Search engines love websites that are updated regularly. Photo: Louise Kennerly
How you get Google to value your online presence and award you a coveted high ranking is a source of sustained hot debate. With its cryptic algorithm updates dubbed Panda and Penguin, Google can seem impossibly picky. Cue desperation.
Search engine optimisation (SEO) analyst Robert McAnderson likens the dozens of rivals liable to scrap for a top-10 spot on Google’s page one to “seagulls fighting over a chip”.
Here is some intel on how to wow the likes of Google by coolly applying classic and cutting-edge SEO.
The key secret behind all SEO success remains keywords and keyword research, says McAnderson. That, he adds, means knowing what your target market uses as search terms and then ensuring your website “speaks to their need”.
Ensure you establish “alignment” between what you offer and what your potential customers seek. Without alignment, your website will only have limited success, he says.
2. Regularly update content
Search engines love websites that are updated regularly, says McAnderson.
The SMH is a classic example of a website that updates regularly, he says. So, he adds, search engine spiders visit the Sydney Morning Herald website every day, seeking changes.
In contrast, a website that stays static for months does not warrant another visit because nothing has changed, he explains.
3. Filter out errors
Ensure you have registered with Google Webmaster Tools and fixed “crawl errors” - problems Googlebot logs while scouring your site. Then, using Tools, check that your site has the correct geographic targeting, says the director of the SEO firm Redfly Marketing, Dave Davis.
That step may “have the single biggest impact” on how your site ranks in a country search results page unless you use a country-specific top-level domain such as “.au”.
4. Forget Meta descriptions
These summaries of page content are not what they were 10 years ago, Davis says. So, forget stuffing keywords into them.
Instead, write the descriptions as you would an AdWords ad. If you can entice a user to click to your site when it sits in fourth place, because you display “a remarkable and enticing offer” and follow through, Google will reward you, Davis says.
5. Trust signals
With so many new websites popping up daily, Google relies on “trust signals” generated by other high-authority websites to ensure it avoids ranking low-rent sites highly.
One signal, says SEO specialist Aaron Egan - a search marketing consultant at Sydney-based Paramount Search Marketing [www.ParamountSearchMarketing.com.au] - is the Yahoo! Directory. The directory charges $300 per year for you to list your website.
“But,” he says, “it’s the most powerful signal you can give Google to inform them you’re a legitimate business or organisation. We’ve seen Yahoo directory submissions alone boost search engine rankings in just days.”
6. If you want “quick SEO wins” but are on a tight budget
Try Fiverr, says Egan.
A “micro-task” site, Fiverr hosts workers from around the world willing to do almost anything for just $5.
Filter out novelty jobs like “hippie rants” and “puppet raps” by running a search for SEO. Then you will find a “smorgasboard” of SEO tasks that will be completed for the price of a coffee, Egan says.
Before hiring someone, check their feedback and reputation assessment.
Some dodgy micro-task workers may actually damage your ranking through using automated tools to generate 20,000 backlinks in a month or less, Egan warns.
7. Harness the power of Google+ Local
Formerly known as Google Places, Google+ Local is the fastest and easiest way to win visibility on the first page of Google at no charge, Egan says.
Once you create a Google account, you must verify your business address via a personal identification number (PIN) that comes displayed on a “postcard”. After activating your account, you can then “populate” your business profile, including industry-specific- and location-based keywords that “get you listed on page one in no time”, Egan says. You can punch in your business website address, he adds.
“Even the most computer-illiterate business owners are using this feature - and it’s working for them,” he says.