I highly recommend reading at least Part 1 and 2 before you jump to Part 4, because if you haven’t changed your mindset from “tricking Google” and changed it to “attracting customers,” then nothing I describe below will help you much in the end.
But if you have the content you need, you know who you are talking to and what they want, then there are things you can do to make it easy for Google to know what you have to offer, easy for people to share it, and ways to spread the word.
Pretend Google Is Stupid
Ok, so the people who work at Google, the engineers, the programmers, they are all pretty darn smart people. Their search algorithms are VERY sophisticated and understood by pretty much no one. But the robots that “read” your site are not people – you have to give them all of the clues you can to help them understand your web site.
There are some old SEO tricks that people employed for years, successfully, to make their sites rank better in Google. Things like keyword stuffing (filling a page with hundreds of keywords so Google would think that site was about all of those things), keyword domains (like lose-20-pounds-fast.com), trading links with hundreds of sites (I’ll link to you if you link to me!), and creating multiple websites with the same content and having them link to each other. Not only do these things no longer work – they can actually count against you and cause your site to not only fall further down in search results, but even in some case be removed from search results altogether. With a recent upgrade, thousands of sites saw themselves devalued by Google, because of using some or all of the tricks above.
But there are still lots of tried-and-true things you SHOULD do – not to trick Google, but to help it. These may be things you can do yourself if you are using a Content Management System, or they may be things you need to ask a web developer for help with.
- USE TEXT! I love beautiful photos and graphics as much as the next girl – and think they are an important part of a great-looking site. But remember, Google is stupid – it can’t look at your photos and then deduct anything from them. It only reads the text. Yes, you can add “alt tags” to your images to tell Google what they are images of, but Google isn’t as interested in those as it is in the text people can see on the page. Making your text part of a graphic is just as bad – Google still can’t read it. As much as possible have actual text on the pages, and make it good.
- Speak like your customers: If your web site is a highly technical one that only other highly technical people will read, then by all means, use your technical lingo. Otherwise, skip the buzz words, the lingo, and the fancy terminology and use your customers’ language. If you sell socks for dogs, call them “socks for dogs” and/or “dog socks” because that is what your customers will search for, and that is what Google will know your site is about. If you instead call them “canine pawsies” – that is what Google will decide your website is about; your potential customers won’t find you, because it is highly unlikely they will search for that phrase.
- Unique Title Tags: Title tags are what appear at the very top of your browser window – above the address bar. They are also what Google shows in Search Results. Every page of your site should have a unique title (and I don’t mean “unique” like “Unicorn Farts” – I mean “unique” like each page has its own title, rather than every page of the site having the same title.) Title tags should be briefly and specifically descriptive of what that page is all about. This is a great place for keywords that are specifically relevant for that page.
- Unique Description Tags: Description tags are what appear in Google Search Results as the description of the page. Every page of your site should have its own description that is specifically relevant for that page.
- XML Sitemap: This is a file which is just for search engines. Sitemaps are an easy way to tell search engines about pages on the site as well as additional info about each URL (such as when it was last updated, how often it usually changes, and how important it is, relative to other URLs in the site).
There are a lot more, but those 5 are really crucial.
You have to think of Google as a marketing tool – not a marketing plan. You need a full toolbox to do the job right. Below are some other ways to spread the word.
Old School Marketing
What would you have done before the Internet to promote your business? Probably things like direct mail, buying advertising, sponsoring events, networking, car magnets, bumper stickers, elevator pitches, press releases . . . you should STILL be doing these kinds of things as much as time and budget will allow. Your web address should be prominently featured on every.single.thing that leaves your hands. This includes things that are of the Internet era, like email. Be creative, and look for opportunities everywhere!
These days it seems like having a Facebook page is almost as important as having a website! Posting links on Facebook, Twitter, and Google + are easy, free ways to attract people to your site. Plus, by the way, Google gives a lot of weight to web pages that get a lot of attention on social media. You do have to take the additional time to promote these social sites, because if no one is following you on them – then your links won’t be seen by anyone.
Be an Expert
If you are an expert in your field—have real-life expertise that makes you an qualified source of info on the topic your web site covers—reach out to other web sites with similar audiences and offer to write guest blog posts. Comment on relevant blog posts (nothing spammy! Keep it relevant.) Make sure you include the link to your web site – people really do click on them if your comment is interesting.