Why does Montana Wines appear on the first page of Google’s search results for “New Zealand wines,” while Matua can’t be found until page two? And why does Trelawn Place come up number one in a Google search for “Queenstown bed and breakfast”, whereas competitor White Shadows Country Inn is number 11?
Google’s closely guarded algorithm takes into account that some sites are more important than others. It calls its importance-scoring system “PageRank”. Everything else being equal, a web page with a higher PageRank score will rank better in a Google search.
Google judges the importance of sites through links. A link equates to a vote that a site is worthwhile. The more sites that vote for your site, the better. But remember, a vote from xtra.co.nz is more credible than one from some bloke’s personal home page.
Want to lift your Google rankings? Here are a few tips:
Check the PageRank of your home page using the Google Toolbar, which can be downloaded from www.toolbar.google.com. PageRank scores range from 0 to 10. Increments are not evenly spaced, but instead are like the Richter scale, where the gap between seven and eight is exponentially larger than between six and seven.
See how many links you’ve garnered with the Link Popularity Checker. Check competing sites too, as some of the sites linking to competitors may be good candidates from which to request links.
Before requesting a link from a website, check its PageRank score. A site with a low PageRank probably isn’t worth pursuing unless it will refer significant traffic in its own right. Remember, the thing that matters is the PageRank of the specific page that links to your site, not the PageRank of the home page. The fewer the links on that page the better, as the vote will be shared with those competing links. Suggest some wording for the link, as Google will associate those words with the linked page. For example, Montana would benefit more from a link that says “New Zealand wine” than “Montanawines.co.nz home page”.
Internal links between pages within your site help, too. Include a site map on your site with text links rather than graphics. Override your site’s default “File Not Found” error page with a customised one that includes your site map. If a search engine visits a page of your site that no longer exists, it will at least have a page of your links to follow.
Don’t be tempted to use low-budget software or website services. They claim to submit your site to thousands of search engines, check the frequency with which keywords appear or analyse your meta tags (keywords and descriptions), but you’d be buying snake oil.
Don’t rack your brain thinking up meta tags for your web pages. These are hidden inside the HTML source code, and are ignored by Google.
By Stephan Spencer. This article first appeared on Unlimited in April 2003.
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