Above is a lovely illustration by Google demonstrating how their new engine works. It’s almost as pointless as it is hilarious. Anyways, everyone wants their website to rank well on Google and other engines and they can drastically improve their rankings through search engine optimization. SEO is a term that’s been loosely thrown around for a while now. For many it’s almost as vague and hard to grasp as the so-called social media movement. But now as the dust is settling, there are some real tips and tricks that can really help your small or medium sized business, services, or whatever it is you do – be found through the Internet.
SEO Tip #1 – Release Topless Photos of Yourself On Your Website
…we did it. Seriously though, inside are 10 tips and tools you can use right now to help boost your site’s ranking on Google.
This June, Google released a new version of itself called Caffeine. There was a turning point in Google in 2001 after the September 11th attack. Google News didn’t exist then but it sparked the realization that updates needed to be immediate. Caffeine uses the same near-real-time updates that was previously only used for breaking news stories since the creation of Google News. Not every website is updated immediately though, Google uses Pagerank to determine which sites to crawl first. But more on that later. The truth of the matter is that the old Google couldn’t keep up with the massive by-the-second updates created by Facebookers, Twitterers, and bloggers all around the world. The rules are changing for getting listed on Google and staying at the top. And this time we know what they are. Below you’ll find a lot of tips and tools we use all the time when doing SEO work on our clients (and our own) websites.
SEO Tip #1 – Create New Content Often
New content creation for a website has always been key to Google’s algorithm but Caffeine takes this to a whole new level. Old and static sites that were the king of the search engine result page now need to start creating new and relevant content if they want to stay at the top. Modern websites that create content frequently by adding new pages or blogging frequently will be propelled to the top, because the website will be considered fresh and relevant. Visitors typically want to participate in what you have to say, so start a conversation – allow them to join in by enabling them to comment (if appropriate for your topic/area).
Frequently updated websites use tools like RSS or connect their feed to Feedburner to streamline their new, relevant content to their visitors immediately. Google didn’t just buy Feedburner because it’s a great investment, they’re tracking how many people are subscribed to a website and they want to get the RSS update themselves. Connecting your RSS feed to Feedburner has been tested to streamline the process of having a new page indexed by Google – sometimes in as a little as a few minutes depending on the Pagerank.
SEO Tip #2 – Meta Descriptions/Keywords/Clean Code Are Still Important
T, K, D. Title, Keywords, and Description. It is now more important than ever to have properly titled webpages that are targeted to your market. A relevant domain name is important as well and it’s even better if it has keywords in it. Well-coded and validated HTML, proper alt/title tags for all images, and breadcrumb navigation are some good SEO practices that also make the experience better for your user.
SEO Tip #3 – Use Mod-Rewrite to Improve URL Structure
Super long and confusing URLs, for example http://foxhoundstudio.com/108537/00024a.php?=a25, are not only annoying to your users but when Google is looking for keywords they check your URL. If someone is typing in Foxhound Design Work, Google prefers a URL such as http://foxhoundstudio.com/work/design rather than a bunch of dynamically-generated numbers. If you’re a WordPress user, it comes with custom URL structures features built-in, but you need to make sure you set it up.
SEO Tip #4 – Know your Pagerank and Improve it
If you and your competitors have the same keywords, how will Google decide what link is ‘better’ and should be displayed first? Pagerank is software Google uses to calculate the value and authenticity of your website. There is a rating of 0-10 and it contributes significantly to how your website will show up in the results page. There are a lot of ways to find out your Pagerank. We use a Firefox Plugin called SeoQuake which allows you to see your page rank, keyword density, incoming links, and other great things. But be sure to deactivate the plugin when you aren’t using it as Google may temporarily ban you from using their search engine for using too many automated resources…
- Pagerank 0 – Your website is either brand new (like ours), has been banned by Google (not like ours), or is generally a crappy and useless website (hopefully not like ours).
- Pagerank 1 – Hardly any websites have this Pagerank as most decent websites skip right to Pagerank 2.
- Pagerank 2-4 – Most websites fall into this ranking. It means you’ve got some lots of good links coming in and valuable content, but the website lacks any higher page ranked websites linking to it.
- Pagerank 5-7 – These are considered the hardest range of Pageranks to achieve for regular websites. You’re going to need hundreds if not thousands of pretty decent links to get here. If you’ve reached above Pagerank 5, lots of people on the Internet know about you and you’re pretty important.
- Pagerank 8 – This Pagerank is where you start only seeing massive super-corporations. Websites like Digg.com, Adidas.com, Coke.com, and ESPN.com are up here.
- Pagerank 9 – Even people without electricity know of these websites. Myspace.com, Adobe.com, Wikipedia.org are the sort.
- Pagerank 10 – This pagerank is pretty much reserved for websites that change the world—Google, Facebook, W3, and the US government website are some of the few and proud.
SEO Tip #5 – Link Building Is Important
No one knows exactly how Google calculates Pagerank exactly but the general consensus in the SEO community has nailed it down to a few tables with minimal differences by using some complicated mathematics.
In this chart it shows that getting one link from a Pagerank 5 website is the equivalent from 555 links from Pagerank 1 sites. This means it’s much more worthwhile to try and get linked back from high Pageranked websites. It’s easy to understand that being linked to by the US Government website would give your website ultimate credibility while being linked by your best friend’s wife’s blog might not…as much.
So how do you build high-quality links? Post, comment and contribute to blogs and news sites that allow links back to your website, exchange links with other webmasters, some recommend buying links, submitting to paid/free directory listings, creating social media profiles that link back to your website (make sure there is good content on those too), posting on forums with your website as your signature – anything works. Some say it’s not worth the time to bother with sites that use nofollow link attributes but it the end, it always still seems to count. A link is a link.
SEO experts have believed for a while now that links coming from .gov or .edu sites have a multiplier effect of up to 5 times of a normal link because Google gives those extensions special treatment, as they can’t be registered by just anyone. Even if these websites have a low Pagerank, getting a link from a .gov or .edu is very, very good.
Make sure not to get too far ahead of yourself though. Link building is seen as the final (and never ending) step needed for the truly search engine optimized website. Stay away from black hat techniques (spamming and cheating the system) as Google will eventually find you out and ban your website. According to Forrester research, 80% of all internet usage starts at a search page and others report up to 85%, so if you’re unlisted, your website essentially becomes an intangible paper weight – which understandably is even more useless than a normal paper weight.
SEO Tip #6 – Good Typography Can Be SEO-Friendly
If your current website has text in images, you’re sacrificing a lot of good SEO opportunities as Google can’t read text if its in an image. Embedded fonts or server-side rendered fonts should replace virtually all images that had text previously. Modern websites can have great typography now without images and it’s getting better all the time with new web standards. For embedded fonts using @font-face try using Font Squirrel’s Generator — just be sure to check the licence of the font first. There is a heated debate about the future of web fonts and licencing that I won’t get into but you can read about it here. A lot of Foundries such as Berthold Typefoundry don’t allow embedding without purchasing an additional licence for the web. Cufon is a server-side rendering option that most typeface licences are fine with, as the actual font isn’t downloaded to the visitor’s computer. A PNG image of the text is generated with the text still in the code (so you still get the good SEO).
SEO Tip #7 – Speed Is King
I like to believe one of the reasons Facebook was such a great success was that it loaded about 25x faster than Myspace. Loading times for a user were always a contributing factor for positive ranking results (generally 1-2 seconds of loading time was fine). Now Google Caffeine has upped the stakes, meaning websites need to be quicker than before if your website is in a highly competitive topic area. There are a lot of great ways to increase the speed of your website, such as good, clean code, well compressed images, a good host, and background website processes that aren’t too heavy. For WordPress users there is a great plugin called WP-Cache and it basically creates static caches of dynamic pages that typically don’t change much. These static caches are only updated occasionally or when they need to be. Dynamically generated pages (such as WordPress websites for example) need to run dozens of files, retrieve information from a database, and spit it back out for every single visitor which can bog the server down when the website reaches high-traffic levels.
SEO Tip #8 – Ping Your Website
Whether you’ve just posted a new blog or page, or commented on someone’s website and left a link back to your website…it’s important to ping those pages. Pinging a page is basically like calling out to the robots of the Internet to come see how great your web page is. When you’ve created something new or someone has linked to you, you want Google to know about it. A few good websites are Pingoat.com, Pingomatic.com, and Autopinger.com.
SEO Tip #9 – Robots.txt and SiteMaps.xml
Having a robots.txt and sitemap.xml allows Google to index you site better. The robots file basically tells the Google Spider where they can and can’t go and the sitemap.xml lays out the entirety of your website for Google to see. For WordPress users there is a great plugin called Google XML Sitemap that generates a sitemap with many different options including how often Google should check back for changes. To generate a robots.txt file, check out Google’s friendly generator, by clicking here.
SEO Tip #10 – See What Keywords Hit Home
Use the Google Adwords: Keyword Tool to see what people are searching for most commonly and try and use the most commonly used words of your topic area. This article was originally worded as the ‘truths’ of SEO. Turns out people aren’t searching for the truth on SEO, they’re searching for tips and tools. I didn’t drastically alter the content of my article, but the keywords people type into the Google will allow you to understand what it is exactly that they’re searching for and understanding that can help you cater to what they really need.
The Truth of SEO
It’s a long process getting your website to have a great ranking in competitive keywords. Google only updates Pagerank a few times a year and it can take some time to get high-quality links to your site. But if your website/business/service plans to stick around over the years, then the time to start practicing good SEO is now.
If you have any comments, questions, or something really cool to share, just scroll down and leave it in the comments.