by Guest Writer Charlene Jaszewski
Google has grown up and joined the rat race in terms of ranking your site for searches.Â Itâ€™s no longer what you know (content), itâ€™s who you know (links).
In the olden days of search engine optimization (aka “SEO”), it was pretty easy to trick search engines: just stuff keywords in every piece of code and in your page content, and get tons of sites to link to you, and it didnâ€™t matter who they were. But Google has grown up and gotten smarter. It canâ€™t be fooled by trickery. This article will tell you how you make the most of your site content and links and impress Google (the only search engine that matters anymore).
How Google judges you
When you put your site up on the web, Googleâ€™s crawlers go through all the pages of your site (indexing). Google decides how popular you are compared to other pages with similar information using both on-site and off-site information:
On-site: content, keywords, outbound links
â€¢Number and quality of inbound links
â€¢Bounce rate: if someone clicks on a search engine results link to your page, and decides within a few seconds itâ€™s not what they were looking for and returns to the search
Content-based ranking is no more
Google has a secret set of algorithms that determine a pageâ€™s rank and popularity. But that algorithm changes constantly. On-site SEO (content-based ranking) used to carry more weight with Google. Keywords were everything. SEO â€œexpertsâ€ were tasked to make sure a siteâ€™s â€œmetaâ€ keyword field (found in the HTML code) was stuffed to the gills with related (and sometimes unrelated) keywords. Unethical tactics like hiding repeated keywords in the background of page soon sprung up.
Over time Google has evolved from using a content-based ranking system to a link-based one. But even that has changed recently. Reciprocal links used to be weighted heavily, but now Google ranks primarily using the number and quality of one-way inbound links.
Inbound linking quality factors
The following factors give more weight to a link:
â€¢ Links from well-ranked sites: Itâ€™s like the popularity contest in high school. If youâ€™re already popular with important people, then Google will reward that popularity with more popularity (high search rankings).
â€¢ Deep links: Links to pages â€œdeepâ€ inside your site are given more weight than those that only link to your home page.
â€¢ Relevant anchor text: Anchor text is the text that appears in a link. An example of relevant anchor text would be if an inbound link with anchor text like â€œsee the double-paned insulated window in actionâ€ linked to a page called doublepanedexample.html.
â€¢ Anchor text surrounded by consistent topical text: Continuing with the previous example, Google would look to see if the surrounding content on that page also talked about double-paned windows (or at least, windows). If a link for double-paned windows landed on a page about Nascar, the link would be devalued.
â€¢ Number of links on a page: Google figures if you have a â€œnormalâ€ amount of links, youâ€™re a â€œrealâ€ page and probably have a decent user experience. Google thinks any page with more than 50 links is probably â€œspammy.â€
â€¢ Bounce rates from a link are low: If the link content and the content of the landing page donâ€™t match, a user will figure it out quick and leave (known as a â€œbounceâ€). They will also leave if your site is unpleasant in other ways (bad design, bad navigation, etc.)
Content Still Matters
Some people see the link-based system as unfair. But Googleâ€™s logic is that quality sites will naturally get link juice and rise to the top. I see it as just another reason that your content is still king! If your content is good and youâ€™ve done your due diligence in getting the right keywords for your niche:
â€¢ You are more likely to get mentions from other sites
â€¢ The anchor text from a link will likely match the page it lands on
â€¢ Your anchor text will match content on its page
â€¢ Your bounce rate will be low because the user will find the information they need when they land.
Watch next week for part two of the- Is SEO Dead?
Charlene Jaszewski makes her living helping people make their websites easier to use, editing books so that their ideas are crystal clear, and making marketing materials sound less markety. Wanna see stuff sheâ€™s done? Click on over to http://charlenejaszewski.com. Oh and she makes killer marshmallows dipped in chocolate.