Friday, April 6, 2007

What Google Wants... Google Gets

What We Want

Since 1999 we have been speakers at various internet marketing seminars. One of the first items we discuss is, "What does "www" (as in mean?" Then we say that it doesn't mean "Wild, Wild West" nor does it mean "World Wide Web." We concluded that it really meant "What We Want," in that a web site has to be created for what your customers want.

What Google Wants

We have since updated the "www" component of our presentation to suggest that "www" should really be "wgw" - "What Google Wants." In this article we will discuss some do's and don'ts for your site as it relates to Google.

How & Why Google Ranks Your Site, and Why It Can Punish You.

Over the last few years many "tricks" have been tried to gain high search engine rankings. Some of the more popular "techniques" were:

Keyword Density - Old Way: The early search engine algorithms noted how often a web page used keywords and then assumed the higher the density of keywords, the more that page was "about" that keyword. In other words, a page that had 10% of its words as "mortgage" would be ranked higher than a page with only 5% of its words as mortgage.

Keyword Density - New Way: Google now has an unpublished percentage range that they consider relevant or excessive. In example, a page with "San Diego Home Loan" accounting for a 5.23% keyword density might rank high, while a page with 5.57% density would rank even higher, yet if the page had a 5.90% keyword density, it could be penalized for too much keyword density.

Hidden Text - Old Way: Someone would create a regular content page, and at the bottom of the page there would be a white font on a white background. A home loan company in Washington State might have used this technique to add words like Tacoma home loan, Olympia home loan, Spokane home loan, Seattle home loan, etc. to the page in an attempt to achieve ranking for these words. They would use hidden text because while the keywords were search engine friendly, they were not visitor friendly and cluttered the page.

Hidden Text - New Way: If Google catches hidden text they ban you. If the Google automated bots don't catch it (i.e., font color and background color equal the same) rest assured that one of your competitors will submit your site to their "search engine police".

Linking - Old Way: Google used a formula they called "PageRank" to help determine which sites would get highly ranked. A significant component determining the PageRank of your site was the number of sites linking to yours. The theory was that a site's "importance" was directly proportionate to the number of other sites linking to it. This gave way to link farms (automatic submission to a site for the sole purpose of a link), reciprocal link exchanges (I'll scratch yours if you scratch mine) and purchasing a link from a high PageRank site. Just a couple of years ago high PageRank sites sold links from their sites to yours for $1,000+ month.

Linking - New Way: Here is what Google now says about PageRank: "PageRank relies on the uniquely democratic nature of the web by using its vast link structure as an indicator of an individual page's value". In essence, Google interprets a link from page A to page B as a vote, by page A, for page B. But Google looks at more than the sheer volume of votes or links a page receives: it also analyzes the page that casts the vote. Votes cast by pages that are, themselves, "important" carry more weight and are instrumental in making other pages "important".

"Important, high-quality sites receive a higher PageRank, which Google remembers each time it conducts a search. Of course, important pages mean nothing to you if they don't match your query. So, Google combines PageRank with sophisticated text-matching techniques to find pages that are both important and relevant to your search."

The phrase they use, "...remembers each time," means that they monitor the increase in growth of the number of links to your sites. A red flag will be raised if you have 10 links one month, then the next month you have over 100 links. Their algorithm is looking for a natural, gradual increase in links to your site.

What this now means that if Google catches you using a link farm, or manipulating links to your site, they will ban your site.

This includes companies that would create "mini-nets." A mini-net is a series of domains, generally about the same topic, all linking to each other, all owned by the same person. An example of this is the web site owner who creates a site about "San Francisco home loans," another about "San Jose home loans," and yet another about "Oakland home loans." He then links between these sites in an attempt to manufacture PageRank.

The latest Google algorithm scans for factors such as the same owner name, the same DNS, the same registrar, the same phone number, the same date of domain registration, etc. Google will ban your site if you create a false linking system.

So What Does Google Want?

On the Google site it states, "In general, webmasters can improve the rank of their sites by increasing the number of high-quality sites that link to their pages."

Google actually lists what they want on their web site. Here is some information from their "Design and Content Guidelines":
  • Make a site with a clear hierarchy and text links. Every page should be reachable from at least one static text link.

  • Offer a site map to your users with links that point to the important parts of your site. If the site map is larger than 100 or so links, you may want to break the site map into separate pages.

  • Create a useful, information-rich site, and write pages that clearly and accurately describe your content.

  • Think about the words users would type to find your pages, and make sure that your site actually includes those words within it.

  • Try to use text instead of images to display important names, content, or links. The Google crawler doesn't recognize text contained in images.

  • Make sure that your TITLE and ALT tags are descriptive and accurate.

  • Check for broken links and correct HTML.

  • If you decide to use dynamic pages (i.e., the URL contains a "?" character), be aware that not every search engine spider crawls dynamic pages as well as static pages. It helps to keep the parameters short and the number of them few.

  • Keep the links on a given page to a reasonable number (fewer than 100).

A complete discussion of what Google wants can be found at

If Google Gets What They Want...

If you can satisfy Google's suggested design and content requirements, thus giving Google what they want, you will get what you want... a high ranking siteā€¦and a large increase in online generated mortgage leads.

For online mortgage leads please visit our mortgage leads page.

Originally published April 2006.

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