In last month’s blog post I talked about how you can influence how relevant search engines think you are by tweaking the content of your site pages.
I gave you some simple things to look at that were well within your control and will have a real positive effect.
This month, however, is where search engine optimisation gets ugly.
Get Into The Mind of Google
You see, the content on your page is only half the picture.
Imagine you are Google for a minute and Mrs. Jones approaches you and asks you to recommend a shop selling cakes in Bristol. You, as Google, want to make sure that the recommendation you give Mrs. Jones is of the highest possible quality so she will come back to you again next time.
So you have a look and you find three largely similar cake shops based in the Bristol area. How would you decide which one to recommend? You would want to recommend the most reputable-looking one, but how does Google decide how reputable a shop is? As humans, we can look at the design, click around a bit, and maybe look for some reviews in order to make a decision about a shop, but Google can’t really do that in the fraction of a second it has to make a decision. Instead it looks at other factors that indicate the quality, professionalism and reputability of a website.
The algorithms that are used to calculate this are a closely guarded secret – plus they would probably be completely unfathomable anyway. What we do know is that it isn’t all to do with what you’ve got on your site pages. It’s also to do with more intangible things such as how up-to-date your pages are, and how many other sites are linking to you.
How often you update your site is well within your control. If you haven’t updated your site for months, then Google will think it is some dead site that no-one cares about and you’ll find yourself slipping down the rankings. You must update your site regularly – ideally daily – to give yourself a chance of doing well.
This is when things like blogs come into their own. Having a blog on your site means it’s easy to quickly update the content of your site with the minimum of effort. If you haven’t done so already, it’s worth looking at WordPress (www.wordpress.org). WordPress is a free blogging platform that’s pretty easy to install as part of your current website, although you do need to know a bit about online databases and things so it might be worth contacting a web designer.
The other thing that Google looks at is how many links there are to your site. These are known as ‘backlinks’. The more people that link to you, the more reputable Google thinks you must be. This is the hardest one to influence yourself, which is probably why all the search engines put so much importance on it.
Don’t despair though. There are a few tricks you can use to get links to your site.
First up, have a look and see if there are any online forums where people are talking about the sorts of products you are selling. This is when it’s useful to be marketing to a particular niche area (e.g. selling ’Biker Clothing’ rather than just ‘Clothing’) as you’ll find that the smaller your niche, the more chance there will be of finding an active online community where lots of potential customers are talking to each other. You can then participate in the forums, including a link to your site as part of your forum signature. Don’t promote yourself too brazenly though as there are often rules against this.
Sending out press releases is another good thing to do whenever you’ve got a new product range to launch, or there’s an interesting angle on a current news event that is relevant to your business. As well as traditional papers, there are hundreds of local online news portals out there who are crying out for well-written content to bulk up their sites with. And the great thing about online news sites is that once your press release is on there, it will stay there indefinitely with a link to your site. Nice.
Above all it’s just about having a mindset where you are constantly looking for opportunities to get links to your site wherever you can. It’s a constant ongoing thing, but it really will help your rankings.
Everything Is Going To Be Great, Honest
Although SEO is hard work, don’t forget that if you follow the basic steps in this article, and in last month’s one too, you will already probably be doing more than your nearest competitors. Although you may not beat Amazon quite yet, you shouldn’t be too far behind.