If you and I use Google to search for the same keyword, do you see what I see? Probably not.
I’m in Dallas, Texas, so the first thing that Google does is to look at my IP address, which tells it where I am. If you’re anywhere else – even in a Dallas suburb – Google will automatically adjust the search results according to location. Users get no say as to whether or not we want “local” results (and ads).
Search history factors in, too. Google results are based on assumptions that are supposed to help make the results more relevant to me.
Don’t forget the recently added Google Instant feature. This changes search results that I see at 3 p.m., compared to the ones I might have seen that same day, using the same computer and keyword, at 10 a.m. (This matters a lot, because Google Instant results show up at the top of search results – taking up “above the fold” real estate. In other words, what you can see on a Google search results page without scrolling down on a standard display, has changed recently as Google added new “instant” results. More than a few companies and individuals have found that their once secure-spot on top of Google search pages has been pushed down to the area “below the fold” or even worse, to Page 2.)
So what should a company do to maintain (or improve) page rank, given the recent changes? Most of the basics haven’t changed.
- Make sure that your website is well-organized, cleanly coded, and keyword-relevant, and that it loads quickly without errors or slowdowns.
- Provide good content on your website – content that matters to your target audience.
- Blog, and post updates regularly, making sure to keyword-optimize your blog.
5 Things Google Loves
Here are five additional things that Google seems to like – that is, companies, individuals, and sites that do these things often see a noticeable improvement in their page rank.
- Video. Especially videos posted on YouTube, which Google owns. Yes, self-hosting or third-party hosting is an option, but also post them on YouTube (and Vimeo and Ustream if you can) to gain traction. Don’t forget to use the right keywords, and name the video appropriately.
- Real time updates. If you don’t blog or tweet, you’re missing out. Keeping up a steady stream of real-time activity can have a major impact on site rank. Google pays attention to your credibility, as measured by retweets and conversations with other Tweeters (@name interactions).
- Google products. Put a Google map on your site. Get a Google places account. Pay the fee (about $25 per month in my market) to get a Google tag on the map. Offer a Google Docs download, or put a Google calendar onto the site. And, as noted above, put your videos on your site and on YouTube, and link to YouTube from your site, and to your site from YouTube. Make sure that you’ve installed Google Analytics (GA), and actually check in with GA from time to time.
- Fresh content. This is another reason that a blog on the site is helpful, but you can also cater to the search engine’s bias toward “new” content by adding a news feed to your home page, putting PDF files and other shareable content onto the site, and adding press releases and new content regularly. Note: Content behind a “paywall” – that is a form that someone must fill out in order to download – probably isn’t searchable, but the form itself usually is (depending on how you code it). So make sure to put enough key-word-optimized copy, and add a meta title and description, to every PDF or brochure that you make available for download – especially if you are going to require a sign-in that the search engine spider can’t complete.
- High-traffic sites. Yep, that’s right. The way to get Google to return results that will get you more visitors is to get visitors coming to your site, and staying there as long as possible. Sites that have visitors who stay on the site and explore multiple pages are ranked higher than lower-traffic sites. So don’t put all of your trust in the search engines when it comes to building site traffic – use social media, email marketing, and even good old-fashioned PR and word of mouth to build your audience.