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February 24, 2006
Raising your Web site rankings
People often ask me how they can raise the rankings for their Web sites. Typically I explain, that while many algorithms are involved, the major factors include:
- The number of Web sites that link to your site
- The relevance of those Web sites linking to your site
- The quality of your content
- How you present key terms— using headers rather than bolded text for key points
I urge you to read this yourself, but I think it's also worth reviewing some of these issues here.
Getting other sites to link to yours
Primarily this is a matter of quality content. If you are presenting the best information on topic X, then others with sites relating to topic X, will provide a link to your site for more information. How will they find out about your site? Some will find it through search engines (assuming you already have a relatively high ranking) and word of mouth. Others will find out because you tell them.
You can do this by including your site address on all printed and e-mailed correspondence, including it in newsletters and press releases, on posters, flyers, and your business cards. This sounds obvious, but it is amazing how often people forget to include their Web site in their everyday communications. Try this simple test. Take your business card out of your wallet. Is your department/organizations's Web site printed on it? Is the main Case Web site printed on it? If it is not, then make sure you add it next time you order cards. Also make sure to include it in the signature on the bottom of your e-mail.
In addition to spreading general awareness of your site, you will sometimes want to ask to be included on a specific site. I get such e-mail requests all the time. Most are in the vein of "your site is really cool and I think you would benefit by linking to my site about wholesale frozen prawns." Given that the Case community isn't clamoring for such information I delete most of these.
But sometimes I get a very specific and reasonable request. Recently the Webmaster at RTA sent me some updates to RTA links I was already publishing. He also suggested that I add a particular link to the train paragraph on http://www.case.edu/visit/map/dir.html. I did just as he asked—for the following reasons.
- The information was factual and of likely interest to my target audience of people visiting Case.
- He was quite specific, noting not only the page on which the link belonged, but the paragraph. This made it very easy to quickly determine that his suggestion was solid.
- The request included his quite logical reasons for making the suggestion
If you do your research—choosing sites that would benefit by linking to your site—ask politely, give specific reasons and pages, then you will probably find that most people will agree to your request.
Make proper use of headers to highlight your major points
When you make a word or phrase bold, it gives a visual clue to the sighted reader that this information is important, but it doesn't mean a thing to the indexers. When you put the same word or phrase in a header it lets the indexers and other programs know that this information is of a higher priority than the words in your regular paragraphs. On this page the name of the site, Web Development Blog, is an <h1> meaning that it has the highest priority. The title of this entry is an <h3> and the subheads are <h5>'s.
When Google indexes this page it will be quite clear—from the information in the headers—what topics are being covered. When using headers you should also consider your wording. While my header phrasing is quite casual, I made certain to include the terms most appropriate to this discussion.
Original, relevant, high-quality content
I've discussed this before in other posts, but the bottom line is to make sure you are offering something worth reading. If your site on albino bunny rabbits includes the same old stuff I've seen before I will neither read it, nor link to it. Nor will I bother with information that is incomplete, incorrect or irrelevant to my particular concerns about bunnies.
Incorrectly spelled words don't make the rankings unless a user is searching for the same incorrect spelling. We're all human and we all make mistakes, so after running spellcheck, have someone—who hasn't already read your material—read through it for you. A fresh pair of eyes will catch things that you might miss. I bring this up, because my fingers are quite capable of hitting the wrong keys as well.
Sometimes they will do this when I'm performing a google search. When that happens I notice two things. 1—Google usually asks me if I meant something else, 2—Google presents me with a list of sites including that same error. This is a smaller list than the correct one, which makes it easier to search through, but it is also suspect. Despite making the same exact typo myself, I am now liable to doubt the quality of the sites I find in this list. There may be some fine sites here, but I won't see them because I'll redo my search with the correct spelling.
Put it into practice
I could continue this article with discussions of metatags, key words, etc., but such nuances and tricks aren't as relevant as the general principles we've covered today. We'll discuss those another time. For now, if you want to improve your rankings, Google your site, then review it to see how you can apply these principles to improve your position. After making any changes you will need to wait a week or two for the indexers to catch up, but when they do, you should see some improvement.
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