Think Like Google: Search Engine Optimization for your Website, Apr 06 | The Webmeister Speaks: Search Engine Optimization for your Website


In my inaugural column last month, I patiently responded to my mother’squestion about traffic to her website, explaining that 5,000 hits to her sitemeant nothing and that page views and unique viewers are what matter.
Funnily enough, she’s emailed again:

TO: Mr. He’s-Too-Busy-To-Tell-His-Mother-How-To-Get-Traffic-To-Her-SiteWebmeister:
So first you tell me I have no traffic at my site. Then I go to Google andI don’t see my site listed anywhere. Now what? I have a fabulous sitewith unique and valuable content. Incredibly, I was able to get the perfectURL! www.50GuaranteedWaysToGetYourSonToCallYouOnThe
Help your mother, like a good boy.

Okay, I must breathe very slowly now. This brings up a moral issue for me:Is it ethical for me, a Search Engine Optimizer (SEO), to promote her website?What if this information gets into the wrong hands? Luckily, SEOs have fewethics.

The answer to my mother’s question, O grasshopper, is: To be listedon Google—and to be listed well—you must first think like Google.

Search engines want to find your site, as much as you want them to find you.Their singular focus is to index everything and answer any query with themost appropriate list of sites. To make it even easier for you, Googletells you right on its site what you need to know to be indexed and rankwell.

Whenever you query a search engine like Google or Yahoo on a topic, you geta page listing sites ranked by relevancy to your search. The question is, howdoes Google gather this information and determine the ranking? And, more importantly,how does one get listed at the top?

I Link, Therefore I Am

Links play a key role in the way Google finds your site. A link on a webpageis simply html code connecting one page to another. Your browser displays thelinks as underlined text (the default color is blue) on every webpage. By clickingon a link, you are requesting that page to be sent to you.

Why are links so important? The sites displayed on any search results pageare obtained by search engine bots, sometimes called spiders or crawlers. Thesebots are automatic software programs navigating the Internet, following everylink within sites, copying (indexing) the web pages and going from site tosite collecting pages to be displayed as search results. If no one links toyour site, Google can’t find you—and it’s as if you don’texist.

Page Rank

Google’s genius was to add another interpretation to links: that ofdetermining the site’s popularity or importance—also known as pagerank. Google interprets a link from page A to page B as a vote for page B.
But Google also analyzes the page that casts the vote. Votes cast by pagesthat are themselves “important”—(i.e., have high page rank)have more weight in helping to make other pages “important.” Googlemeasures the importance of web pages with its patented PageRank algorithm.Other search engines use similar algorithms.

So while bots are indexing webpages, they are also tracking and counting thenumber of links that point to all sites they find. Then, based on these counts,Google calculates the page rank for each page. The page rank, in combinationwith the content of those pages and the nature of the links, determines howhighly you rank for a relevant search.

Reciprocal Links

Placing links on other websites has become so central to marketing that sitescommonly have a “links” or “resources” page that liststhese reciprocal links. Before Google, links existed to help people find awebmaster’s favorite sites. Now links pages have even more value, includingnativating a website, navigating the web from site to site, allowing searchengines to navigate and index the Internet, and enabling Google to quantifythe importance of your site.

Link Building

For these reasons, it is crucial to build your website’s link popularity.It also clarifies why mom’s site is not listed. She has no links pointingto her site.

The trick is to have sites link to her, such as the Iowa Directory at,which has categories for every type of Iowa website. Fortunately, Mom doesnot have any competitors in the “Managing Errant Sons” category.

Maybe if I call her, I can postpone linking to her site . . . and the worldwill be safe for now. I’ll do it, ’cause I’m just that kindof guy, taking one for the team.

Link Resources

Links from sites with similar content are best. They will generate relevanttraffic and improve the site’s importance to Google. Ways to get linksare:

1. Exchange links with a directory under the right category. This is the easiest!Just go online and get listed in the Iowa Directory at,or go to

2. Exchange links (reciprocal linking) with sites in your industry or topic.This requires more time, but the key is to find who links to your competitorsand exchange with them.

3. Write articles published on other sites with links imbedded for you (inbound).This is a very high quality link.

4. Create something so popular that others link to you without asking (inboundlinks). This is a bit more difficult, like creating another Google.

5. Get your friends to mention you in their blogs. This is good, but blogsare time-sensitive, so you need to continually redo them.

One final suggestion: Search on the main term for your site at Google. Notethe URLs for the top three websites. Now go to Yahoo (yahoo reports a morecomplete list than Google) and enter link: Thisgives the list of sites that link to each of your competitors. Go to each siteand email them a request to exchange links. This is called reciprocal linking.

Among search-engine optimizers, there is much talk about inbound links ratherthan reciprocal links. The rumors are that reciprocal linking is dead or notas important. There is no evidence for this and Google makes no mention ofthis distinction. The real issue is what your competitors undertake for a giventerm. If no one has inbound links, you don’t need them either.

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Read The Webmeister’s advice on SearchEngine Optimization.

In 1994, Robert Truog founded PhysicianEmployment, one of the first and largest physician job sites, andin 1999, anadvertising network offering services from website optimising and PPCmanagement to online advertising.