At the exact moment you are reading this posting, Google is probably tweaking its algorithm, the rules it uses to determine how your site ranks in its search results. This tweaking means your rankings in the search engine results will go up, and they’ll go down.

If Google’s mission is to organise the world’s information, then these tweaks means Google is attempting to get the most useful set of results for a particular search phrase.

So why does your website go up and down in the rankings? And why, sometimes, does it disappear and then reappear?

Google is looking at a huge range of quality measures, and whilst we don’t know the exact recipe, we do know that Google is looking at a number of fairly standard factors. It will weigh different factors in each tweak, and hence your website fluctuations in the search results.

So what can you do to improve your rankings in the search engines even when Google is tweaking?

1. Improve the links to your site

It can be a problem when too many of your links are reciprocal, or the links are of a very poor quality, or the links are not relevant to the content of your site. I would suggest that the effort of getting just one perfect inbound link far outweighs getting dozens of cheap and nasty links.

What’s a perfect link? It will come from a site that is considered an expert in your business arena. The page containing the link will have a good Page Rank. The words in the link (the “anchor text”) will have your key phrase in it. The page containing the link will have links to other high quality pages, but not too many links. And the page containing the link will be indexed by Google.

I won’t pretend it’s easy to get perfect links, but their rarity value explains their huge impact on your search engine rankings.

2. Improve the content on your site

Google is a text processing machine; that means you have to have great text on your website. How can you improve your content:

  • ensure you have a coherent focus or topic for your website. Google uses something called latent semantic indexingwhich means it is able to figure out what you’re talking about without exactly matching the words you’re using. So, if you sell cheap perfume, you’ll also want to be writing about discount fragrances, bargain scents, and cut-price cologne.
  • don’t duplicate your content. It’s a problem when a large percentage of your content is duplicated across multiple pages
  • don’t have empty pages. Minimal content on your pages is a danger signal to Google, and too many minimalist pages will hurt your rankings
  • link to other high quality websites in your topical community. I’m not talking about a general purpose links page, you need to link to appropriate sites within the body of your copy.

3. Respect your HTML

Web pages have specific characteristics that help the search engines to understand the content, so get your HTML right:

  • don’t have duplicate Title tags
  • don’t have duplicate Description meta tags
  • don’t stuff keywords into your Keywords meta tag, or your Alt tags associated with your images
  • don’t use invisible text (white on white background) or nearly invisible text, that is to say text which is too small or text that is nearly white on white

Search engine optimisation is a fine balancing act: getting the specific details of your web pages right, but also keeping a high level helicopter view of your content and inbound linking strategy.

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