Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Making Friends With Google

As the Google guys foresaw with such prescience when they created their search engine, the first and foremost reason people want to go online is to gather information. Internet users want answers. They want them quickly, and they want them to be accurate.

It is to this end that Google created its search algorithm, which gives preference to websites with lots of links back to other credible websites. How often do you click through four or five pages of Web results to find what you’re looking for? The statistics say not very. In fact, about 90 percent of Web traffic goes to the top 30 search results. That’s a pretty slim margin!

None of this is a secret – you can read about it in The Google Story by David Vise and Mark Malseed. You can also read about it in Google’s “About” pages. They explain the way their system works pretty clearly on this site. Just go to the Google Webmaster Help Center and check out all the information they’ve posted about how to improve your PageRank™. They even have a Webmaster Blog that talks about all the developments over the past year.

The key here is to provide your customers accurate, helpful information. Articles crammed full of repeated keywords no longer fool Google, Yahoo! or any other major search engine… and yet people keep writing them! Do you remember the days when you’d enter a search for “boating” and come up with 500 websites on completely unrelated topics, just because someone had crammed “boat” “boating” and “sailing” into the description? Google pretty much put a stop to that when it came on the scene, but keyword-stuffing persists in clogging up the Web nonetheless.

It is still true that the best way to attract visitors to your site is to link it to as many other sites as possible, but the way to do that is by writing solid content. Here are a few tips:

1) Write about what you know! You own a small business or run a website – write about what it’s like to start your own company, or about a product or service you sell. Do you have a particularly interesting life experience? Write about that. There are no limits here!

2) Write as though you’re talking to a friend. Maintaining a conversational tone will make it easier to get the words out, and you can always go back and edit later. The biggest mistake a lot of people make is only writing one paragraph and then agonizing over it until it’s perfect. It’s much better to write down everything you have to say and then go back and read it in one piece.

3) Write about something others want to read. Do you know how to build a website? Thousands of people search for that topic every day. Goodness knows I have. Writing informative “How To”-type articles is a great way to inform your readers and get those eyeballs on your webpage.

4) Don’t make it too long. The ideal article length for publication on a broad scale is between 400-750 words. Less than 400, and content sites aren’t interested. More than 750 words and your reader has moved on or fallen asleep.

To that end, I’ll wrap this up! Here’s the bottom line: It’s getting harder and harder everyday to fool Google into thinking that SEO articles are actually good content. Just because people continue to try to buck the system doesn’t mean it’s necessary – and in the end it takes just as much if not more hard work.

Honestly, how easy is it to write a 500-word article containing the phrase “Caribbean yachting” 40 times? It would be so much better – for your readers and for your business – just to write about that fabulous cruise you took over Christmas.

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