How Do I Get My Website on the First Page of Google?
How Google (and other search engines) Work
The first thing you should realize about Google is that Google is NOT the Internet. Just because your website does not show up on Google, does not mean it is not on the Internet. Your website can be published live on the Internet without being displayed in Google's search results for a particular keyword.
The way Google and other search engines display websites is this: Google has automated computer systems working around the clock that randomly visit websites all over the Internet, take snapshots of each page, and file them away in a massive database.
As part of taking a snapshot of each web page, Google's system reads every word and other content on a web page in order to determine the specific subject of the page. Google uses this collected data to determine which web pages to show, and in what order, for a particular keyword search.
In other words, Google's computer algorithms dynamically determine which web page on the Internet is the most relevant for a specific key word or key phrase and displays it first. It then displays the second most relevant page, and so on. The resulting list of web pages is known as a Search Engine Results Page (SERP).
A SERP is made up of 3 main sections:
- The top section usually consists of 3 paid text ads that relate to the keyword used to conduct the search
- The right hand column also consists of several paid text ads that relate to the keyword used to conduct the search
- The main section in the middle consists of "organic" (non-paid) listing of web pages that are relevant to the keyword used to conduct the search
How Do I Get My Site on Google?
First, you need to make sure your website has been indexed by Google. To find out if it is, type site:yourdomain.com into the Google search box, replacing yourdomain.com with your actual domain name. If you see a listing of your website's pages, then Google has already indexed your site and will continue to visit it occasionally to check for updates. If your website is not listed, submit it here: http://www.google.com/addurl. It will take 1 or 2 weeks for Google to visit and index your website.
Secondly, remember, Google will only display web pages that are relevant to the keyword being searched. The first step is to make sure your web page's text is related to the keyword in question. If it's not, chances are Google won't show it.
Third, just because your website does not show up on the first page, doesn't mean it is not showing up at all. Go to the bottom of the results page and click "Next" for page 2 and so on. Your website may be on page 2, page 82 or somewhere in between.
Okay, My Website is on Google, But It's on Page 41! How Do I Get it To Show On Page 1?
Ah! You've asked the million dollar question. An entire industry has been built to answer this question and millions of dollars are spent each year to accomplish this! My first question for you is, "How much money do you have?" Just kidding, but seriously, the good news is you can pay to be on the first page of Google and it doesn't have to be a lot of money.
The quickest and easiest way to get on page 1 of Google for a particular keyword is to pay for an advertisement. You sign up with Google, choose the keywords you would like to target, then "bid" (yes, like an auction) on how much you would like to pay every time your ad is clicked on. This is called "pay-per-click bidding". The higher you bid per click, the higher your ad will appear to the top of the page.
You can also set a daily budget so that when your budget is met, Google will not show your ad any more that day so it won't be clicked on and you won't be charged. This is a cheap and easy way to show up on Google's first page.
The other way to get on page 1 of Google and other search engines is the organic, or natural, method. These are the main results that show in the larger left column of the search engine results pages. These results cannot be achieved by paying money to Google - they are achieved with careful and longterm manipulation of many factors that Google uses when ranking relevancy. For example:
- Quality of Inbound Links (the most important factor!) - If other sites are linking to yours, especially big important sites that have content relating to yours, then Google will rank your site higher.
- Keywords in Page Content - Obviously, if the keywords you are targeting actually appear on your site in the text and titles of the pages, you will rank better for those keywords.
- Trustworthiness of Domain Name - The longer you've owned the domain, the better. Actually, the length of registration helps too (ie 5 year renewal vs 1 year renewal).
- URL Structure - "Pretty" URL's are better (http://bigbuddymedia.com/blog is better than http://bigbuddymedia.com/index.php&id=54). If your page URL's are human readable, that's a good thing.
- Internal Link Structure - Your site should be easy to navigate and have a logical link structure.
- Bounce Rate - Your bounce rate is the percentage of 1-page visits - the lower the better. This means visitors are visiting more than just one page of your site consistently.
- Outbound Links - The links you place on your website should be relevant to the content of your website. Google doesn't like weird link exchanges that have nothing to do with your industry.
...and many, many more!
Additionally, just because you rank well for one keyword or key phrase, does not mean you will rank well for a similar key word/phrase. Also, Google is constantly updating their ranking algorithms so today's rankings may not equal tomorrow's rankings. Expect to see your site move up and down in the rankings on a daily or weekly basis - it may even drop from the rankings altogether. This is why SEO should always be ongoing.
Have any questions? Drop them in the comments and I'll do my best to point you in the right direction!