Attracting relevant traffic to my website (from the point of view of what happens when you search Google)
When we search the web we provide a valuable starting point to the journey.
Many of us (most of us) will use Google.
What fascinates me is not just the mechanics of a Google search but the challenge of placing a web page right at the forefront of Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).
I’ve read and digested many articles over the years on the best practices for (Search Engine Optimisation) SEO. Some of those articles still hold water. Many don’t. The fact is that the algorithms that manage how web page URLs are returned to us from search engines such as Google’s change frequently. Sometimes subtly, sometimes quite radically.
Keeping abreast of such changes is something that benefits us all in the realm of web content production.
It’s not so much the practicalities of SEO that fascinate me but the theories. The science of SEO, if you like.
In SEO terms a good web page has relevant content. Relevant to whom? Relevant to the person who has searched for precisely the information you have to offer.
A good web page is not only relevant but legible. Better yet a good and legible web page has links to other relevant content (on your site or somewhere else) that in turn provides a reciprocal link.
This fundamental understanding (often controversially referred to as ‘web democracy‘) is still key to what drives Google’s algorithm. In all likelihood it won’t change in a hurry.
In short, if your web page is liked by several other site owners on a variety of domains, it counts as a good nod (or vote) to your content. Google, of course, favours such web pages in its resulting dataset. Better yet, if some or all of those reciprocal links are from sites that Google deems important, then the rank that Google assigns your page will improve.
So the immediate question for anybody concerned with SEO is How do I create relevant content that people will want to link to?
And there you have it. The million dollar question that countless have written about, many have succeeded in formulating but precious few of us ‘mere mortals’ have managed to capitalise on.
The nuts and bolt of writing rich content is for another post. Right now I want to share my own immediate thoughts on the mechanics that influence a favourable position in the SERPs.
Numerous factors affect your positioning in the hallowed ground of the top 3 search results in Google.
Here’s just a few:
- Mobile accessibility
If somebody searches using the phrase “ice cream shops in cheshire” then the cogs in the Google machine begin to turn and no doubt break down the sentence.
The following is not a precise science, rather it’s an understanding of what happens next based on my own logic and common sense. What actually happens when a Google search is triggered is fascinating and you’ll hopefully see that my own thoughts map onto Google’s own process.
In all likelihood a broad brush is applied in the first instance that trawls the index for that exact phrase.
The Google super-duper machine may well look for that phrase in the domain name, the page title and subsequent heading tags and hyperlinks; assigning some kind of a score along the way.
Kudos to anybody smart enough to have registered the domain icecreamshopsincheshire.co.uk (update: check this video on YouTube where Matt Cutts dispels the myth)
Any match for that phrase will flag your web site or page as relevant.
I don’t know but I imagine that the machine will then split the phrase up and apply synonyms to look for matches.
For example; shop and store are synonyms. The new phrase “ice cream stores in cheshire” may be applied.
Beyond this we have the question of popularity. For each site URL returned in the first pass we need to ascertain just how popular it is. How many sites link to it? How many pages does that particular page link to?
There may well be some form of time-stamping involved whereby Google can ascertain just how long a page has been linked to from across the web.
Now here’s a cool thought – what if Google could ascertain the ‘theme’ of your website based on its pages?
What if there was enough information in Google’s index to derive a theme and that theme was ice cream or sugary treats or summer foods. You get the gist. Google will undoubtedly use synonyms all over the place to find the best match. It makes sense to me that this functionality extends to the concept of themes.
So let’s shoot back up a couple of paragraphs to the bit where I mentioned the domain icecreamshopsincheshire.co.uk
If you have this domain and all of the content therein is specifically about where to buy ice creams or any other form of frozen food in Cheshire, you’re probably on a winner here. Better yet, you may well achieve a favourable position in the search results without having countless links to and from your site.
I could break some of this down. Where the Google network is looking for a match to words, phrases or themes amongst your web pages it’s going to be very concerned with whereabouts on the page such things reside. It may well look at your web page as we would a newspaper. If the headline contains our search phrase or one of its words, and an adjacent paragraph contains this word and right alongside that we have the next word in the phrase, well that has to be a winner.
Better to have “ice cream” in a sentence on a page than to have “ice” on one page and “cream” on another.
You may also have “ice” on page 1, “cream” on page 2, “shop” on page 3 and “cheshire” on each of those pages.
This may well score you some relevance.
But regardless of such a spread the best scores will come in for any page that contains the right words in the right order.
“Ice cream” on page 1 and “cheshire” on every page will definitely score you more favourably.
From a content creator’s perspective we are touching on the realm of ‘theme’ creation where “cheshire’, in our current example, forms part of the bedrock of our theme.
You could probably switch the word theme with niche in many respects.
There’s another key factor that in recent years Google has focused on and that’s the appearance of your web pages on a mobile device.
Mobile traffic accounts for a staggering percentage of daily site visits so it makes sense that Google takes a long hard look at just how well your site presents on a phone or tablet.
Much of this is covered in the realms of computer science, specifically the field of Inverted Indexing. This is essentially the practice of matching a document (web page) to a word or phrase. That is, it takes the word or phrase as the starting point and goes looking for associated documents. Forward indexing (the inverse), starts with the document and searches using the criteria of a word or phrase.
Specifics about word placement and building niche themes is a current fascination of mine and something that I’ll write about in more detail.