The Internet is a big, big place made up of millions and millions of words and more are being added all the time. New articles are being added to existing sites and whole new sites are being created in every minute of every day, so how do you make yours stand out?
The answer is Search Engine Optimisation (or SEO). No-one knows exactly how Google ranks its pages, because the search engine giant has been very careful not to let all of its dark arts out into the public domain and risk people gaming the search algorithm and ruining the USP of one of the most-used and well-known sites on the web.
However, it also realises that some rudimentary details of how search results are ranked is important to help those legitimately trying to make their sites rise in the rankings and the better the search results against what individuals are querying, then the better for Google and the consumer confidence in it.
So what do we know? We know that Google (and other search engines, but Google is the big daddy and so we will focus on that) sends crawlers, also known as spiders, to automatically look over and index all new and existing content on a regular basis.
These crawlers, which you won`t notice operating, are looking for all sorts of information within your website and its pages which Google can use to make judgements about how good your site is, whether it actually does what it claims to do and how it should rank against other similar pages.
This is where meta data and keywords become very useful, because there are areas on each web page which you can use, out of view of the main text that any user sees, to tell these crawlers what the page is about and which keywords you would like associated with it.
The crawler will absorb this information, whilst also checking to see that what you say the page is about actually corresponds to the content. This is to stop, for example, stationery suppliers saying their page is about Britney Spears or Rihanna to try and divert some of the huge number of searches that are done around celebrities, but which benefit neither the searcher, who is left disappointed, nor Google, which has provided the rogue result. It then ranks your page among other similar pages, which will determine whether you come up on page one or page six of the Google results for, say, plumbers in Maidstone.
Exactly what else goes into the rankings is not clear, but we do know that linking to other trusted sources, such as any plumbers` guilds or professional bodies and getting them to link back to you, helps. We also know that regularly refreshing and updating content helps, as the crawlers come back to check out what is new, which can improve your ranking.
So whether your business is plumbing or deep cleaning, what your website says and how it says it is very important to how you rank in Google.