Understanding how to improve your search engine optimisation results in Google means getting to understand the Google snippets. Snippets are the results of searching in Google for something and is one of the basics of Search Engine Optimisation.
So we’ve got a few search engine optimisation tips here to help you achieve better search results in Google. SEO as it is known might seem like some kind of mysterious black art to many people. It’s true that Google’s closely guarded search algorithm is a mechanism that defies simple understanding. As Google users however we all innately understand that we can type something into the search field in Google and results are displayed based on Google’s search of websites around the world – the result is what is a called a Google snippet.
It requires a concerted effort for a business to win a spot on Google’s page 1 result with a winning google snippet. You will be up against competitors in the same field and/or in the same location seeking searchers attention with a range of keywords in use. We call this organic search engine optimisation – the use of semantics and language to capture the essence of the kinds of information searchers are using to find you online. Being found on page one is great, so if you can’t get there easily Google offers paid shortcuts in the form of advertising products like Adwords and the Google Merchant account. So now the space that used to be available for organic search results is now taken by Google’s paid advertising spots and Google Places listings. These results can now occupy the top third of Google page results and several spots at the bottom of the page as well! So you’d be smart to get a Google place and to Google+ page.
This article is not about how to do SEO or get your business on page 1, in fact its giving you some tips on how to get a great Google snippet and improve your search results.
It may help however to know what Google picks up from your website to display on its results. This way you can better understand what to do to improve your own SEO or to check upon what is being done for you. There are a lot of factors that can have a bearing on search results but let’s focus on what people actually see on Google.
From your Google listing you want visitors to understand you provide what they are looking for; beyond this you then want them to take action; to phone you directly (if that’s how you like to be contacted), visit your website, make a purchase, make an email inquiry, share their contact details with you, take up a free or trial offer, or join your mail list.
The information that Google displays in the search results is called a snippet and is pulled directly from your website so what people see in Google can be controlled. Understanding what’s in the Google result that displays will help you understand what others are seeing and why they take your desired action or not.
Most often the search results you see are not really ‘live’. Google will have visited your website sometime in the distant or recent past and taken a ‘snapshot’ of your site and stored or ‘cached’ it for quick retrieval. If you type ‘eumundi green’ into Google you will see a small line at the top in grey which says something like ‘About 385,000 results (0.38 seconds)’. Google can’t search 385,000 websites in one third of second because of the enormous amount of data it would have to process and the short time it has to provide a result. Instead it searches the stored (cached) information it keeps about your website on its own servers and displays this.
The frequency with which Google visits your website to scan for changes depends to a great extent on how often you update content on the site. When your website is fairly new Google will visit a few times to check it for new content – if you don’t regularly create new content Google will visit less and less because it ‘thinks’ it will not find new content.
The search result or ‘snippet’ is made up of three important components all of which can be controlled; the anchor link, the URL, and the meta description. Google takes note of a whole lot of other things when indexing your website that contributes to what page number a site appears upon. The snippet is merely the portion of information that we see as a result.
The anchor link is the title line at the top of your listing in blue (purple if you have already clicked the link). If you don’t customise this line Google will pull it from two places – the first part will be the specific page title and the second part will be the title of the website itself. This is the first thing people will read and the only link to your website from Google results. Make sure your web page title is correct and relevant to the specific page content.
The URL is the address of the page that Google has found a result for – it’s important for two reasons; firstly because it tells visitors a bit more about what’s on the page before they click the link, but even before that Google uses it to identify the type of content that might be on the page. Make sure the URL says what’s on the page – badly named pages will affect the page ranking. Over and above the actual website address the URL can be up to 3-5 words which should ideally be separated by underscores although hyphens are ok e.g. http://website.com.au/search_engine_optimisation_tips. Use the URL to say what’s on the web page and keep the name relevant. This same content needs to appear repeatedly within the content of the page.
The meta description displays 156 characters and describes what you will find on the page if you click through – it could contain a phone number, so if its your preference for people to call you it should be visible in the meta description. If the snippet is pulled from a news feed or blog it may be preceded by a date and time of posting – if the date is too far back people are unlikely to click, so if you are using a blog to attract traffic keep the content fresh. There’s lots you want to say but think of the meta description as being like a one-time-only-ever text message and make it relevant.
The three components of the displayed snippet contribute to whether or not a visitor will take the action you want. Make sure that the content is relevant and that when the visitor clicks through they will find what they expected on your webpage. You may have noticed that I have used the word relevant repeatedly – it’s just to pound home the point that Google’s algorithm is based on over 200 signs or clues as to what might be relevant to the searcher. Happy searching. Go and Google it.
Nick is a principle at Digital Marketing Strategy Group. He teaches and consults in business change, web design, organic SEO, web security and co-operates the Creative Hub Co-working Space in Doonan near Noosa.
Find out more about what his crew can do to help your business thrive online at www.dmsg.com.au