While the internet isn't really owned by any one person or organization, Google certainly has a lot to say about what you've got to do to succeed there.
For several years now, Google has been tweaking its search algorithms to weed out thin websites, spammers, and those engaging in black-hat SEO techniques. Essentially, those who aren't providing anything of real value or any kind of useful information are going to have a harder time getting ranked high (or at all) than those who are trying to provide high-quality content.
So, if you have a website and you're wanting to get it ranked, one of the best things you can do is to stop worrying about being ranked.
Or at least don't let that be your primary motivator. Website admins and bloggers need to understand Google's basic objective: to provide useful information to as many people as possible. If we get that and our site helps them achieve that goal, then page rank will happen.
That means regardless of where you stand with Google, providing the online community with real value should be your ultimate goal.
At the same time, there are some practical and acceptable ways to improve your reputation with Google and net yourself a high search engine results page (SERP) for certain keywords.
Aside from your content, here's what to keep in mind:
Learn and implement marketing strategies
Online marketing has brought a completely new set of rules to the business and advertising world. Whether you run a blog, a simple website where you're selling a product or you admin a business' website, it pays to know these new marketing strategies and put them into practice.
Once again, content is the central issue.
How you reach people with that content is up to you and your own schedule, yet the principles are still the same and you need to know what they are in today's online marketing world.
Site navigation has nothing to do with a sitemap (which means something entirely different than what we're discussing here), so get that out of your mind.
The term is simply used to refer to how a user finds their way through a series of web pages and the content within those pages.
As you might expect, the easier things are for the user, the better off you'll be.
It's unclear exactly how Google measures this, but they do keep track of something called "bounce rate." Your site's bounce rate is a percentage, say 75 percent, which refers to the number of people who see your site and then leave without clicking through to another page.
That alone is bad for your rankings, so make sure your site is simple and easy to navigate.
Building a digital footprint
This is about going beyond the realm of SEO and embracing an "all-of-the-above" type of approach.
Traditional marketing, social, guest blogging and networking for building connections and friendships should all be a part of your digital footprint.
Responsive web design
In today's web design lingo, "responsive" has become an incredibly important term to be familiar with.
It refers to a web design strategy that accounts for your page being displayed in browsers across all platforms; namely laptops, tablets, and smartphones.
The difficulty here is that HTML and CSS tends to render differently on different browsers and devices, so there's definitely some testing that needs to take place, even if your website looks great on Firefox running off of your laptop.
However, striving for an optimal and excellent web design means you'll cover this in a thorough manner.
Understanding what people do when they get to your site and what they want to accomplish should have a lot to say about how you structure your layout.
Information should be quickly accessible and easy to navigate, while at the same time keeping things simple enough (avoiding over-optimizing) and user-friendly.
Not worrying about getting ranked
Ultimately, your site needs to be about the people who visit it and not the way Google is ranking you in search results.
It's tough, because the goal of any business (online or otherwise) is to get plenty of traffic and leads. However, the best way to get that traffic is to concentrate on providing something worth showing up and sticking around for.
Camille McClane is a freelance writer and online entrepreneur living in Southern California.
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