Google, like all search engines, rely on a complicated algorithm to index sites. An army of crawlers go out and scour the Internet for sites and determine rankings based on their comparative relevance and authority for a search term. So what exactly can you do to convince Google to list you at, or near the top of their rankings?

Well the search engines are looking for very specific things. Whilst nobody outside of their own programming departments knows exactly what the ranking factors are, we do know some things though.

For example, Google loves content. Or at least it likes good, optimised content. This means that having a site brimming with useful content and including page-specific keywords integrated will do your chances of securing top spot no harm at all.

Don't target your copy solely at search engines though. It has to convince visitors that they're in the right place and guide them through your site to those all-important money pages. You just need to bear optimisation in mind, don't let it take over.

The reason why you want to target users particularly isn't just because you want to improve conversion rates (a very pleasant by-product), but because Google may also factor in some site statistics into your ranking. For example if you attract a lot of traffic on a particular search result, but the vast majority leave without going past the first page, they may deem that it isn't benefiting visitors and so demote it in their rankings.

They use all sorts of analytics data to delve into the comparative successes of a site, so don't just take everything at face value. If your pages aren't converting make sure you tackle the problem. Are you targeting irrelevant keywords? Do you have enough content? Are there any issues with the internal links or page layout?

Speaking of internal linking, this too can play a part in not only the usability of a site but also the effectiveness with which it can be crawled by search engines. If you have a straightforward, linear infrastructure the search engine spiders can easily glide from page to page, digesting all that wonderful content and feeding it back into the algorithm for indexing. However, if there are broken links and circular redirects they can have their progress slowed and that means some pages may not be indexed - bad news.

This internal framework will help to pass on link value too, whilst helping visitors stroll seamlessly from page to page.

Links though are where your strength really comes from. You need the content for relevance, your internal structure for efficiency, but only links will give you vital authority. Every time somebody takes the time to reference your site (or indeed you do it yourself), that counts as a vote of confidence in the eyes of Google. The more authoritative the source site is, the greater the link strength that is passed on.

It all seems simple enough, but not all sites are willing to just give links away. You'll often have to work hard convincing them or provide content of such magnificence that they'll be compelled to do so. Anyway, ensuring a good spread of link sources, including local and ones from sites within your industry, will provide you with impressive strength and boost your chances of achieving a top ranking on Google.

By combining all of these straightforward elements and employing a little additional SEO know-how, you can slowly improve your site in the eyes of Google. As it becomes strengthened and optimised for targeted key terms, your rankings and traffic should flourish. Matt Cutts works for the Search Quality group in Google, expert in SEO issues. He helps people to understand the quality guidelines to rank high in Google search.

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