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What are the best ways to increase a site's position in Google?

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In addition, how is StackOverflow always so high? –  rlb.usa Jul 8 '10 at 19:12
    
*See the first answer. –  Gareth Farrington Jul 8 '10 at 19:14
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should be community wiki, imho. there will be no "right" answer. –  akira Jul 9 '10 at 3:37
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@akira: almost all questions about SEO will never have a right answer cause derived from webmasters' experience, but not scientifically provable (nobody knows how the Google algorithm really works). Going on marking community wiki almost each qestion related to SEO makes this website not very interesting. If we can not ask SEO questions in here, where are we supposed to ask them? You should rather call this website "Pro Webmasters, but NO SEO"! –  Marco Demaio Aug 11 '10 at 10:57
    
Check out meta.webmasters.stackexchange.com/questions/235/… for a discussion on why this is community wiki and check out meta.webmasters.stackexchange.com/questions/231/… for the discussion about when to use community wiki in general. These are open ongoing discussions so PLEASE give us your thoughts and feelings. They will affect how the Mods treat questions like this. We want to hear from all of you! –  RandomBen Aug 14 '10 at 15:06

20 Answers 20

The absolute best long term strategy is to have lots of relevant content that is updated frequently and is easily accessible to your site's visitors.

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do frequent updates improve your standing? –  Gordon Gustafson Aug 21 '10 at 14:56
    
Yes, frequent updates to your content will help you rank higher. –  tnorthcutt Aug 22 '10 at 20:41
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Oh, you mean... be a relevant and useful resource... that deserves its rank? –  instanceofTom Dec 22 '10 at 0:19
up vote 154 down vote
+100

Here are some rules I follow:

  • Try not to repeat content
  • Try to get linked from other, relevant and high quality websites
  • Try to make sure your outgoing links relevant to the content of your site (rel="nofollow" for ones that aren't, such as ads)
  • Give each page a relevant (and unique) title
  • Add in a meta description to each page describing the contents or purpose. Keep in mind that meta descriptions are not used as much today
  • Mark up your site using schema.org and authorship markup, if applicable, to display rich snippets
  • Build a sitemap for your website and submit it using the Google Webmaster Tools.
  • Keep content unique and relevant to your website
  • Use HTML correctly (header tags, titles and alt attributes on images)
  • Try to use relevant keywords in the URL
  • Ensure a fast load time
  • Use HTTPS for everything.

Generally, if you follow these rules, your domain will naturally rank better with Google over time. If you try to speed this process up, using things like keyword spamming on your website, you are likely to be picked up and blacklisted by Google so avoid this wherever possible.

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Is keeping outgoing links low really a good idea? –  Casebash Jul 10 '10 at 1:50
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+1 for including everything, even the 'fast load time'. –  Evan Plaice Jul 12 '10 at 16:04
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@Casebash: Don't worry about outbound links if the links are valuable to your content & to your users (but add a rel=nofollow if the links are ads). –  John Mueller Jul 24 '10 at 18:39
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@John: Aren't rel=nofollow attributes ignored by Google now? –  pate Nov 24 '10 at 12:56
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@Tchalvak: Actually, nofollow is the way to handle untrusted links. That would almost certainly be from users, but not all users are necessarily untrusted. –  DisgruntledGoat Jul 26 '11 at 9:49

The absolute best way to improve your position in Google is to have many other websites linking to your site. This is why text links in blogs are so popular — Google uses them primarily in place of meta tag keywords, as they're usually more accurate.

As described by tnorthcutt, having lots of relevant content is also helpful, as Google can read and associate your site with its content. Additionally, in an ideal world, having lots of relevant content will cause others to link to your site.

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From my experience, Google rankings are about 80% links from external sites. –  Dan Gayle Jul 8 '10 at 19:28
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Quantity does not always exceed quality. –  Virtuosi Media Jul 30 '10 at 22:34

To boost your rank:

  • update site regularly
  • get good back links over time
  • use Google Keyword tool and Google trends to see what content is most relevant
  • make your site accessible
  • make your site light weight and use less http requests
  • link to great websites
  • use more content then HTML
  • use friendly URLs
  • use a domain that is up in years
  • link to page within your own site
  • provide a robots.txt and sitemap to Google Web Master tools
  • post quality over quantity
  • optimize your website for users not just search (kinda odd but true)
  • use web standards
  • use microformats, RDFa, ARIA and schema.org.
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With regards to "Use a domain that is up in years"; ONLY do this if that domain has good rep! Otherwise you will be doomed for a very long time –  Jason Nov 16 '10 at 14:01
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Can you provide any reference regarding how microformats help seo? Not disagreeing - just interested :) –  UpTheCreek Mar 10 '11 at 13:36
    
+1 for "optimize your website for users not just search (kinda odd but true)" this is incredibly important now –  tim.baker Oct 25 '13 at 16:21

Search engine strategies are designed to find the best or most relevant content, not just the loudest. If someone finds a way to trick the search engine and get high rankings today, it will likely not work tomorrow. Don't make the mistake of trying to outsmart the search engines — good pages with good content, structure, and standards support will always win.

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To answer the question directly, the only ways for a page to gain high rankings in Google are:

  1. Be relevant for the search term. This means having relevant text/keywords on the page (including the title, headings and URL).
  2. Have lots of links pointing to your page, preferably from quality sites that are well-ranked themselves.

That's not to say the other answers posted are wrong, but they are all indirect versions of those two key rules. Having the best and freshest content means you will naturally gather more links over time. (Although I'll concede, the new "speed factor" doesn't really fit either of these criteria.)

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rel='nofollow' all untrusted outgoing links.

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Is this really relevant now? Before, nofollow would stop pagerank leakage, but not the pagerank 'share' leaves your site, but is simply discarded. –  UpTheCreek Feb 21 '11 at 9:46

These are both just from personal experience, so take them for what they're worth:

  • Ensure that your site is reliable. If Google picks up a lot of error codes when indexing your site, you may see a decrease in your placement in the results.

  • Don't change too much at once. If you're constantly churning your site structure, titles, in-text keywords and other factors, Google doesn't ever get a chance to "settle in".

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Uh, but stackoverflow itself rather flies in the face of that rule. –  Kzqai Jul 26 '11 at 12:41
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Err, the second one, that is, not the first. –  Kzqai Aug 3 '11 at 16:15

A lot of people look for technical tricks for SEO and ignore the big picture. You need both. Your SEO (and business) strategy is every bit as important as SEO tactics. There are more than 200 SEO factors that go into rankings, but here are a few of the more important SEO factors that I've experienced, both tactical and strategic:

  • Have a website worth visiting. If your website isn't designed for users first, most of the time it won't do well in the search engines.
  • Make your site crawlable. Don't rely on Flash or JavaScript navigation. If you need to use JavaScript, use it to enhance an existing (X)HTML menu, not create it. You won't even need a sitemap if your site is crawlable in the first place (but it doesn't hurt). RSS feeds also help you get crawled.
  • Do your keyword research using Google's Keyword Tool. I guarantee that you're missing out on traffic opportunities if you don't do this (and most people don't). Take 5 minutes to make sure that your content is hitting the most popular search terms for its subject matter. It's worth it.
  • Make a bigger website. Backlinks matter and internal links from your own pages count. The easiest, surest, and most efficient way to get backlinks is to increase the number of pages on your site. The bigger your search engine footprint, the more weight you have to throw around. This is one of the reasons blogs are recommended for SEO.
  • Get your title right. You get 65 characters to create an on-topic incentive for the user to click on your search engine listing. Use the opportunity wisely. Your best keywords should be in the title. However, it's not just about using the right keywords; it's also about catching the user's attention while still signalling that your page is going to be relevant and helpful to them. Use Michael Masterson's Four U's Method: Be Unique. Be Useful. Be Urgent. Be Ultra-Specific. Stronger titles use more U's. Remember that your title is often used by social media sites to link to your page as well.
  • Get your anchor text right. Use keywords that are also helpful to your users. Never use the infamous 'Click Here' or 'More...' text as a link.
  • Get a handle on duplicate content. It's far too easy to create duplicate content. http://example.com, http://example.com/, http://www.example.com, and http://www.example.com/ are all considered different URLS. URL parameters also create duplicates: http://example.com?a=1&b=2 and http://example.com?b=2&a=1 are both different URLs. Use Apache or whatever server you're using to manage your redirect rules so this doesn't happen. This needs to be a consideration from the beginning and should be solved both programmatically and with server redirects.
  • Don't waste time asking for links. There is no bigger waste of time and money, IMO, than emailing other websites offering to do link exchanges. Think about the time spent searching for relevant websites, emailing, responding, and implementing a link exchange. What's your hourly wage? Now think about economies of scale and how many times you have to do that to make a discernible difference for every page of your website. There is no way that you can possibly come out on top. There are easier ways to get links.
  • Make your site sharable. All those little social media widgets? They might be annoying, but when used properly, they make it easier for your users to share your content. The caveat here is proper context. Privacy policies, terms of use, registration, and other pages of that ilk are probably not good candidates for a widget.
  • Viral content works. But you need to use it wisely. Not every announcement on your site is going to be or should be viral. It has to make sense and it needs to be well-thought-out. Ask yourself objectively, why would someone link to this? If you can't think of a good answer, you should go back to the drawing board. Again, the 4 U's help here.
  • Incentivize linking. A great way to kickstart a viral campaign or even a more moderate but steadily growing external link profile. Think contests and giveaways, but also think Stack Overflow's badge widgets.
  • Build a community An audience of loyal readers will link to and share your content naturally. User-generated content increases your website's footprint and also incentivizes linking.
  • Remember the big picture. Why are you doing SEO in the first place? What is the purpose of your website? It's easy to focus so much SEO that you lose sight of what you're trying to do. If you're trying to make money with your site, don't forget that you also need to focus on the usability, the design, the copy, the offer, the product, the checkout process, etc. SEO is only a small part of that.

If you're interested in more details, I wrote an article on my website about basic SEO tips which you can reference for more info.

Edit: Incidentally, one of the reasons Stack Overflow does so well in the search engines is because it has an enormous community that continually produces keyword-laden pages. It gets a lot of the basic tactical SEO right too, but this is an excellent example of big-picture thinking that most people ignore. SEO is built into the design of the community as an extension of the way the community functions. That wasn't an accident.

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+1 for don't use click here links. –  alex Oct 21 '10 at 3:46
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Are you sure www.example.com(no slash) and www.example.com(with slash) are considered to be different URLs by Google? That is not my understanding. –  UpTheCreek Feb 22 '11 at 13:10
    
@UpTheCreek - Any difference in characters, even capitalization, is a different URL: mattcutts.com/blog/seo-advice-url-canonicalization –  Virtuosi Media Feb 22 '11 at 22:51
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in most cases, yes, but in my experience the root domain with or without a slash is treated as the same url. –  UpTheCreek Feb 23 '11 at 10:52

Don't forget the concept of Domain Aging. A new domain is naturally going to suffer a disadvantage.

Can't emphasize enough how important I think following W3 standards and using semantic markup are.

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+1 for domain age –  Steve Claridge Oct 19 '10 at 22:10
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Google doesn't think this is really important: youtube.com/watch?v=-pnpg00FWJY Yes, it's a factor, but it's definitely not something people should be concerned about. –  Darryl Hein Nov 1 '10 at 5:41

This is also personal experience: I recently made a tutorial on the topic of iPhone UINavigationControllers on my own own site and found it was the number one Google result for "uinavigationcontroller" after about two months.

In my experience Google bases a lot of its rankings on uptime, load time, HTML of the actual site, having a Google sitemap and signing up for the Google Webmaster Tools.

Sticking to <H1>, <H2>,.., <P> HTML tags, ensure 99% uptime and heavily cache the site so it loads in less than a second or two. Then watch where you're going wrong with the webmaster tools.

And try using the Stackoverflow trick — put the keywords first in the title, then the name of the page.

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Stackoverflow links are all 'nofollow' so I doubt that is helping you. –  UpTheCreek Feb 21 '11 at 9:49
    
@UpTheCreek good point, I've updated –  Chris S Feb 22 '11 at 9:44
  1. Relevant keywords in the text of the article
  2. sites linking to your sites with the same keywords
  3. h1/h2 tags
  4. Relevant title
  5. Relevant URL
  6. meta tags
  7. link text — http://www.google.com/?q=click+here
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Meta tags do not affect your rankings –  John Conde Sep 25 '11 at 17:38

Google and algorithms are all from humans concern.

you should abstract from the idea of following rules and indications but instead, think on your own and what would be the best for your users (readability, accessibility, ...).

For the technical part (charset, metadatas, content elements ...) this would overcome with the time while you feed your experience, again if you code in good manners and use a well-written syntax then Google won't mess with your website...

IMHO, SEO is a MARKETING word...

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Backlinks are actually very important how the anchors are, especially if your anchor link is using an image then your tag is related to the link.

Bookmarking helps too.

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Here is some new advice from Google:

Avoid these common mistakes

  1. Having no value proposition: Try not to assume that a site should rank #1 without knowing why it’s helpful to searchers (and better than the competition :)

  2. Segmented approach: Be wary of setting SEO-related goals without making sure they’re aligned with your company’s overall objectives and the goals of other departments. For example, in tandem with your work optimizing product pages (and the full user experience once they come to your site), also contribute your expertise to your Marketing team’s upcoming campaign. So if Marketing is launching new videos or a more interactive site, be sure that searchers can find their content, too.

  3. Time-consuming workarounds: Avoid implementing a hack rather than researching new features or best practices that could simplify development (e.g., changing the timestamp on an updated URL so it’s crawled more quickly instead of easily submitting the URL through Fetch as Googlebot).

  4. Caught in SEO trends: Consider spending less time obsessing about the latest “trick” to boost your rankings and instead focus on the fundamental tasks/efforts that will bring lasting visitors.

  5. Slow iteration: Aim to be agile rather than promote an environment where the infrastructure and/or processes make improving your site, or even testing possible improvements, difficult.

Six fundamental SEO tips

  1. Do something cool: Make sure your site stands out from the competition -- in a good way!

  2. Include relevant words in your copy: Try to put yourself in the shoes of searchers. What would they query to find you? Your name/business name, location, products, etc., are important. It's also helpful to use the same terms in your site that your users might type (e.g., you might be a trained “flower designer” but most searchers might type [florist]), and to answer the questions they might have (e.g., store hours, product specs, reviews). It helps to know your customers.

  3. Be smart about your tags and site architecture: Create unique title tags and meta descriptions; include Rich Snippets markup from schema.org where appropriate. Have intuitive navigation and good internal links.

  4. Sign up for email forwarding in Webmaster Tools: Help us communicate with you, especially when we notice something awry with your site.

  5. Attract buzz: Natural links, +1s, likes, follows... In every business there's something compelling, interesting, entertaining, or surprising that you can offer or share with your users. Provide a helpful service, tell fun stories, paint a vivid picture and users will share and reshare your content.

  6. Stay fresh and relevant: Keep content up-to-date and consider options such as building a social media presence (if that’s where a potential audience exists) or creating an ideal mobile experience if your users are often on-the-go.

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Work with all On page and Off Page optimization for your targeted websites.

Content must be unique with competent terms. Get top quality back links from only relevant websites with do follow and also get some no follow links.

Whenever you get links from other websites please check the following criteria:

Page Rank; IP Location; MozRank; Domain Age; LRD; PA & DA; Check Irrelevant links is found ignore it and etc...,

Be relevant for the search keywords. This means having relevant text/keywords on the page (including the title, headings and URL).

Have lots of links pointing to your page, preferably from quality sites that are well-ranked themselves.That's not to say the other answers posted are wrong, but they are all indirect versions of those two key rules. Having the best and freshest content means you will naturally gather more links over time.

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If you want your site to be ranked higher, you need to know what factors (called rankings factors by the SEO folks) are used by Google to rank sites.

A lot of research is continuously conducted to determine those factors, and to keep the info updated. For example, this table is updated all the time:

The Periodic Table Of SEO Success Factors - http://searchengineland.com/seotable

SEO rankings factors are normally split up into:

  1. Off-page ranking factors (backlinks, social shares, etc.)
  2. On-page ranking factors http://www.searchenginejournal.com/on-page-seo-factors-which-ones-have-the-most-impact-on-rankings/40926/ (site structure, canonical URLs, navigation, keywords, meta data)
  3. Other signals

However, simply knowing what should be done on the site is not enough. You also need to know HOW to do it (as in, how to build backlinks, how to specify canonical URLs, etc.)

So, if you’re planning to be optimizing your site yourself (which is an ongoing task), it’s better to read a comprehensive SEO tutorial. There are many free ones available online:

  1. Google’s guide to SEO http://static.googleusercontent.com/external_content/untrusted_dlcp/www.google.com/en//webmasters/docs/search-engine-optimization-starter-guide.pdf
  2. SEO Book - http://www.seobook.com/
  3. SEO in Practice http://www.seoinpractice.com/

AND, do not forget that search engine algorithms do not stay the same for too long.

Particularly, I’d look into the changes that occurred after "Penguin": http://www.link-assistant.com/news/new-google-penguine-update.html
and "Panda":http://searchengineland.com/google-panda-to-be-integrated-into-the-search-algorithm-panda-everflux-151528 updates.

These have changed the way many SEO “best practices” work and made a lot of SEO advice on the Web outdated.

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For those who want to improve their search rankings results in their local area. i,e LOCAL SEO

  1. For local ranking try to host your website in same region or country.
  2. Generate some back-link from locally hosted website
  3. Participate in local communities / forum Get your local bloggers to
  4. write about your business / product
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There is no definitive answer and all answers will be completely opinion based.

Keyword meta tags are NOT used in search engine ranking. If you would like a more definitive answer see the following post here.

The best thing you can do is:

1.) Keep adding fresh content, comments and blog posts and create RSS feeds for Google and submit these as sitemaps to Google.

2.) Keep all content unique and don't duplicate content. Google is currently fighting to keep all content on there search engine unique and non-duplicated. So make sure you add canonical links to your page. See here to learn how to do so.

3.) Make sure your website is responsive. Google also wants sites to display fast and correctly on all devices and you may be penalised if your website is too slow on mobile device.

4.) H1 tags, Meta descriptions, titles, and Meta Tags. This said, with meta tags not being relevant, it won't hurt to make them relevant to your content. However have one and only one H1 tag, and make sure it is relevant to your content. Same goes for your meta description and title tags.

5.) Website speed is an important factor. Google recommends that all websites should load in less then 2 seconds. In this case make sure all images are optimised, don't load unnecessary resources, set a cache in your .htaccess, enable persistent TCP connections, add gzip to your resources, and combine all off your CSS files into one and minify them, same with you JS files.

All my suggestions are of my own opinion and they are all onsite optimisation. You will be required to gather relevant backlinks but make sure you don't participate in a linking scheme. Please also note that bad links and spam content can potentially harm your website causing much bigger issues.

Social Media can also be a good source of traffic and can be used as a very powerful SEO tool if used properly.

The main point would be: Don't expect results overnight, this process will take a very long time and it may take a lot of work and time before you start seeing results. Make sure you target the right keywords for your site doing research on your target keywords, analyse your competition, what are they doing that you aren't doing, how many backlinks do they have. None of this however will guarantee you a top spot. If it was that easy then everyone would be doing it.

The best place to start is by looking here, as this is written by Google and will advise you on the best practices.

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According to a study conducted by MOZ last year cite, Google's algorithm breaks down in order of importance:

  • Domain-Level and Link Authority
  • Page-Level Link Metrics
  • Page-Level Keywords & Content
  • Page-Level, Keyword Agnostic Features
  • Domain Level Brand Metrics
  • User Usage & Traffic
  • Social Metrics
  • Domain-Level Keywords
  • Domain-Level, Keyword Agnostic Features

Each of these are described below:

Domain Level Anchor Text = These features describe anchor text metrics—both partial and exact match—about the root domain hosting the page. For example, for the page www.test.com/A, these features are for anchor text links pointing to *.test.com, not just page A.

Domain Level Brand Metrics = These features describe elements of the root domain that indicate qualities of branding and brand metrics.

Domain Level Keyword Agnostic = These features relate to the entire root domain, but don't directly describe link or keyword- based elements. Instead, they relate to things like the length of the domain name in characters.

Domain Level Keyword Usage = These features cover how keywords are used in the root or subdomain name and how much impact this might have on search engine rankings.

Domain Link Authority Features = These features describe link metrics about the root domain hosting the page (e.g., for the page www.test.com/A, these features are for links pointing to *.test.com, not just page A).

Page Level Anchor Text = These features describe anchor text metrics—both partial- and exact- match—to the individual page (e.g., number of partial- match anchor text links, exact- match links).

Page Level Keyword Agnostic = These elements describe non-keyword usage and non-link metrics features of individual pages such as length of the page, and load speed.

Page Level Keyword Usage = These features describe use of the keyword term/phrase in particular parts of the HTML code on the page such as the title element, H1s, alt attributes, and more.

Page Level Social Metrics = These features relate to third- party metrics from social media sources such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ for the ranking page.

Page Link Authority Features = These features describe link metrics to the individual ranking page such as number of links and MozRank.

See the chart there for a breakdown of each by percent.

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