2013 has seen Google drop a number of new things to start thinking about when optimising your website for Google. We've cherry picked some of the big ones to supplement the content we've previously published on working with Google.
Content is still King
Google's recent changes do nothing more than reinforce the importance of remembering to provide good, meaningful content. When you think about "how can I improve my search engine ranking", you should think "how can I improve my content". In doing this, you'll give Google more reasons to link to your website and provide you with better rankings.
As part of Google's "Penguin" update, they contacted a large number of web developers through the Webmaster Tools interface reporting that they've found links which they don't believe are very genuine in nature. For some websites which have been using link farms or other automatic link generators, the affects of this were great resulting in a ban from Google's index and an appeal process they have to go through to get their site back into Google again.
Google was however very heavy handed with this approach and has hit a number of sites which genuinely weren't trying to manipulate Google's results but had been receiving a stronger search ranking due to the dynamic structure of their sites. For these sites, your web developer will need to make modifications to your robots.txt file to prevent Google from accessing these dynamically generated areas of your site.
For a long time now, we've know Google has been penalising websites which don't put in place measures to prevent a breach of their "duplicate content" rules. Data Siloing is really a natural follow on technique Google want's us to deploy to help with this.
For example, take the two links below:
A page about Brown Cats under the category of "Cats": http://animals.com/category/cat/brown-cats/
A page about Brown Cats under the category of "Brown Animals": http://animals.com/category/brown-animals/brown-cats/
Both these links would appear in your Google XML sitemap and appear to be in different sections of your website which would make Google think they are different to each other. However, the final content on the page which loads will be 99% the same (bar some dynamic elements like breadcrumbs, etc). Given this, it actually breaks the duplicate content rules and needs to be addressed.
The technique used to address this is known as Data Siloing and effectively insists that a single page should only appear under one category as far as Google is concerned. Any additional categories which you wish to also file the page under will need to do so using "nofollow" meta tags.
For a typical website, this isn't likely to be a concern but Blogs (like this one) and E-Commerce websites do utilise multiple category assignments and can result in duplicate content breaches and siloing your data is the best way to deal with it.
Eric Schmidt (Google CEO) has recently published a number of thoughts on the topic of "Authorship" in his new book. The idea being that Google users would be better served if Google delivered them results from well known authorities on a topic. In a world full of amateur bloggers, you can see why a recipe for Roast Chicken from Jamie Oliver would be "more appealing" to a Google user as apposed to that of a food blogger. Previously Google relied on in-coming links to push Jamie's recipe above our unknown food blogger. However, with tools like Google+, it's now possible to get a better idea of "who" wrote the content and it's this "who" factor which some think we're starting to see playing a role in where websites are being listed.
Get on to Google+
To be precise, Google haven't ever clearly stated that being in Google+ will change were your website is listed in Google. With this said, Google wants Google+ to be a success and is pulling in a large number of aspects from Google+ into it's regular search results. Furthermore, it's integrating it's other services (like Google Places) into Google+ meaning that your Google Places listing is now a Google+ Business listing. Combine this with the idea of Authorship and Google rewarding sites whereby they know who actually created the content and you're starting to see how big a role Google+ can start to play in your website being found on Google.
Increase your website's "Authority"
I debated including this topic as the idea of improving the "authority" of your website isn't new. It is however a buzz word which is being thrown around a lot right now and part of the reason for this is because of the number of new factors being used to establish the "authority" a website is given by Google.
If you're not familiar with this idea of improving the "authority" of you website, it's pretty simple. Microsoft is an "authority" on the topic of Microsoft products. The ATO is an authority on Australian Taxes and, no doubt, if you search for your own site by name, you'll find that you are an "authority" on things to do with your business / organisation.
The trick is however, you probably don't want to be "just" an authority on your own company / organisation. You want to be seen by Google as being an "authority" on a service you provide or a product that you and 100 other people sell. To do this, you need to provide Google with reasons to consider you an authority on this topic over your competition.
Ways to increase your authority on a topic include:
- Writing more on the topic. This means multiple pages breaking things in to sub topics, not just an overview.
- Expose your yourself and your website as being a source of value for others on this topic via posting information about it into the public realm. This could be videos on YouTube, Google+ Pages, Tweets, Slideshare Presentations, etc. Whatever you feel might engage the people who are looking for information on that topic.
- Interact with others who are also interested in that topic. This means posting on forums, responding to tweets, advising people on Stack Exchange, Yahoo! Answers, etc. Don't forget to plug your website when you do though. If you can point someone from Yahoo! Answers to your site for more information, this will build your authority in Google's eyes.
By taking this approach, you don't just improve your search engine position, you also improve your public perception of you and your organisation which will organically lead to more traffic on top of that which comes from Google.