Making friends with Google

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Summary

If you want to succeed on the web, a good listing on Google is a great start. This guide explains the basic principles for making your website Google friendly, and although our searchMAX service does a lot of this for you, there are a few important steps you will need to do yourself - to help us help you.

Introduction

Getting on search engines is a very important element of managing a website, as search engines like Google are becoming the first place people turn to when looking for just about anything. In fact, of all the search engines available on the internet, none have yet come close to gaining the popularity of Google, which is why we focus on it. Having said that, most of the principles for achieving top Google places have just the same effect on other search engines, which in general are easier to get high listings on.

As we have said many times though, a top place on Google doesn't happen quickly. Just imagine you opened a restaurant in a very large town, say London, with a chef who was new to the area. How quickly do you think you'd become the most famous restaurant in London? Not very quickly of course. People would need to visit. You would have to prove yourself by serving good food. People would need to talk about you. Its a very similar situation with the internet and search engines.

Fortunately, because of our experience, the techniques we have developed and our proprietary searchMAX system, you should expect to get a top placement on Google a little more quickly than your new restaurant would hit the headlines. Typically for our clients it takes 2-5 months to start seeing top places.

During this 2-5 months, and in fact for the entire duration of your time with WebHealer, our searchMAX system will be working to promote your website to higher and higher places on Google. Its an ongoing process, partly because new websites join the internet every day and partly because a website can always gain higher prominence on the web - just like a restaurant can always become more famous. There is however one element to this process that you will need to do yourself, because it concerns the words on your pages, and these words are under your editorial control. Unless the wording on your pages, in particular your home page (or first page) is Google Friendly, then all our behind the scenes work will be compromised.

A "Google friendly" home page - The basic principles

The first principle of Google friendliness is very simple to understand and equally simple to starting doing. If you want to be found in a Google listing for, say "counselling chelsea" then Google will expect to find the words "counselling" and "chelsea" included in your home page wording. That's it!

It sounds easy, but mistakes are often made. For example, you might think that because you've put "chelsea" on a separate web page you don't need to mention it on your home page. You do, otherwise no single page is Google friendly for the phrase "counselling chelsea" and that could be a very valuable phrase for you.

This process of including keywords is fundamental, and there's more about it in the next section. Once you get the hang of this though, there are two more important principles. The first is that Google likes pages with quality contents, and one way they decide on quality is how many words you have on the page. The second is that Google gives priority to websites that are updated regularly. See the section below call Wordcount and freshness which discusses these principles in more detail.

Best practice guidelines for keywords

Despite the simplicity of this basic concept, you are strongly advised to take a little time and follow our guidelines, developed over many years observing and researching Google. You may find that other "experts" disagree with some of these guidelines, but we have found them to be very effective and also practical when used in combination with our searchMAX system.

  1. Include your keywords as part of properly written sentences, not just as lists of words or phrases.
  2. Try to use the keywords close together so they are very similar to your searchMAX phrases e.g. "I offer counselling in Chelsea", rather than have "counselling" and "chelsea" far apart in different sentences.
  3. Try to use each keyword at least 3 times, but not too many more times. Visit the searchMAX section of your website Administration area and you will be given a report of whether your words are mentioned too much or too little
  4. Try to use each keyword at least once in bold and once in italics
  5. Try to use your keywords near the very start of your home page and near the very end
  6. Try to use some of the most important keywords in your subheadings
  7. Try to incorporate at least one or two of your keywords in your website heading. For example, if you are a counsellor in Leeds, then a heading like "Jane Smith - Leeds based Counsellor" takes advantage of this important area to emphasise your keywords. Don't overdo it though, or the website quickly becomes untidy and offputting.

Remember that the keywords we are talking about are your searchMAX words and phrases, which are agreed between you and our searchMAX consultant during the initial consultation after your website goes live. This first step of agreeing the words and phrases is just as important as Google friendly wording.

Wordcount

Google continously adjusts its rules for listing websites, with one goal in mind - to show the highest quality most useful websites at the top. A very simple way that Google decides on quality is how many words you have on your pages, with particular focus on the home page. There are no hard and fast rules for how many words is enough, but if you visit the searchMAX page in your Administration Area you'll find a wordcount tool to give you guidance.

So what can you do to flesh out your home page? How about adding some client testimonials, if you have any available? To make these stand out nicely, you could try using Quote Boxes. These are ideal for testimonials or quotes (see below), and you can find out how to use them via our Quoteboxes EZ Guide.

In addition, how about including some recent related news items? These could be updated on a regular basis too (see "Freshness" below, for why this is a good idea). You could also summarise some of the information from your other pages on your home page to pad it out some more, and make it as informative as possible.

Another thing to consider is using famous, perhaps inspirational quotes on your website. There are quite a few websites which have a wealth of quotes on them that you could use. Among these are www.saidwhat.co.uk, www.brainyquote.com, and www.worldofquotes.com. As long as you use quotes from authors who passed away at least 70 years ago, their quotes won't be copyrighted, so you'll be safe to use them on your website.

Some example of famous authors who fit the bill are Shakespeare (of course!), Keats, Byron, Shelley, Browning, Wordsworth, Burns, Tennyson, Blake, Oscar Wilde. Rumi, Hafiz, and Kalil Gibran are some other examples with a different slant on things. A quick Google will usually show you their dates, so that you can be sure you can use their quotes.

Also, as the objective is to increase the wordcount on your home page, and quotes are often very short, how about including some poetry? There are lots of poems on the internet, which is why the above list includes famous poets, to get your search started.  If the poems you find are too obscure or old-fashioned, there are many more that are just listed as "Anon" which you could use. Try www.poemhunter.com for a website where you can very easily find poems for an author.

Freshness

Google likes relevant and up to date information, and considers pages with recent updates to be fresh. So try to make some sort of update to your webpages, especially your homepage, at least once a month, or ideally twice a month. One way of doing this is to allocate one of your pages as a blog page, and name it Blog in the menu. Then if you can mention a two line summary of your latest blog topic on your home page, you can keep your home page fresh.

Google likes up to date information. Make a change to your homepage once a month, or ideally twice a month, to keep it fresh"

Some cautions for the eager or impatient

If you are a fairly confident computer user, you may be tempted to embrace these principles enthusiastically to try and speed up the process of getting to the top of Google. If so, there are some cautions to be observed. The purpose of preparing your wording is to ensure Google is quite clear what your website is all about, so plenty of mentions of your important words and phrases is to be expected. However, if you get carried away and fill your homepage with excessive keyword references, Google is likely to spot this and give priority to better written websites. Overdoing keyword mentions is known as "keyword stuffing" in search engine jargon. Our searchMAX analysis tool in your Administration Area will alert you if it feels the total count of words is over what it determines is a safe limit, but you should also be mindful that the pages should read naturally. The adage to follow is:

Write your website pages to be read by humans, not search engines.

A good test is for you to pretend you are new to your website and consider whether it reads like a normal article in a newspaper or magazine or an advertisement. One final thought if you are worried about losing out by removing keywords, is that some of our clients with the highest Google places often have only the basic 3 or 4 references to their keywords on their home pages - more is not always better.

Here are some more tips for anyone who is trying to fast track their Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).

  • Don't squeeze in extra keywords by trying to hide them e.g. white text on white background. That's very easy for a search engine to spot
  • Always write in proper sentences. Don't just write nonsense in order to create longer pages with more words.
  • Don't use very small fonts in order to fill a paragraph with repetitive mentions of your keywords
  • Avoid other "black hat SEO" tricks, which means basically trying to cheat the search engines - search engines get smarter by the day, and they are likely to be way ahead of you

It really doesn't pay to try and rush your climb to the top of Google. If you want to read more about why this is, visit our guide Waiting for Google.

Other things to do while you are waiting

All these cautions don't mean you have to sit there and twiddle your thumbs for weeks on end, as there are still some things you can be doing to help your progress on the web.

The first item to discuss in more detail is the distinction between words and phrases. For example, if "counselling chelsea" is the phrase you are targetting, the ideal is to find a way of including the exact phrase "counselling chelsea" somewhere as part of a normal sentence structure. One way of doing this is to use a sentence near the bottom of your website which says something like "Find me on Google by searching for counselling chelsea". Please note that this technique will not make much difference in the early months, when your website has relatively low standing in the eyes of the search engines. Once you are achieving top places and find yourself "jockeying" for position with other highly ranked websites, you may then wish to experiment with this method.

A second important area of activity if you have the time and inclination is to spend a little time every month "building links". Remember the analogy with a restaurant? Apart from serving good food, you won't become famous until people start talking about you, and the equivalent of being talked about on the web is to have other websites linking to you. This is a big part of what we do behind the scenes for you, but you can also help it along. If you have colleagues with websites, you can ask them to create a link to yours, and offer one in return. If you are a member of a professional association, you can very often get listed on their online web directory. Google will spot these links, and it will enhance your reputation on the web which converts into higher listing positions.

Thirdly, you can consider changing your regular listing into a Google Places listing, by registering your business with Google. See below for more details.

Google Places

There is one other activity to be recommended for most clients,  which is worth a section of its own, and this is to upgrade your Google listing to a Google Places listing. If the service you offer has a local geographical catchment area, then you can get your website linked up to a marker on Google's map. This in itself can hurry along your visibility on higher Google listings, depending on how much competition there is in your local area. For more details see our guide on Google Places.