Ranking in Google: Understanding What Google Expects

Remember “Mayday”, the day a few months ago when Google released the results of algorithm changes that affect the way web page listings would be ranked for ‘long tail’ searches (phrases with 3 words or more)?

One of the most critical explanations Google provided about the change was actually quite simple and can be applied to any of the more than 400 adjustments to the algorithm the company makes throughout a given year.

Google’s Matt Cutts explains that the change is a way of “making sure things look good from a quality perspective.”

That’s it.

This is the explanation that should be your guiding principle behind the development, expansion and search engine optimization of each page of your website.  In their ‘Ranking in Google’ webmaster tutorial video on Youtube, Google states that among the many ranking factors ‘relevance’ and ‘importance’ are the two principle valuations.

To ensure the highest quality, Google aims to provide ‘relevant’ results that match the “query and interest of the user.” There are systems in place to help them achieve this including a degree of ‘personalization’ where the result is “customized to the individual’s search history.” Additionally, a degree of “importance” is attached to the web page through a system that evaluates the “quantity and quality of pages that link to it.” One of the more than 200 components of this valuation is something called “PageRank™”, which is a type of link analysis that determines the perceived value of a web page by the number and quality of “inbound links” from relevant, high quality sources that point to it.

Google recommends that the best way to increase your page’s PageRank™ “is to create good content, participate thoughtfully in relevant communities online and offline, and from this garner links naturally.” It is not acceptable to buy or sell pages with a high PageRank™. This includes the buying or selling of advertising where “you’ll want to make sure those links don’t pass PageRank by using the ‘no follow’ attribute.”

Google warns that that the web is changing at a frantic pace and that “constant content and link updates around the web” can affect your site’s presence in Google. It also cautions that web pages that violate the Google Webmaster Guidelines will “fall to a lower ranking.” The recommendation is to “carefully evaluate your site identifying and fixing any issues.”

For long term results, Google advises the following:

  • Think like your users
  • Provide content designed for users not search engines (no cloaking – sending different content to Googlebot than you are sending to users)
  • Consider how your users are likely to search for this content (use the language they use to search)
  • Don’t disappoint your users as they engage with content and links on your site (fulfill their expectations)
  • Regularly verify that all links on your site are still pointing to relevant resources that reflect well on you and your organization

To improve your ranking in Google you must first be honest with yourself about what is and isn’t working. Don’t confuse a sharp looking site with one that works to convert your target audience groups in addition to attracting them by ranking well in Google. Remember what Cutts said: “make sure things look good from a quality perspective.”

From Google’s standpoint, quality is measured by ‘relevance’ and ‘importance’. You are charged with proving that your web pages provide a frequented and valued resource to users whose search queries include your target keywords and phrases.

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