Search engine ranking is vital to small businesses looking to attract new customers. If your business doesn’t appear in the first three pages of search results, the chances of customers finding your site is remote. Luckily, there are steps you can take to improve your site’s ranking on Google and maybe even appear on the coveted first page of results. Collectively, these techniques are known as search engine optimization.
Google uses a number of criteria to rank Web pages and return search results. Instead of optimizing your site with just one of these techniques, it’s important to utilize all of them to ensure that your ranking improves.
Adding keywords to your site’s content is one of the best ways to improve your ranking at Google. By strategically placing keywords throughout your content, the Google spidering process will recognize these words and index your site appropriately.
Keyword density is the ratio of a keyword to the rest of the words on a page. Google is looking for keyword density of between 2 and 5 percent. For example, if you have 500 words on one page of your site, the keyword in question would need to appear 10 times to achieve a 2 percent keyword density.
Links to Your Site
The next method of increasing your ranking involves getting other sites to link back to your site. If links to your site appear on numerous other sites, Google’s spidering software recognizes this and ranks your site higher than sites that lack links leading back to them.
But it’s not just the number of links that matter — it’s also the quality. Links from high-traffic sites weigh more heavily than links from sites with little or no traffic.
Page Titles and File Names
Another way to increase your Google ranking is by using keyword or keyword phrases in your page titles and file names. Page titles are the words that appear in the topmost bar of a user’s browser, and file names are the URLs themselves. Adding keywords to both of these may work in your favor.
Meta tags and keywords in the header of your Web pages can also improve your ranking. Even though users won’t see these keywords, Google’s spidering software recognizes them and adds them to the index.
If all else fails, you can try the Google AdWords program to get your site listed in the sponsored areas of search results. For many companies having trouble optimizing their site, this has been a good alternative.
Don’t Forget the User
In your zeal to optimize your site, don’t neglect the user experience. If a prospective customer does happen to get to your site, and it’s just a mishmash of keywords and gibberish, they’re likely to leave and not come back. Remember: search engine optimization is a means to an end — not an end in itself.
Google is constantly changing and refining its search technology. Optimization techniques that work today may be useless tomorrow, so stay informed.
Also, as your business evolves, check your keywords to make sure they’re still relevant. If you’ve launched new product lines, brought on new brands, or changed the focus of your business, make sure these changes are reflected in your keywords. Optimization is an ongoing process.