Improving your rankings in Google (also known as Search Engine Optimization)

Background

In 2004 almost 50% of site visits began at search engines (Kent 2004). Of the remainder, a large proportion is revisits - people who know exactly where they want to go. Visitors may also arrive at their destination by clicking on a link on another site that takes them there. Most new visits come through search engines, making search engines the single most important source of new visitors.

 

Most search sites get their results from other search systems. The Google search system provides results to many search sites, some estimates put Google's share of the web's search results as high as 75 or 80% (Kent 2004). While there are number of other search sites to consider, for the purposes of this report I will focus on Google.

Getting high rankings in search engines is not easy. The search engines don't want third parties to know how they rank sites, so there is an element of experimentation involved. The process can be laborious and results may not be seen for weeks, if not months.

How Google (and similar search engines) Works

Google uses software called spiders or robots to read pages and catalogue them. In addition to analysing the visible content (titles and text) invisible keywords (called meta tags) are also analysed. Google will return what it considers the most appropriate results for the search terms entered.

Improving your rankings

There are various steps that can be taken to try and improve your rankings. These include:

• Do a keyword analysis - decide which keywords and keyword phrases you want to be found from i.e. which words are people are using to search for websites at the search engines?
• Include your keywords in your page titles (this seems to have a big effect) and alt tags where appropriate
• Create readable pages - Create pages that spiders or bots can read. Passing parameters in URLs may make them unreadable to search engines e.g. http://www.domain.com/page.php?id=home, although I haven't noticed this to be an issue
• Create keyworded pages - include the keywords in pages, in the right places and the right format
• Get other sites to link to your site - the number and type of links pointing to your site affects how high you rank
• Look at having additional web addresses e.g. http://www.domain.com/keywords, as search engines may also index web addresses

Record your rankings

In order to see if the changes you have made have been effective you will need to periodically record your rankings.