Sometimes Google can act a lot like a high-maintenance human being. This is why he (or she?) is so hard to understand, why it can be so tricky to keep him happy. He has a series of complex emotions, doesn’t always think in black and white, and has a tendency to hold some serious grudges. So, like a volatile human, you’ll have to tread carefully around him and always keep on his good side. Because Google also happens to be a really important human. As a business owner, you might even consider Google to be a boss of sorts.
Like any decent boss, though, Google has at least hinted at what he likes and doesn’t like to see from sites around the web. Though the official “rules” change often, and some rules are slightly arbitrary anyway, your business website will have a better chance of ranking high in the search engine and avoid being penalized if you adhere to some of the best practices of the time. And while some new “rules” may be added every month, the old rules will always hold their ground.
If you’d like to keep on Google’s good side, these tips will help anchor you there… at least for the time being.
DON’T Ever Buy Links
Back in the good old days of “easy” SEO, you could just buy links to add to your website from third-party sellers and your rankings would magically skyrocket. Nowadays the link-selling world is a desert, and for good reason. It’s a low-quality and now obsolete practice, and anyone still practicing the exchange will be penalized heavily by Google. Beyond paying for links, you should also be careful with “reciprocal links” (agreeing to link to a partner site as long as they do the same), as well as guest blogging.
DON’T Ever Duplicate Any Content
It is never okay to steal other people’s content, and Google has transformed it into much more than a moral issue. The search engine will quickly recognize content that has been snatched from somewhere else on the internet, and will give the duplicating site a hefty penalty. You should even go as far to avoid duplicating content across multiple pages on your own site – always strive for fresh and original copy.
DON’T Overuse Keywords
Keywords are still important tools for quality SEO campaigns, but they must be used with care. The content you’ll be inserting the keywords into still needs to make sense and read well, so don’t even think about using the keyword over and over again for Google’s sake. You should also avoid linking over the same keyword too many times. If Google senses you’re designing copy for the search engine and not for the human user, you will be punished for it.
DON’T Litter Your Site with Advertisements
We all know how frustrating it is to land on a homepage that’s so littered with advertisements and pop-ups we forget why we ended up on that site in the first place. Even to a lesser extent, advertisements can be detrimental to your rankings if they at all impede your user experience. Advertisements should be subtly placed, and should never dominate a page or make the content difficult to see.
DON’T Overlook the Importance of Your Sitemap
Your “sitemap” is Google’s main insight into how your site is organized, and how they ensure your layout will make sense to the users. This is a little bit more difficult to understand, and you may need to invest in some web development help in pinpointing problems and restructuring your site map. It is important, however, and should be one of the first issues you address if you have a lot of pages on your site and you’re seeing low traffic.
DON’T Leave A Bunch of Empty URL’s Laying Around
In the case that you do have to restructure your site and assign new URLs for pages, never leave these now-empty URLs hanging there. Google will penalize you, and possibly even remove your site from their listings to spare users the annoyance of landing on error page after error page. Instead, use “301 Redirects”, which guides the user quickly to the right location and spares your user any needless grief. Also be careful to check links on your site that go out to other websites; if they are “broken,” or lead to an error page, remove them.
DON’T Let Your Site Get Shut Down
Always keep your web domain up to date. If you fail to renew your subscription and neglect getting your site back up and live quickly, Google is likely to remove you from its listings overall. Make sure you visit your site at least once a day to make sure everything is good to go, and use tools like Website Rocket to keep your social media profiles up to date (and, as a result, relevant in Google’s eyes).
DON’T Forget About Your Mobile Site
Yes, your mobile site matters. Google used to simply penalize the act of not having a mobile presence, but now that’s just a necessity. Google will refuse to consider your site as a priority if your mobile experience is slow, confusing, or otherwise frustrating.
DON’T Stop Checking Your Webmaster Metrics
Whichever tips you choose to implement (or not), always be sure to continually check your analytics to identify link problems and significant changes in ranking and site traffic. If you subscribe to Google Webmaster Tools, Google will usually send you messages to warn you if you’re breaking their “rules” and wandering over to their bad side. Keep on top of your metrics with Google Analytics or other tools, and you’ll always be in the know about which of your efforts are working, and which ones aren’t.
While this all may seem like a lot to remember, this is only the beginning of the list. Google updates their algorithm a few times a year, usually without officially announcing it right away, and many more no-no’s are added to the pile all the time. I know, it can be exhausting to stay on top of.
Just make an effort to keep checking your site, and dedicate your efforts to keeping your user experience clean and full of quality content. Your business website is a pretty worthwhile asset to invest in, and it can become all-powerful with Google as a friend.