SEOdamian's Blog

Helping others understand & share about technology, search

Google as a 3rd Grader

One of the challenges as an SEO specialist, when reviewing a site for a new client is gently letting the client know the difference between what a site actually says compared to what they think it says.

Many site developers assume that a graphic (especially if it is ‘cool’ and ‘stylized’) is obvious and clear in its meaning. The challenge is all the cultural assumptions that go into that communication.  More importantly (from an SEO specialist perspective) is that Google and other search engines like Yahoo, and the visually impaired (including most users of smart-phones) cannot ‘see’ or understand those logos.  That is why the ‘standard’ is to have text links on a site.

But even then, those links need to be complete enough and clear enough to communicate context and direction.  Many text links assume you came to the site from the ‘front door’ or home page. When I send a link to friends and colleagues I send them to the page they are most looking for, which is often not the home page.  Just as I don’t send them the cover of the book, if what I am recommending is in the 14th chapter.

So links that are clear and provide some context are very helpful. The easiest way to determine if you have provided enough contexts, is to ask yourself ‘would a 3rd grader understand the links and where you are going?’ If not, keep on providing more contexts, because that is about the sophistican of your 1st visitor – Google’s spider.  If you don’t get Google to understand, not many others will ever get to see your site.

You can argue that Google is stupid, but when you build a better search engine that controls 73% of the market (beating Google’s current market share), I will listen. Until then, what Google says, we follow.  They are the 800 pound gorilla in the room.

Besides the challenges of full intelligence in computers, Google’s 3rd grade understanding is also related to how most searches are entered.  When you read actual searches, you will see most are no more sophisticated than a 3rd grade level.  Therefore, Google matches the level of what its users request.  I am sure this is based on the feedback to Google and to users. I know when I put in more sophisticated searches and I get back the wrong or no answer, I simplify my queries until I get the answers I want.  So there is a loop where we are training each other.

As I started to say, a big challenge is what so many content developers think their words (in text not pictures/images) actually say. It is amazing how many skipped sentences there are in the final copy. Often, whole ideas get skipped. When pointed out, the response is often –‘well, they know what I mean’.  Guess what, Google does not, and more than likely, neither do your readers. And if they do, can they be sure they truly understand what you intended or are they just guessing?  The moral is, make sure your content is complete, and fully states what you intend to communicate.

So when designing your site, make sure the navigation and key topics of your site are understandable by a 3rd Grader and Google.

June 11, 2009 Posted by | How To | , , , , | Leave a comment

What should I do 1st to get ranked high in the search engines?

I am often asked, “What do I do first to get my site noticed on the search engines”?

Of course it is important to understand that SEO or Search Engine Optimization is best if it is an ongoing process to react to the world of other websites and changes in Google and other search engines way of ranking well. But we all want to take a pill and feel better in the morning, so here are some quick pills to take.

First, understand that Google has about 72% of all search engine traffic, so that alone says you should do whatever Google want. Second, the next 2 biggest search engines (Yahoo.com and Microsoft’s search engine-whose name seems to changes weekly) get most of the remainder traffic. Google basically sets the rules for ranking well on search engines – so lets do what Google wants.

So the question becomes – what should I do to rank high with Google.com?  3 ‘quick’ steps:

  • Register your domain name for at least 2 years. The reason for doing this is because Google thinks you will be around for a long time, and rates a website with a domain name registered for multiple years higher than a ‘fly by night’ one year registration. If you don’t have confidence that your site will be around for more than one year, then why should Google think you’ll be around and rate you higher?
  • Put a ‘good’ title on your page – a title that someone who does not know you would understand what the page is about without seeing the page.
  • Put a description on your page in the ‘meta’ tag section – again if you were emailing a description of the page to a stranger, that would let them know what the page is about and why they would WANT to visit it.

Domain Name registration

When Google looks at a new site, it is just like when we meet someone new.  We are trying to determine if that person is worth the effort to get to know. If that person is just stopping in the office, but you do not expect to meet again (say a friend of an employee that is leaving) – you probably do not put much into getting to know them. But when the new boss (that you think will stay around till at least your next review).  You prioritize her a lot higher and listen much more intently. So how does Google know a boss relationship vs. someone in the hall?  One hint is how long you register your domain name. If you register for 2 years, then you have ‘signed the lease’ for at least 2 years. That sense of commitment shows Google you plan to stick around and to value over someone who did not commit.

Page Title

When creating your website page there is a line of code called the TITLE line.  It can look like this:

<title>Social Media Marketing - Reputation Management, The Other Side of Social Media Marketing</title>

Notice this is not the typical ‘Home Page’ description. This is a keyword phrase and a clear benefit that includes the keyword phrase. Remember this might be the only thing that someone sees of your site in order to determine whether to visit your site.  Limit to around 70 characters, because that is what most of the search engines consider, as well as visitors read before making a decision. Your business name is usually not the correct title – unless someone is searching for you by name. If someone is searching for you by your product or service, that is what your site should be about.  Your website should be about your perspective customer’s needs, not about you.

‘Meta’ Tag Section

The meta tag section is the part of the website page that describes what a page is about.  This area has been abused in the past 13 years as people have tried to ‘game’, the search engines.  So search engines ignore most of the meta tags except the ‘description’ – this is what Goggle usually uses to describe your site in its listings. Because other people will read your description, it tends to trust it more.  A sample description of a page is:

<meta name="description" content="If you need Photoshop brushes or just love Photoshop brushes then come to Phatbrush. Phatbrush has High Quality Photoshop brushes of all kinds. Our Photoshop brushes will satisfy your hunger." />

Conclusion

These are few quick hints.  I will explain more as we go through different posts, but these are some quick hints that you should be able to implement in a day. Depending on Google, results may not show for a few weeks or more, depending on how often Google visits your website.

May 30, 2009 Posted by | domain name, How To, HTML Issue, Simple | , , , , , | Leave a comment