Search engine optimization is so important to reputation management because Google is one of the most highly trafficked search engines in the world. Because Google owns so much of the market share for search, we are able to focus solely on this search engine to get 95% of the results. I studied the Google search engine algorithm for years and have figured out many of the most relevant factors that go into how Google decides what websites are most relevant to a search for any keyword phrase.
Content is King
So how does Google figure out which are the most relevant links for your search? First, it looks at the website content across every website that it indexes. If you want your website to rank well in Google search for particular keyword phrases, you have to make sure that the content on your site is optimized for the Google algorithm. For this, you must incorporate the keyword phrases that you want to rank well for into your site’s content. This is the number one factor to remember when considering on-page search engine optimization.
But of course, marketing is the Queen — and you know who runs the household
The other way that Google figures out the most relevant links for any search is by looking at how many external websites link to the content on your website. Who is linking back to your site? Who is sharing your content on major social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn? Not surprisingly, it’s fairly easy to game the system with on-page factors, but off-page factors are a bit harder. External links and social shares are off-page search engine optimization factors, which makes them even more important than putting keyword phrases into your content. In fact, external links is probably the most important factor that Google uses in determining whether your site is worthy of being linked to you for any given keyword phrase.
So as you can see, on-page search engine optimization is important and can help you establish a strong baseline in search results for your website. When you optimize your content for on-page factors, it makes it easy for Google’s crawlers to go through your site and understand exactly what it’s about. Still, it’s not enough; you must also get those external links back to your site. We’ll talk about how to do this through networking, guest blogging, and writing articles for publications in later parts of this reputation management guide.
How People Interact with Search Engines
In the US, there are more than 20 billion searches per month. That’s a lot of people searching! This means that there’s a lot of traffic coming from Google, and we want to capture some of that relevant traffic for your website. This is really important, because Google is sending that traffic to whoever is on that front page of the Google search results. If it’s not you, it’s probably your competitor. So if Google is sending that traffic to somebody, shouldn’t it be you?
Top placement gets all the clicks
Why the front page? Well, the number one position on Google for any given keyword phrase receives roughly 18.2% of the clicks, while the second position only receives 10.1% of the clicks and the third position only receives about 7.2% of the clicks. Everything lower than the fourth position gets fewer than 2% of the clicks. This means that it’s not only important to be on the front page of Google for the keyword phrases your customers are searching for, but it’s also important to continue to climb the ranks until you are number one in search results. The difference in traffic between the first and second position on Google could easily double your business.
If you take a look at the heat map, you’ll see that the majority of where a person clicks on Google’s search page is on the top left side of the page or the top right side of the page where the ads are. That means that if you’re not at the top of the page (and if you’re buying ads, if you’re not in the top one or two ads) then you probably won’t get a click. The number one slot is of the utmost importance in the results, so that should be the goal for search engine optimization. If you can’t reach the number one spot, you probably still need to be in the top 3 results to make search engine optimization worth your time, because that’s where all the clicks are going to.
How to Get Into the Number One Spot on Google
If you want to see your content on Google in the top position for your relevant keyword phrases, you have to start seeing your content the way Google would. In this lesson, we’re going to teach you how to claim the number one spot on Google for your relevant keyword phrases.
Search engines use a markup called HTML to understand content on the webpage. With HTML markup, you’re able to include instructions to Google about what your page is about without having your readers see those instructions. You can do this by enclosing those instructions within tags. Where going to explain exactly how to put these instructions on your website using HTML in this lesson of the reputation management guide.
We are also going to go into on-page optimization in detail and talk briefly about off-page optimization. The details of these topics are important because they make a big difference in Google search rankings.
In this section, I will be talking about a number of factors that help you optimize your website on the page. Now, at this point, we won’t be talking a ton about how to write great content because we’re going to be covering it in future lessons. For now, we’re just going to be looking at the technical side of creating content so that we can put the foundations in place for when we get to the blogging lessons, which will provide much more detail about creating great content.
There are a number of tags you want to be aware of if you’re trying to optimize your site for search engines. Here are some of the main ones that we’ll be talking about throughout this lesson:
- Title Tag – This is what shows up in search engine results, and Google also looks at it to determine what the content on the page is about. It’s very important!
- Description tags – This shows up in search engine results even though it is not used by Google to determine keywords. However, it’s a great opportunity to convince users to click on your link over someone else’s. You only have 150 characters, so I always recommend using this tag to sell the user on your unique selling proposition.
- Alt tags – These can be applied to a number of elements on your website, including images and links. These help Google analyze and classify your non-textual-based content, like your photos.
At Reputation Hacks, we have a plug-in we use to set these tags so you don’t even have to know the HTML coding to do so. We’ll talk about it more in our lesson on setting up a blog.
We also have a few general tips on tags that we recommend to all our clients:
- When in doubt, place important keywords closer to the top, front, or beginning. Google’s search algorithm often discards the ends of longer titles, content, and keyword strings.
- Create unique titles, tags, and descriptions. This helps Google distinguish between pages and also keeps you from looking spammy to search engines. The more specific and accurate you can be with your titles.
- Include your brand name if possible. Your brand name is one of your keywords, so you should include it every chance you get.
- Write for humans. Everything you write should be descriptive and readable for humans as well as search engines. Remember that most off-page optimization happens because people like your content. You need people to link to you, to share what you created with the world, and to read and comment on your content. Think about the entire experience while creating content, and don’t just create content that search engines will crawl.
Your link structure is extremely important for search engine optimization, yet many people get it wrong. There are two things to know about how you are linking your content:
Incorporate Keywords Into Your Links
For starters, Google looks to your link structure to find keyword phrases. This is why if you own a domain name that has keywords in it, you’ll probably rank higher for those keywords that somebody who just has a webpage with those keywords on it. Now, don’t think that you have to have your keyword phrase in your domain name to take advantage of this; you can also include keywords in the link to your content. Here’s a great example of a SEO-optimized link and a poorly structured link:
- Optimized: http://reputationhacks.com/guide-to-reputation-management-1-introduction/
- Poor: http://reputationhacks.com/?p=35A (not a real link)
The first link includes relevant keyword phrases so that Google knows what the page is about. The second link just has some random characters in it, and doesn’t provide Google with any additional information as to what they should expect from this content.
As a caveat to this, make sure you don’t go overboard or stuff your link with keywords. This makes the link harder to copy, paste, and remember, which creates a poor user experience.
Link Between Pages
The second thing to know about link structures is that Google prefers when your website is well linked within its pages. Google finds links by going to a website and crawling every link that’s on the homepage, then crawling every link that’s on each child page, and so on. If your website is set up to where your pages are not linked to each other, then Google will have a hard time finding specific pages on your site. These are called orphan pages, and even if they are relevant to your keywords, Google is not going to find them, crawl them, or know that they are part of your website. It’s a bit like doing a bunch of work and not getting any recognition for it.
If you want to make sure that you have no orphan pages on your site, you can create a site map. A site map is a file that you can put on your server that provides Google with instructions on how to get to every single page on your website. Site maps are very simple to make, so there’s no excuse not to have one.
I recommend using an XML site map instead of an HTML site map because the XML site map updates automatically every time you update your website. If you run your website WordPress, WordPress also use you in easy way to create a site map and keeps it up-to-date for Google. You can also check out a great list of tools that Google recommends to create XML site maps.
There is another reason to link to your own site within its pages. The more connected your pages are the faster Google will index them and the more Google will understand that your website is about a small number of specific topics. This makes Google more likely to rank you for specific keyword phrases that it finds throughout your site.
Think of it this way: if someone had a site where they posted about reputation management, the book Twilight, winter coats, pillows, and penguin mating, Google wouldn’t really want that website to rank well for any of the terms. But if you had a website that talked about penguin mating, penguin habits, penguin diet, penguin habitats, and penguin relationships, then Google would want to rank that website or keyword phrases that contained Penguins. This makes sense because Google would rather send someone looking for information on Penguins to a site that was all about penguins instead of the site where there was only one or two webpages about penguins.
At Reputation Hacks, we recommend using WordPress because it handles the issue of creating SEO-friendly link structures automatically. There is no reason to let a technical glitch derail your website or your search engine rankings. We’ll talk more about WordPress in the section on blogging content.
There are several best practices that will help you rank for the keyword phrases you want on your website. Here are a few tips that we recommend:
- Use your keyword in your title. The closer your keyword is to the beginning of your title, the better, because Google only uses the first 65-75 characters in a title to search for keywords. If you are using permalinks in WordPress, this also helps you put your keyword at the beginning of your link structure.
- Use your keyword in your link structure. We talked about why this was important in the section on link structures.
- Use your keyword in the first sentence of your content. This is important because Google looks at keywords that are near the top of your page to determine what the content is about.
- Choose to just three of your top keyword phrases and use them to three times throughout your content. If your content is especially long, you can probably get away with using your keywords a little bit more often. Just remember that ultimately you are writing for humans because humans are the ones who link to your content, which helps you rank better in Google search results.
- Use your keyword in the alt attribute of each image used in your content. This helps you rank well in Google’s image search. If someone sees your image and clicks on it, Google will take them to your webpage. While it may not send a lot of traffic, it can bring valuable traffic, especially if your images are related to your content.
- Use your keyword in your meta-description tag. The meta-description is used as the description for your content in Google search results. It’s not used in Google’s algorithm, but it does help you get clicks from people you see it on the search result page.
Technical issues that may prevent Google from crawling your site
There are a number of technical issues that may cause problems when Google is trying to crawl your site. Many of these have to do with not using standard HTML formatting on your site or in your content. Here are a few issues that we see most often:
- Submission-required forms (often used to protect pages with a password login)
- Pages blocked by the Meta Robots tag or Robots.txt file (often used by webmasters to restrict access to their webpages)
Again, if any of this seems foreign to you, I am going to give you a way to make sure you don’t have these technical issues in a future lesson where I share the exact technology we set our clients up with.
What if you don’t want Google to crawl certain pages of your site?
There are some valid reasons that you may not want Google to crawl certain pages of your site. In these cases, there are a number of tags you can use to tell Google what to do. Here are several:
- Follow/nofollow – Using the “nofollow” tag tells search engines not to crawl a specific link. The default for any link is “follow.”
- Index/noindex – Using the “noindex” tag tells search engines to exclude a page from their results. The default for any page is “index.”
- Noarchive and nosnippet – Noarchive tells search engines not to cache the page, and nosnippet tells search engines not to add a description to the page’s title and URL in the search results.
Page Load Speed
It may surprise you that this is one of the factors that Google uses to determine search engine rank, but they’ve started to use it in recent years because a faster page load time indicates credibility. Most web users expect your website to load in two seconds or less and will abandon your site if it loads in three seconds or more. Furthermore, 79% of web shoppers will not become repeat customers if they have trouble with site performance. Don’t let page load speed be the reason you leave money on the table!
There are some great tools that can help you determine below time on your website. Here is the one that we use at Reputation Hacks: PageSpeed Tools
This tool will help you figure out how you can drastically reduce your page load time and will give you specific recommendations to fix any issues it finds.
Off-Page Search Engine Optimization
Off-page search engine optimization is an incredibly important part of ranking well in Google search results. We are going to go into this and much more detail in later lessons, but the most important thing to remember for off page search engine optimization is that you must build links to your site from authoritative sites with high Google page rankings.
At Reputation Hacks, we do not recommend purchasing links in order to get these external links back to your site. Our saying here is that if it’s easy to do it’s most likely not worth doing. Google also knows this trick and often penalizes any websites that it catches doing it.
Instead, we recommend guest blogging and creating link bait articles and infographics that will give authoritative websites a reason to link back to you. Again, we believe in creating websites for humans in addition to search engines. When you create content that’s of high value to people who own authoritative websites, they have a reason to link back to you.
The most important thing to remember about search engine optimization is that you want to create content that is readable to both search engines and humans. This requires maintaining a balance between talking to people and talking to a computer, but you can do a good job if you just follow the best practices described in this lesson.
In the next lesson, we’re going to talk about keyword analysis and research, which should help you figure out the keywords you need to be tracking and optimizing for. Since we’re working on reputation management, these keywords might be different than your current SEO campaign.
Throughout this course, I’m sure you’ll have a lot of questions, so be sure to ask using the comment section of this post. You can also reach out to me at jun [at] reputationhacks.com to get your question answered. See you in the next section!