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April 7, 2010

Are You Relevant to Google?

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Google lists results of all searches in order of relevance to the search words. How do you become relevant? It’s no use being number nine hundred in order of relevance if people searching Google only look at the first ten or twenty listed. It’s no use having the best looking website if nobody sees it.

Never mind, you say, I can pay to be at the top of Google. Yes you can pay a lot to be a sponsored or pay per click website. Google makes a fortune from just that. However Google itself admits that its surveys show 72% of searchers ignore the paid listings and click on the natural listings, the listings that earn their position by being relevant.

Okay, you say, I’ll pay an SEO expert a lot of money to get me to the top. Yes, you can pay a Search Engine Optimization company, but the only guarantee is that you will pay a lot of money.

Let’s cut through all the spin. Search Engine Optimization is not a science. Websites really need to be designed for relevance to search engines using some common sense.

How do you define Relevance?

In a bookstore, how do you select a book about e.g. motorbike maintenance? You check:

  • Titles,
  • Front covers,
  • Descriptions on the back covers,
  • Size of each book,
  • Tables of chapters,
  • Samples of paragraphs, and
  • Which of the books are more popular.

If the title of the book does not include the words “motorbike maintenance” there is every chance that you won’t find a lot of information about motorbike maintenance in the book.

There is usually a description of the book on the back cover. If that doesn’t mention “motorbike maintenance” either, you are looking at the wrong book.

But of the books with “motorbike maintenance” in their titles, some are larger than others. Some have more chapters and pages than others. You expect that the larger ones will have more information than the smaller ones. You also question the bookstore on which of the books are selling more. That is how you decide which book has the most information and is most relevant to your search. Is that science or common sense?

How does Google define Relevance?

On the internet, if you search for “motorbike maintenance” Google will list ten million results in the order of relevance to your search. To sort websites in order of relevance to a search, Google has used its secret algorithm to weigh up:

  • Domain names,
  • Titles of the websites (meta-titles),
  • Descriptions,
  • Page headings and sub headings,
  • Menu and navigation bar (links to inside pages),
  • Quantity of information, and
  • Popularity of each website based on the number of other relevant websites that link to it (same as in popularity of books).

We know those factors which are similar to those you used to find a book. We only guess the weighting Google gives to each factor.

The factors

You want a website for your business or activity to be easily found by the audience that your website is targeting. So take into account the same factors that you use in selecting a book on that subject.

Domain name

If your URL (web address) includes some part of the expression “motorbike maintenance”, e.g. motorbikemaintenance.com, Google will rank it ahead of those names that don’t, (if everything else is equal).

Title tag

The website title meta-tag, that shows at very top left of the browser, is a very important item to Google, just as the book title is to you when selecting a book to buy. Amazingly, some web masters have simply put the words “Home page” into the title tag. That makes a web page very relevant to people searching the internet for a “home” but, not relevant to search for “motorbike maintenance”.

Also include other words that people might search for, e.g. “motorcycle repairs”. If you are targeting a particular region, e.g. Australia, that word is needed in the title meta-tag to capture searchers who qualify their search for the subject in Australia only.

Description

The description meta-tag is also an aid to relevance, just as the description of a book is there to tell you what the book is about. However the words in the title meta-tag and description meta-tag should also show on the web page itself, otherwise they might be ignored.

Headings

The headings of each web page take the same importance as the chapter names in a book. Page headings are more effective if they are succinct, leaving out words like “and” “the” “of” and “a”.

Hyperlinks

The navigation bar can be text with hyperlinks to the inside pages. The text can look like buttons or tabs with the help of CSS. Google ignores images and javascript navigation bars. In the body text of the home page more points can be gained for keywords if they are hyperlinks to inside pages. Points are also there for those who place a keyword in their email address, e.g. bikes@ instead of info@.

Size of Website

The volume of information counts towards the relevance of the website to a search, just the same as the size of a book. We are amazed at people who put up a one-page website and expect Google to rank it high for relevancy in front of a 50-page website. Look at page one of Google for any search. Are any one-page websites listed there?

Popularity

Google believes that if other relevant websites link to yours, then your website must be more relevant than those that don’t have such incoming links. However the test is relevance. A link from a motorbike club is relevant for a motorbike maintenance website. A link from a casino is not relevant.

Are You Relevant?

To be relevant to a search for any words, your web page needs to contain those words in its title, heading, hyperlinks and body text. Links from other relevant websites add to your relevance. Search engines use the same process that you use if you search a bookstore for a book on motorbike maintenance.

This article was not written to discourage readers from paying for SEO. However, it’s hoped that readers now understand more about what’s behind SEO. It’s not magic or science, but really common sense.


Ken McKay is an Australian web designer at platypus websites – http://www.platywebs.com.au.

9 Responses to “Are You Relevant to Google?

    avatar Dave Robinson says:

    This is great article that echoes my own views on SEO, something I’ve written about often.

    What spoiled the email version I was sent was an advert for IBP claiming all you need to do is pay some money and you are guaranteed a top ten Google position for the keyword of your choice. Really? This software can, for a couple of hundred quid, get me onto page 1 of Google for the search term car insurance? Really, no kidding?

    That’s what’s wrong with the SEO industry, not enough common sense and way too much hype.

    Great article, annoying advert (in the emailed version).

    d

    avatar Bill Platt says:

    Nice article. I wish more people would speak to SEO in a common sense way, just as you have here…

    avatar Oiseaux says:

    I agree entirely with previous comment but somewhere I have read an article that says people are more likely to click on a site showing in the organic search result if there is a PPC advert showing alongside.

    avatar Dawn Cassara says:

    Having studied Google ranking for a year and a half, there is a formula that I follow, so is that not science?
    I think so! There is a specific length on each metatag, there is a specific number of times that keywords can be mentioned without “stuffing” (which you are penalized for), there are a specific number of links you can generate within a specific amount of time before you are penalized, you must change your content every so often, and there are many more rules.
    So, having established that there is a science here, there are several more topics not covered in this article that are worth mentioning. First is Google Analytics, which when set up correctly, can certainly affect your ranking. In fact, all the free Google Tools can affect your ranking – especially the site map, by telling Google about pages that are not necessarily linked to from other pages.
    PPC (Pay per click) disclaimers say very clearly that the ads will not affect your ranking, and they don’t directly, but they certainly do indirectly, as part of the “formula” is number of hits to measure importance.
    A funny story – I had accidentally set up Google Analytics on my site under two different accounts. I went through and took out the tracking code for one of them, thinking it would be better to have it all under the one account, and overnight I dropped 100 spots for my keywords. I put it back and voila! Back up again.
    Doing Internet Marketing for a living is not easy – it’s all trial and error, but sometimes you learn the most important things by accident.
    Getting business from your rankings is really sweet, and that’s where SEO pays off. It’s great getting cold calls that result in paying business. I must say that it gives me a thrill every time. Still, references are our # 1 source of business and will be for the foreseeable future. However, even references like to be able to say “Check out their rankings” – it proves that the IM firm can do what they claim to do. Don’t ever sell that short – paying for someone who knows the rules is well worth it.

    This is great and I am going to share it with my social networks. The only thing I would add to the “Common sense equation” is LSI- Latent Semantic Indexing. In the body of your text, you want words that are synonyms to your main keywords. Google smiles at this :-)

    avatar Andy says:

    Ken you are simply great! Thanks for exposing this to me.

    avatar Vijay says:

    Getting business from your rankings is really sweet……………..

    avatar Are You Relevant to Google? | Did You Know ... says:

    […] Post from: SiteProNews: Webmaster News & ResourcesAre You Relevant to Google? […]

    avatar MarkSpizer says:

    great post as usual!

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