for that kind of behavior.


    Google friendly website image with Alt text displayed

    Another way to use images to improve your Google ranking is to add some short descriptive phrases that include your keyword phrases above or below your image. A brief sentence or two describing what relevance the image has to your keyword phrases will not only help you rank better in Google, but will also make the site more clear for viewers. An example using the picture above might be adding a caption that reads: "Just one of the many beautiful houses for sale in Southern California". This incorporates the keyword phrase "houses for sale in Southern California" while providing engaging information for the viewer.

    iv. The trouble with Flash animations and Google website optimization

    Although Macromedia Flash is gaining popularity as a way of making sleek and glitzy websites, its use can cost you your ability to rank well in Google. It is just as hard for Google's spiders to read Flash content as graphic images. There is no text for the spiders to read, meaning that they ignore any information on those pages. Although Macromedia is working on ways to help search engine spiders index Flash animations, and Google is already able to partially index Flash websites, you are still more likely to get better Google rankings with a standard HTML site.

    If you are determined to have a Flash heavy website, one thing that you can do to have a chance at a top Google ranking is to build a mirror version of the site in HTML and let users choose which version they prefer to view. This will allow you to use the HTML site for Google website optimization while still offering the option of the more glamorous Flash design. It will also help users who have a slow Internet connection, as Flash animations can take a long time to load. Another possibility would be to embed Flash movies into a HTML site that provides plenty of text for spiders to read, effectively combining the best of both worlds.

    v. Coding dynamic pages for top Google ranking

    Dynamic web pages are those that are created on the fly, usually by a database that interacts with the website. These kinds of sites are appealing to users because they produce exactly the information the user is looking for. However, there are two problems when it comes to dynamic pages and Google website optimization. It used to be that when Google spiders tried to navigate a site by following links from one page to another, they could get trapped in the infinite number of links that can be generated by dynamic web coding. Therefore, the spiders were programmed to stop following links when they saw one of the typical indicators of a dynamic web page in it's URL - typically the "?" symbol. Google spiders are now able to index dynamically generated pages even if they contain the "?" symbol, but they limit the number of dynamic pages that they visit to reduce the chances of crashing those pages.


    The difference between a typical static URL and a typical dynamic URL

    The second problem that dynamic web pages present when trying to rank well on Google is that usually the page has no information until certain variables are provided by a site visitor. For example, a page might be created when a user enters a term into a search field or when he has a particular session ID. Because the spiders can't use search fields and don't have session IDs, the pages would just be blank when it visited - and the spider would have no information to index.

    However, there are some useful techniques to help incorporate dynamic pages in your Google friendly website. Depending on the coding language that is used to generate the pages and the kind of server your site uses, you can employ scripts or workarounds to display the URLs of those pages without the "?" symbol. Usually, these workarounds reformat the URLs by replacing the "?" with a "/" sign, which allows Google's spiders to freely access the pages.

    Another option for making a Google friendly website with dynamic pages is to mirror the content of the dynamically generated pages using static HTML pages. These static pages might be more tiresome for a human to wade through, but they are much more acceptable to search engine spiders. Meanwhile, your human visitors can still take advantage of your dynamic content.

    By using these options, you will be able to improve your Google ranking while still offering the benefits of dynamic content on your web site.

    vi. Rank well on Google using frames

    Frames used to break a web page down into a number of different subsections. One common reason this is useful is for sites that have a lot of information on their pages. Frames allow the user to scroll down through the pages, without losing sight of the site's banner or navigation bar. The problem with frames and Google website optimization, however, is that the typical HTML code used with frames holds no content that a Google spider can index. If you look at the page source for a site with frames, you will normally see some Meta tags and the coding for the frames, but no information that will help the site get a top Google ranking for relevant keywords.

    However, that doesn't mean that you can't have a Google friendly website that utilizes frames. The solution lies with the "NOFRAMES" HTML tag. The NOFRAMES tag is designed to help people whose browsers don't work with frames, a common failing of older browsers. Many sites use the NOFRAMES tag to tell visitors that they need to update their browser to view the website properly. However, messages like that won't help you rank well on Google.

    A better option when building a Google friendly website is to insert your HTML code from your static web pages into the NOFRAMES tag. This will be much more helpful to site visitors, who probably don't want to be told what browser they should be using, and it will improve your chances of getting a top Google ranking by allowing the spiders to index your content.

    Another important thing to remember when using frames is to include navigation on your inside framed pages. By inserting navigational links to the other sections of your site, you ensure that the Google spiders will be able to move through them successfully and that all your pages will be properly indexed. The additional links will also help these pages to achieve better Google rankings. Adding text links to the bottom of the page, for example, will not disturb your site layout and will improve navigation for your visitors as well.

    b. How can I write killer content for top Google rankings?

    After you've designed and coded your Google friendly website, you have to decide what to put in it to be on your want to a top Google ranking. The most important thing to remember is the phrase "Content is King". Filling your site with information that is useful and easily accessible to your site visitors is the best way to rank well in Google. However, there are some specific things to keep in mind to achieve better Google rankings.

    i. How many keywords should I use per page to rank well on Google?

    If you've been following along so far, you should already have some niche keyword phrases in mind to attract people to your website. One thing that is important to remember is that you don't want to cram any page so full of keyword phrases that readability suffers. Not only will you run the risk of having your page penalized by Google as spam, but you will also seem less trustworthy to your site visitors. Don't lose sight of your goal - to turn visitors into customers! What you need to achieve this goal and to secure better Google rankings is elegant, persuasive copy that informs and interests your readers, and which has your keyword phrases seamlessly woven into the text. Your text will sound better if you include no more than three or four keyword phrases per page.

    But what if you have found more great keyword phrases than can comfortably fit into one page? It is a great idea to try to rank well on Google for more than just a couple of keyword phrases. The best way to do incorporate more keywords into your site is to have a number of different pages targeted toward different groups of keyword phrases. Not only will this allow you to provide more information to your visitors, but it will also allow you to link a variety of pages, each with top Google ranking, to one another, helping you to improve your overall Google rankings.

    iii. Calculating Keyword Density

    To have the best chances to rank well on Google, you need to have the right number keywords in relation to the overall amount of text - not too many, and not too few. A good way to determine if you have the right ratio of overall text to keyword phrases is to calculate your page's keyword density. Keyword density is calculated by dividing the number of times your keyword phrases have been used by the total number of words on a page. A good density range for better Google rankings is between 2% and 8%. Note that in the example below, the second text snippet is much less dense but also much more readable and appealing than the first.


    Example of text and good and poor keyword density

    iv. Keyword Phrases and Descriptions in the SERPs

    As we briefly mentioned earlier, Google displays a short description of what a user can expect to find on your website in its Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). If the exact keyword search that a visitor uses does not appear in your Meta description tag, Google cobbles together a description from your website text surrounding the keyword phrase. For this reason, it is especially important to be sure that the sentences that surround your keyword phrases are well written and persuasive. It doesn't do you much good to rank well in Google if no one clicks through to your site because your description is confusing. Google will usually use the first sentence that contains a given keyword for the description, so take extra care that the sentence is descriptive, informative, and has a clear call-to-action. Take a look at the following example. Even if both sites have top Google rankings, which do you think is likely to drive more traffic?


    The difference that the text surrounding your keyword phrase can make

    v. How long should my website text be to rank well in Google?

    In order to have the best chance of using your website copy to achieve a top Google ranking, your text should be at least 250 words long. This gives you enough room to provide valuable information to your readers and to work your keywords into the text in ways that make sense. Keep in mind that people surfing the Internet often skim website copy - be sure to break yours up into easily understandable pieces that people can read quickly.

    vi. Can the placement of my keywords give me better Google rankings?

    Google tends to place more weight on keywords that are used early in your website copy. This makes sense - after all, no website would take two or three paragraphs to tell you what it's really about. This means that you want to make sure to use your most important keyword phrases right away, in the first 25 words of your copy. Including them in the header tags of your HTML code will also give them added importance.

    vii. What is keyword proximity, and how can it help me improve my Google ranking?

    When a user searches for a keyword phrase, Google will return the results that it feels most closely matches the search. This means that, unless the user specifies otherwise, Google will return results that have a few words in between the keywords as well as exact matches. However, the search engine will put more weight on results that include the user's exact phrase. The distance between the keywords that the user has searched for is known as the "keyword proximity". To ensure achieve a top Google ranking, try to use as few words as possible in the middle of your keyword phrases.


    Example of keyword proximity

  11. How can links help me get a top Google ranking?
  12. Now that you've designed a Google friendly website and packed it full of interesting and informative information that is targeted toward your niche keywords, what is left to achieve a top Google ranking? The last major factor that your site needs is a good linking system. We've already spoken about how important links are for spider navigation, but links will also help you get better Google rankings.

    a. What is Google PageRank?

    As you know by now, Google's goal is to provide the people who use its search engine with useful and highly relevant information. One of the many factors used to determine if a site should rank well on Google is to track how many other sites link to it. According to Google's philosophy, if a site's information is useful enough, other sites will refer visitors to it. However, all links are not created equal. A link from a site that is highly useful and relevant itself should have more impact than a link from a site that is rarely seen or visited. In order to compare which sites have better Google page ranks, Google created an algorithm that gives a numerical value to a site's link popularity. This algorithm is known as PageRank.

    PageRank is actually named after Google founder Larry Page, not after the page rankings on Google's SERPs. Although PageRank is a factor in determining top Google rankings, it is not absolutely necessary to have a high PageRank to rank well on Google. However, a better Google page rank will increase the frequency with which your web page is indexed by spiders, meaning that changes will be updated more frequently in Google. It will also influence your ranking in the Google categories section. Furthermore, a low PageRank score might indicate that the spiders are having technical problems with your site, which can make it difficult or impossible to improve your Google ranking.

    i. What factors go into determining Google's PageRank?

    Google determines PageRank for every individual page of a website. Thus, an inside page is able to have a better Google page rank than the site's landing page. The exact formula that Google uses to determine PageRank has not been made public, but the factors that influence it include the number of inbound links each page has, the page ranking of the pages where the links originate, and the number of other links that are found on the originating pages. This means that pages that are picky about which sites they link to have a higher impact than pages that link to hundreds of other sites.

    Google can also penalize a page's PageRank if they feel that a site has used misleading marketing tactics. For example, using a link farm, or a site that links to many other sites for the sole purpose of raising the target sites' PageRank, can be penalized by dropping the PageRank all the way down to zero. Remember that you are certain to have a better Google page rank if you simply stick to building the kind of helpful and interesting web site that Google is looking for.

    ii. How can I tell what my Google PageRank is?

    The simplest way to get an idea of a page's Google PageRank value is to download and install the Google Toolbar. One of the features of the Toolbar is a bar that shows the rough value of a site's PageRank. It will also show you if your site has not yet been indexed by Google (the bar will be grey) or has been penalized by Google for spam tactics (the site will have a PageRank of zero). By using the Google Toolbar, you can see if your Google website optimization has resulted in a better Google page rank.


    Web browser with Google Toolbar installed

    iii. Why does my Google PageRank fluctuate?

    Because Google is continuously crawling and indexing web pages, the Google PageRank is in a constant state of flux. Over time, sites can come and go, add or subtract links, and perform other activities that influence PageRank. If the PageRanks of sites that link to you change, your PageRank will change as well. Your PageRank is most likely to fluctuate when the search engine is performing a Google Dance.

    b. How can I find good links to improve my Google ranking?

    Now that you know how important links are to rank well on Google, you need to know how to go about getting some for your site. Links can come both from outside sites and from individual pages within your site, and both are very important. In this section, we'll talk about some good places to start improving your links from both categories.

    i. Using site maps for Google website optimization

    Site maps are simple pages that include an HTML link and a brief description for every page on your website. Site maps are an easy way to improve navigation for Google spiders and for humans who are looking for something specific on your site. They are especially necessary when you have some pages that require several clicks to find them from the start page, or when certain pages are not being indexed by spiders. The additional internal links will also help you achieve better Google rankings. Remember to boost your chances for a top Google ranking by including appropriate keywords in your text links on your site map page.

    Other ways to improve internal linking

    A good navigation system within your website will help your site visitors find what they are looking for as well as helping you to rank well on Google. You can improve your internal linking structure by thinking about what kind of related information might interest your visitors, and providing links that will bring them directly there. For example, if your visitor has just finished an article about how to find their perfect house in Sonoma County, they might be interested in reading about the closing process, or about schools or points of in the area, or they might want a way to contact a realtor. Providing those links to related pages will encourage them to stay on your site, and will also improve your Google ranking.

    ii. Finding links from related sites

    When it comes to looking for links, the best places to start are websites that aren't direct competitors, but which share a common target audience. For example, our Sonoma County Real Estate page probably won't want to try to get links from another real estate agency. But what about from pages that offer services that new homeowners might need? Movers, rental truck agencies, and home inspectors might be interested in linking to your site, or performing a link exchange where you link to their site as well. This not only helps both of your sites to get a better Google page rank, but it also makes the sites more useful to visitors. Be creative about what kinds of sites attract visitors that could use your services. You might want to check your web logs to see what kinds of sites your visitors are coming from already, and where they go when they leave your site. The more links from high quality sites that you have, the more you'll improve your Google ranking.

    iii. Getting links from directories

    One of the best ways to find sites to link to you and improve your Google ranking is to look for web directories that list your kind of product. Directories like DMOZ provide links to thousands of websites. Because they have an excellent PageRank themselves, they are able to provide a real boost to getting a top Google ranking. Other than DMOZ, there are a large number of niche directories that cover commercial and noncommercial sites. To find them, try doing a Google search for directories that involve your products, such as "real estate directories" or "Sonoma County directories". Most directories have very strict guidelines regarding their submission process, so be sure to read them and follow them carefully to ensure that your site is accepted.

    c. How can I tell which sites Google shows linking to mine?

    The best way to get links to your site is to write excellent information that other sites will want to refer their visitors to with a link. If you are curious about what sites that Google recognizes as linking to you, you can use a special operator in the Google search engine to find out. To get a listing of sites that link to specific pages, enter the following operator: "link:siteURL" into the Google search engine, replacing siteURL with the URL of the page that you are interested in. For example, "link:www.sonomacountyrealestate.com" would show the sites that Google has linking to the URL "www.sonomacountyrealestate.com. Tracking your links can help you improve your ability to rank well on Google.

  13. Conclusion
  14. Now that you've learned the basics of using Google website optimization to build a Google friendly website, you're ready to start drawing in highly targeted and motivated site visitors that you will be able to convert into customers. Just remember the three basic components of better Google rankings: a well-coded website, interesting and informative content and strong links from other sites. By building a website that visitors love and spiders can freely navigate, you'll be well on your way to putting the power of the Internet to work for your business.


     

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