How to Optimize for Google – Part 1 of 3Saturday, July 4, 2009 1:17
In today’s online world search engine rankings can make your business succeed, and while rankings in Yahoo and MSN are very valuable, their combined market value is still less than that of Google. This makes achieving top rankings in Google that much more important.
In this three-part series on How to Optimize for Google we will touch on a number of important aspects for top Google rankings including website optimization, links, Google Webmaster tools, and a number of other considerations.
The focus of Part 1 will be with on page website optimization.
THE RIGHT KEYWORDS
This article is not about keyword research so I will not spend too much time on this topic, however, I felt it was important to at least brush on this slightly.
Make sure that your targets are achievable. If you select the wrong keywords it can make your entire optimization experience essentially a waste. Choose keywords that are attainable but yet still provide a reasonable search frequency for your industry. Your phrase selection should also be targeted to bring qualified traffic to your site.
Using the hotel industry as an example, targeting the word "hotel" would make very little sense but by narrowing it down to "Victoria BC hotel" you now have less competition, and a more qualified audience. Keep your targets in perspective and go after the obtainable rankings.
There are many on-site factors that play a role in your search engine rankings. Here are a number of those factors and what you can do to improve your chances of success.
The title tag plays one of the most important roles in search results at Google, and is almost always the heading Google chooses for each of its listings. Placement of your target phrase is best used near the start of the tag and repeated again in the middle or near the end. Three uses of your target phrase may be helpful in some instances, as long as it is not too overwhelming. For best results each page on your site should have a totally unique title tag.
It is also important to remember that because Google will use this title as the main heading for your listing, you will want to keep it attractive to potential searchers. Try to also add a call to action, or other wording to help make your listing appear attractive to searchers.
To help illustrate the fact Google takes this tag into consideration, simply do a search for your target phrase and take a look at the titles of the top 10. I tried a search for a rather broad term "hotel" and saw that all 10/10 listings had it in the title tag, and 6/10 had it as the very first word. A quick scan showed that the entire top 30 either had the word hotel, or hotels in their title tags.
If you do only one thing to your website, make sure that all your title tags are relevant, unique, and contain your target phrase for each page.
Meta Description Tag
The Meta Description tag is still occasionally used by Google as the description which appears in the search results themselves. While this used to be a more common practice Google tends to use it most often on sites with very limited content, or those which are flash based. I have seen it still used for content rich sites, however this is less common.
The Meta Description tag still has an impact on search rankings. Your best bet when using this tag is to keep it short and sweet with your target phrase close to the start and not repeated more than 3 times. Like the title tag, each page on your site should have its own unique description tag.
Meta Keyword Tag
When it comes to Google this tag is useless, and won’t influence your rankings. There is some speculation as to whether a spammy keyword tag can however, have a negative effect on Google rankings. As a result, if you do utilize a keyword Meta tag for the smaller engines, it is best to keep it clean and play it safe.
Keyword density plays a role in overall rankings; however, it is not as cut and dry as it once was. Once upon a time there was a magic number that when used could almost guarantee top rankings.
This is no longer the case. Today the ideal density varies from industry to industry, phrase to phrase. To find out what density you should aim for, take the top 10 or 20 search results and see what percentage those sites are using. In most cases you will find that the majority of these sites have a very similar density to one another, and this average density is a good estimation of what you should aim for.
Body Text and Keyword Placement
The location of relevant text on your site will help establish the overall importance of your target phrase. While you do not want to overwhelm the engines and site visitors with a bombardment of target phrases at the top of the page, try to sprinkle in some instances as close to the top of the page as possible.
Be sure to include various synonyms for your target phrases within your body text on your site. Google will use these synonyms to tie in the overall relevance of the page for your main target phrases, which in turn can improve your odds.
To find possible synonyms you can use a thesaurus, but the best way is to search Google itself and see exactly what they consider to be similar. Simply search in Google for your target phrase preceded with a tilde, such as "~hotels". Next scan through the search results for any text Google has bolded. These are all words that Google considers to be related. Using the "~hotels" example Google brings up phrases such as ‘travel’, ‘tourism’, ‘accommodation’, as well as various hotel chain names such as ‘Hilton Hotels’.
Keywords in Domain
There is still some speculation if having a target phrase as part of your top level domain (TLD) is of use to search rankings. From my experience, yes, there is value here, although, nothing like it was several years ago.
If you are starting off in the online world and are contemplating which domain to go for, consider one that uses your target phrase, assuming that it is both relevant to your business name, and uses no more than a single hyphen. While multiple hyphens in a domain can be successful, they are very common with highly spammy websites, so it is best to not take that route if possible.
While having a keyword located within your domain can provide some ranking juice, I would not suggest heading out and doing a domain swap. In most cases you would be better off working on your existing site than starting from scratch with a new domain.
Keywords in page specific URL
Using keywords for specific page URL’s can also help add a little bit of value to your site, providing you use them responsibly. Consider using a keyword as a directory name and as part of a file name where it naturally makes sense to do so. If you have a website that focuses on tourism and includes local hotel listings, you may want to consider the following structure for your page on the Hilton: MyTourismSite.com/Victoria/Accommodations/Hotels/Hilton.html
About The Author: Scott Van Achte is the Senior SEO at StepForth Web Marketing Inc.; based in Victoria, BC, Canada and founded in 1997. You can read more of Scott’s articles and those of the veteran StepForth team at http://news.stepforth.com or contact us at http://www.stepforth.com .
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