How Does Google Rank My Site?
As we have seen, top rankings in the search engines are crucial for driving free traffic to your site.
So how is it that your competitor’s site gets top rankings in the search results while yours seems to be buried on page 10 or lower?
Let’s look at the factors that Google takes into account to decide which sites will get those coveted top positions, and which will be relegated to obscurity.
First we need to recognize that there are both on-page and off page factors.
On-page refers to stuff that is actually on your page. In other words, the stuff that both Google and your visitors can see and read. Off-page factors are everything else.
In order to understand how these work together, you need to start to think like Google. Google’s goal is to provide the most relevant up-to-date information it can. They want to do that so that people use their search engine, and they want that so that people get to see those sponsored Adwords listings, which is where Google earns their money.
So, the first thing you need to do is to make sure that your web pages are good – that they contain quality information that the reader will want to read.
The second thing you need to do is to make sure that your website has the correct information in its meta tags, titles, and content. For more details on this, the best resource I can recommend is Google’s own guide to SEO. http://www.google.com/webmasters/docs/search-engine-optimization-starter-guide.pdf.
This is where you use the information from your basic keyword research. Make sure that your most valuable keywords are the ones that you include in your site’s title, meta tags, headers and so on. And of course in your content.
Remember, Google likes content – it likes sites with lots of content, and it likes sites with recently updated content, and it like sites with themed content about the chosen topic – again, guided by your keyword research.
Now let’s get to the off-page factors.
Go over to Google and type in the key phrase ‘click here’. Here is what you will likely get:
Look at these results. See how the words ‘click here’ are in bold? That is because that was the your search phrase, and so Google highlights your search phrase in the actual results.
Now look at the number one result, Adobe . Notice that they don’t have the words click here anywhere on their page. If they did, then they would show up in bold on the search result listing, just as they do on the other results below.
So, for the search term ‘click here’ the Adobe site is totally lacking in on-page factors. Their page is certainly not about the subject of clicking here, or anywhere else for that matter.
So how did they get to number 1? Once you know their secret, then you can apply that to your own site too.
The answer is in their backlinks.
Let’s look at this diagram for a minute:
This shows a hyperlink on a hypothetical site, example.com.
As you can see, the blue underlined text on the link says ‘dogs’. That blue text is what we call the link’s ‘anchor text’. If you clicked on this link, it would take you to another site, which we will call site A. So one can say that this link is pointing to site A.
Here is another link. On this one the anchor text says ‘dog allergies’. It just so happens that this link also points to site A.
Here are a couple more links, with different anchor texts. You can see that these point to site B.
Now, looking at that diagram, what would you guess is the topic of site A?
And the topic of site B? Yep, cars.
So you can see that you can get a good idea of what a site is about, based on the anchor text of all the sites that point to it.
So, if you were to search in Google for ‘dogs’ which site, A or B, is Google more likely to serve up to you in the search results?
You got it – Site A.
That is because site A has link reputation for ‘dogs’ whereas site B has link reputation for ‘cars’.*
Ok, now lets look at this diagram. Here we have a bunch of sites, all with anchor texts about dogs. 10 of them point to Site A and only 2 point to site B.
Other things being equal, if you searched Google for the term ‘dog’, which site would rank above the other?
Yep, Site A would sit above site C in the results, because it has more ‘link popularity’. In other words, it has more links pointing to it than site C.
So, going back to Adobe – it just so happens that Adobe has thousands of links pointing to their site, all with the anchor text ‘click here’. And so they rank number 1 for that search term, even though they have zero on-page factors for it.
Putting these two factors together, you can see that if you want to rank highly for your own search phrase, then you need both lots of links pointing to you (these are called back links, as they point back to you) AND you need lots of these links to have anchor texts that match your target keywords.
Ideally you would have thousands of links all with different anchor texts matching not just your top ten most valuable key phrases, but your top hundred, or even thousand. In this way you will get top ranking results for all those different key phrases that real people type into the search engines. Some may not have much volume, but when you add them up it can result in huge amounts of free traffic.
Let me repeat that, as it is important. To drive huge amounts of FREE traffic to your site, you need to have thousands of backlinks, all with different long-tail keywords used in the anchor text.
Where do you get this long list of valuable long-tail key phrases?
So, let`s summarize all this.
- You need to be at the very top of the search results if you want to receive any organic (ie FREE) traffic. Being hidden down on the second or third page just won’t cut it.
- You need to make sure that both your on-page and your off-page factors are optimized for your target search terms.
- For on-page factors that means lots of quality relevant content – for example lots of articles about your subject matter. If your site is about dogs – then you need lots of articles about dogs. And, of course, make sure that your meta tags and titles are all correct too.
For off-page factors you need lots of back links. How many? That depends on how competitive your target search term is. For something very broad and competitive like ‘music’ or ‘how to make money’ you will need tens or even hundreds of thousands. But for more specific terms, and especially for localized terms, like ‘chiropractor West Vancouver’ you might need only a few hundred. And of course all those backlinks should use the correct anchor texts.
Those are the crucial fundamentals of SEO.
The next step is to devise a strategy that will gradually and consistently walk your own site up the search rankings. It doesn’t happen overnight. If you want that, then you need to go for those paid adwords advertisements. But that will cost you a lot of money.
But, if you do just one simple thing every week, you will get those top positions.
The strategy is fully described in our free Report ‘Organic Marketing that Sticks’.
As Nike says, ‘Just do it’.