A lot of people feel that Google is treating them unfairly when it comes to search rankings. If you are one of these people, let me be perfectly blunt. There’s a good chance this is your fault. You have to play by Google’s rules if you want to have a good chance of being found in Google (and while there are certainly other ways to generate web traffic, Google is obviously a pretty big one). That said, Google will also be the first to tell you that “no algorithm is perfect”. Sometimes they don’t get it right. But are you doing everything in your own power to earn Google’s RESPECT?
Is Google giving you the RESPECT you deserve? Comment here.
Is your site showing up in search results for its targeted keywords? If not, maybe you’re not effectively using these keywords. Google is on to keyword stuffing, and content that is purely written for search. Do not over-saturate your content with keywords you wish to rank for. That said, you can use them as they make sense without compromising the flow of your content. Think titles, image labels (alt tags/title tags/captions), etc. It doesn’t hurt to keep this stuff in mind as you produce content. Just don’t do it in a way that compromises the quality of your page.
Is Google showing site links for your site when it appears in search results?
Right now, sitelinks are automated, but Google says it may incorproate webmaster input in the future. Frankly, I’d be very surprised if they didn’t. Still, there are best practices you can follow. “ For example, for your site's internal links, make sure you use anchor text and alt text that's informative, compact, and avoids repetition,” Google says.
If Google is showing sitelinks for your site, but you don’t like the ones they’ve chosen to display, you can demote URLs to let Google know which ones you don’t think are appropriate. To do this, go to Webmaster Tools, click the site, and go to “sitelinks” under “site configuration”. In the “For this search result” box, complete the URL you don’t want to appear as a sitelink. In the “demote this sitelink URL” box, complete the URL of the one you don’t want to appear. Note that it might take Google a while to reflect this in search results.
The Algorithm Updates
It's not just about what Google has done in terms of algorithm updates. It's about what you should be doing. But perhaps you have been hit by recent algorithm tweaks. If Panda, for example, hit your site, then drastic changes may be needed. Google considers your site to be of low quality. Perhaps a site redesign is in order. Google has a whole list of questions you should be asking yourself about your site in terms of quality.
Included on that list is “Does this article have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with the main content.” Google said last week that it is testing algorithms that look more at this factor above the fold. Be prepared for that.
Google Is Listening.
If you think you’ve done everything you need to do to make your site Panda-friendly, and Google is still not giving you the RESPECT you think you deserve, then let them know. The company insists that it is listening. Go to this thread and make your voice heard. Last week, they even said they have an Excel sheet of about 500 sites from this thread (at least, I assume this is the thread they were referring to). There is a person responsible for false positives, they said. You may have a legitimate beef, and Google, at least to some extent, recognizes this.
Are You Expecting Google To Be Perfect?
Google isn't perfect. They know this. In fact, they make this point themselves all the time It’s why they constantly tweak their algorithm. They’re not launching all of these updates just to mess with webmasters. Google makes over 500 changes to its algorithm over a year’s time. They’re trying to improve the quality of their search results. It’s not in Google’s best interest to return results to users that aren’t helpful. They don’t want to send people to Bing, which is marketing its search engine much more heavily than Google. Whether you think the quality of Google’s results have gotten better or not, this is their goal. Google considers Panda a “positive change across all of its known measurements,” by the way. I'm sure some of you disagree.
Still, you might see lesser competitors ranking above you in search results, and that can be very frustrating. For some reason, Google is giving them more RESPECT. Do you think it’s going to do you any good to just sit back and complain though? It’s your responsibility to analyze your competition. Look at the page that is ranking above yours. Are there some things about that content or page that they are doing better than you? Richer content? A cleaner design? Google has over 200 signals. Keep this in mind. Look for anything positive about that page, and then look at yours and compare and contrast.
Ultimately, it’s about Google seeking to rank sites on every topic imaginable by a using a combination of at least three big factors to determine relevancy: quality, authority and recency. Sites can rank above you based on how Google is ranking the importance of these three factors at the moment a search is done. If something is in the news, and your site has an up-to-the-minute article on the topic, you might rank above sites with more authority for a while. Your goal as a webmaster should be to become an authority on a specific topic. Get people to link to you. Create author pages, if you are a publisher, and utilize authorship markup.
Is Google Getting It Right?
As mentioned, Google is not perfect, but is it getting it right in most cases? What do you think?
Let’s look at an example of a set of search results for the query “google panda”.
Note: This is a search performed while logged out, from Lexington KY (location can sometimes play a role. It’s hard for me to say how much of a role it played in this case, as it’s not a location-specific query).
WebProNews ranks number 5 in this case. Now, the Google Panda update is something that WebProNews has covered rigorously all year long. This is a topic I feel fairly comfortable saying that Google gives us some amount of authority on. But we’re OK with our ranking here. The first result is an informational Wikipedia entry. It makes sense for something like this to appear first for such a broad Panda-related query. It tells you what the term is. Second is an article from SEOmoz - certainly an authority in the search industry. Same with the third result, Search Engine Watch. While we may be competitors with these sites on a query like this, both of those sites are very focused on search. It make sense that they would rank well. While WebProNews certainly covers search a great deal, and we do consider ourselves an authoritative site on this topic, we also have a much broader spectrum of topics we cover.
Number 4 is unrelated, but it comes from code.google.com itself, and is about “pandas - Powerful Python data analysis toolkit”. This result is a little questionable, but on the other hand, it is from Google’s own domain, and it might be tricky for Google’s algorithm to know this isn’t what I was referring to. Keep in mind, this query was performed while logged out. When I perform the same query logged in, I get more actual panda search-related results before that one.
Number 5 is WebProNews (though honestly I’m not sure if this is the most relevant article of ours on the subject to come up for this search), and number 6 is Search Engine Land. While Search Engine Land is more in line with SEOMoz and Search Engine Watch in terms of its focus on search only, you can see that the WebProNews piece that ranks above it is more recent, and that may have played a role in this case.
Are the results for this query the absolute best they could be? I would say no, but they’re not terrible. Again, Google isn’t perfect.
Create a site that has rich content and is easily crawlable by Googlebot, and loads quickly for visitors. That’s a good start.
It’s also frustrating when sites scraping your content are ranking above your own site. The fact is that Google’s algorithm simply can’t always tell which one is the original piece. You might think that the recency factor even favors the scrapers. You can file DMCA complaints and whatnot, but this can be a huge pain, especially if you put out a lot of content, and it’s all getting scraped, and by multiple sites.
Well, you can let Google know as soon as you publish your content, so they know it is posted before the scraped version. This was one thing discussed at PubCon last week. Barry Schwartz’s liveblogged account of Google’s presentation says:
Another trend is sending information to Google, such as for scraper sites ranking above you, what if you can ping google with information so they have it first.
What if you could send a ping to Google to let Google know you’ve published content...
He then shows a picture of the Slide Google used in the presentation, which says:
Worth doing now:
1. Sign up for Webmaster Tools
2. Sign up for email alerts
3. Set up “fat pings” when you publish: pubsubhubbub.appspot.com
4 Subscribe to : Webmaster Blog, Inside Search Blog, Webmaster Video Channel
Google also has a form for reporting scraper pages. On the form page, it says, “Google is testing algorithmic changes for scraper sites (especially blog scrapers). We are asking for examples, and may use data you submit to test and improve our algorithms.”
Do You Deserve Google's RESPECT?
In some cases Google isn't giving you RESPECT because you don't deserve it. Either your site is of poor quality, lacks a following (backlinks, social activity, etc.) or you simply aren't following the basic Webmaster Guidelines that Google lays out. You can find these here. They’re broken up by Design/content, Technical and Quality.
You may feel like a seal jumping through hoops, but if you want Google's RESPECT you gotta RESPECT those hoops.
Fulfill Searchers' Needs.
Another piece of advice to get more Google RESPECT would be to place more focus on the long tail. There are some key words that you’re just not going to rank for. But a lot of search isn’t about that one coveted key phrase. It’s about people looking for help with things, and their queries often stretch far beyond that key phrase. People have gotten better at searching over the years. They are entering longer queries, and are often very specific. This is what has made sites like eHow so successful. The key is to make sure the content is up to par in the quality category. When it's not, that's when it becomes a problem.
There is still opportunity to rank in results for queries seeking very specific things. You should be providing relevant content to satisfy these needs. The great thing about content is that if you keep writing content that is relevant to your industry (including newsworthy topics related to your industry), that will help you send Google those recency signals. If you’re writing every day, for example, you’re always going to have something that’s recent. The quality has to be there obviously, but if you can consistently put out quality, relevant content that will also help establish you as an authority. Then suddenly, you’ve got fresh, relevant, authoritative content, and Google is probably looking at you in a much better light, and hopefully ranking you accordingly.
If you want Google’s RESPECT, the most important thing you can do is listen to what they say. Follow news about Google. Pay attention to Webmaster Tools. Listen to Matt Cutts and other Googlers when they talk about how Google search works, whether that means things said at conferences, Matt’s regular webmaster videos (which we often cover here), or things posted to Twitter, Google+, etc. Just pay attention to what Google is saying.
You may think Google has too much power of the Internet, and in some ways maybe they do, but in the end it's really about the users. It's the users using Google that give Google its power.
You may wish to decrease your dependence on Google for traffic, and by all means do so. That’s a good thing. However, if you want Google’s RESPECT, you simply have to utilize the information they give you, because Google is going to do what Google wants (within regulatory approval), and its share of the search market isn’t shrinking. Ultimately, you’re not pleasing Google to please Google the company. You’re pleasing Google to get regular people to your site, because a whole lot of regular people use Google, and they use it a lot. And generally speaking, they don’t care about Google/webmaster politics. They just want to find what they’re looking for.
Is RESPECTing Google’s ways enough to improve your search rankings? Tell us what you think in the comments.