When we want information on the Internet these days, usually we use a search engine like Google. We type in a few relevant keywords and click a button. In milliseconds, our screens are filled with results, hopefully with the answers we seek. But how did these results get there? What’s so special about them that Google considers them “relevant”? And ultimately, how can your site get listed in search engines like they did?
What do I mean by getting “listed in search engines”?
Let’s say you’re looking for a nice bouquet for that special someone. You’re not sure where to shop for the best deal or nicest arrangement. So, you pop open Google or your search engine of choice and type in “flower arrangements in Indianapolis.” In a few milliseconds, your screen is filled with results.
Florists galore. Depending on your search terms, you may even be presented with a handy map of florists near you.
You’re presented with a wealth of possibilities in seconds.
Now imagine you’re a florist. You’ve just opened up shop, and you’re now competing for a share of the Indianapolis market.
You have a product to sell. Check.
You have a nice website. Yep.
But is your site in that list of results? Um….?
That’s what I mean when I talk about getting listed in search. Some people call it getting indexed or ranking or any of a number of things. But the concepts are similar.
Why is getting listed in search so important?
Ours is a culture that wants instant results. Have a question? “Google it.” Want to buy something, not sure where to go? “Google it.” Simply put, search engines are a major driver of traffic – if used properly.
Think of it this way.
You know your potential customers are using search engines to find products and services to buy. Doesn’t it make sense to do what you can to get your name listed there where it will be seen, where someone will take note and spend money with you?
Now, that’s not to say that getting to the front page of Google is absolutely necessary for a healthy business. You can do business online without a great search presence, but you will find it more difficult if you aren’t positioning yourself for search traffic.
So how does one get listed in search engines?
The question of the hour. How can you ensure your website, blog, article, etc is included in search results on Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc? You’ll find that getting your site on a search engine results page (SERP) isn’t as hard as some make it sound, but it does require some thought and hard work from you.
Write awesome, sharable content.
You’ll soon learn, if you haven’t already, that Google and other search engines care very much about your content. In days past, anyone could write content that was – frankly – garbage and start pulling in hits from the search giants.
Now, the algorithm is a bit (OK… a lot) more complex. For better or for worse (depending who you ask), search engines now strongly prefer content they deem to be high quality, well-written, and thorough.
That means you, dear reader, need to make a concerted effort to ensure your content goes above and beyond the call of duty. Make sure you’re going above and beyond to write awesome content.
The ideal piece of content is helpful, valuable and sharable.
In other words, consider your work from the perspective of your target reader. Does your content help? Does it answer a question or address a problem? Does it provide value?
But also, is it something that readers would be likely to share for their friends or others with the same problems and questions?
Promote your content offsite
Writing great content alone isn’t enough. After you hit “publish” on that latest and greatest blog post, you still have work to do. Promotion.
Post on appropriate social media sites, and start building backlinks.
This does two things.
- It gets more eyes on your content. As long as you’re posting (without spamming) where your target audience hangs out, you’re maximizing your chances of attracting visitors even before Google can send them your way.
- It tips off Google and other search engines that something’s afoot. When search engines see other sites linking to yours, they sit up and take notice. “Huh. That site may have something interesting on it. Maybe we should check it out.”
Submit your URL to search engines
While not strictly necessary as search engines do crawl the web looking for new content to add, submitting your URL to various search engines may speed up the process.
Essentially, what this does is tell search engines, “Hey, I just posted this. Take a look at it please.”
Set up Google Search Console
Google provides excellent tools for webmasters – including its own Google Search Console. This free tool lets website owners see their sites as Google sees them and address crawling issues.
Using the Search Console, we can put our sites on Google’s radar and correct any potential issues to ensure our content is easily understood by the search giant.
Here, one can upload a site map. A site map is essentially a blueprint of your website which tells a search engine about your content – including your pages, posts, images, etc. Essentially, you’re giving a museum visitor a map of the museum to help him find everything more easily.
Further, you can ask Google to crawl specific URL’s for inclusion.
Things that will NOT help you get listed in search
In an effort to game the system and get ahead of the competition, some resort to tactics that may work for a brief moment, but will actually work against them in the long run.
Falling foul of the rules here could get your site banned from several search engines – maybe even permanently if the issues aren’t corrected. Google isn’t shy about dishing out penalties to sites it feels are gaming the system.
Let me say that one more time for y’all in the back: If you try to game the system, Google can penalize your search rank or remove you from their search results entirely.
This is the practice of misusing keywords to, as Google puts it, “manipulate a site’s ranking in Google search results.”
Not only does it look bad, but it tends to create less than ideal experience for your reader.
Google gives several examples of keyword stuffing:
- “Lists of phone numbers without substantial added value”
- “Blocks of text listing cities and states a webpage is trying to rank for”
- “Repeating the same words or phrases so often that it sounds unnatural”
Write as you normally would, incorporating your chosen keywords, but don’t overdo it.
Low quality content
I want to revisit the importance of quality content for a moment.
In days past, it was easy to spew out low quality article after article and rank for your chosen keyword. That is no longer an option (and never should have been, honestly). Every article, post, update, and video you post must be high quality, or you risk turning off search engines.
Beware of those offering to link to your site for a fee. They’ll tell you that getting links to your site will help with SEO. That much is true. What they won’t tell you, however, is that buying links is a great way to get your site penalized by Google, et al. In other words, if Google finds out, you will have wasted your money and hurt your rank – and you may even be delisted.
Spamming your link
Resist the urge to post your content anywhere and everywhere – even if it’s not welcome. That’s a great way to get people to distrust you and anything you produce. What’s more, if Google finds out about your tactics, your chances of getting listed in search drop through the floor.
Misusing structured data
Structured data acts as quick content overview for search engines. Used properly, it can be used to provide key details like content’s type, author, title, etc. Yes, that information is readily available for human readers like you and me, but having this data served up on a platter tends to make the search giants happy.
However, some purposely misrepresent content using structured data to help it rank faster and better.
While that may sound like a good idea, it’s actually a way to guarantee your site suffers and may even be removed from search altogether.
As a rule, make sure your structured data accurately represents your content to help it get listed in search engines.
Things to keep in mind
Getting listed in search engines isn’t difficult or – really – even that complicated. However, there are a few things I’d like you to keep in mind as you continue to study this topic and work to get your content on Google.
SEO is competitive
Every smart marketer and his brother knows the value of search traffic. So, not surprisingly, we’re all trying to make sure we get listed in Google and rank well.
Pick any given keyword, and it’s very likely others are competing for the top spot as well.
Don’t let that discourage you. Instead, let it encourage you to up your game and work even harder than the next guy.
Getting listed in search takes time
Especially if you’re new to this, this is a message you need to hear. Getting your content on Google takes time. Let me say that again for those of you in the back. Getting listed in search isn’t instant.
SEO is a long game. In fact, it may take weeks or even months to see results – or even be listed. Now, granted, it usually takes much less time. In some cases, your content may appear in search engines within minutes – if not hours. But in the vast majority of cases – especially as you’re starting out – expect to wait a few weeks or months to see movement.
Don’t let this discourage you either. Keep doing what you know you need to do. Research your keywords. Produce great, sharable content. Promote it where appropriate. Just like anything worth having, understand it takes time. Be patient.
Getting listed is one thing. Ranking well is another.
Don’t get your content listed and then slack off. That’s like knowing you need to lose a good 20lbs and pigging out after losing 2lbs.
Understand something. Just getting listed in search engines isn’t enough to start bringing in search traffic. You also need to rank well.
Think about a race. Lots of runners. One finish line. Everyone wants to be first.
SEO is like a race. You have to run well to finish well. But, you can run well with the right info and the right team on your side.