Updates and lessons learnt about optimizing your web site for Google
by Christopher Heng,
It’s been a few years since my last article on getting your site noticed on Google, Tips on Improving Your Google Search Engine Ranking. The situation hasn’t changed much, and the article is still relevant today. However, over these years I have learned a couple more things about what to do and what not to do on your website with regards to your site’s placement on the search engine results.
Everyone knows that search engines (not just Google, but probably every one of them) frown on hidden text. Some people use hidden text to stuff keywords on their pages so that when people type those words on the search engine, your site will show, even though your page does not have any visible sign of those words.
I have never believed in hiding my keywords in hidden text or any of those cloak and dagger stuff, and hence I don’t practise such things. Imagine my surprise, when one day, a few years back, I suddenly found my pages on thefreecountry.com receiving a Page Rank of 0 because of hidden text on the page. (See my other article on Google Page Rank if you don’t know what Page Rank is.)
No, I did not compromise on my principles or anything like that. I did not try any underhand tactics to stuff keywords, etc. The reason is more mundane.
This page uses Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) to control its appearance. Since CSS is poorly supported on old browsers like Netscape 4.X, you may notice numerous oddities in the appearance of the page. However, you should still be able to read the information and navigate using the links.
This text was enclosed in a box that was hidden from view if you were using a modern browser, but visible if you used Netscape 4. I used the usual methods of getting different browsers to load different stylesheets as mentioned in my article How to Use Different CSS Style Sheets For Different Browsers (and How to Hide CSS Code from Older Browsers).
Unfortunately, Google’s algorithms detected that some text was hidden, and not realizing that it was also visible in other cases, automatically assumed I was employing some sort of skulduggery to get those keywords into its index. It then penalized my site accordingly.
When I realized that my attempt to help my visitors was going to cost my site’s position in the search engine results, I immediately pulled the message, and its accompanying CSS, from the site. Visitors using old browsers would still be able to use the site, but they would not receive any friendly explanation. I was disgusted that I had to do this because Google at the time were (“was” in US English) telling webmasters not to worry about how the search engine perceived their site and just design as they saw fit to accommodate their visitors. But of course I couldn’t, since without the search engine, I won’t have any visitors to accommodate.
Although the days of Netscape 4 are long gone, the lessons learnt from that incident are still useful today. Undoubtedly many of you will not even dream of using keyword stuffing in hidden text and the like. However, as I found out from the above incident, Google’s search engine is far from intelligent, and its hidden text detection algorithm can bite legitimate webmasters too. If it even senses hidden text, even for an innocuous purpose like mine, your site is history.
Some ways in which you might inadvertently use hidden text (possibly without knowing, if you use third-party scripts) include the use of drop-down menus for site navigation and browser-specific tips for users (like in my case above). I’m fairly certain that the Google programmers keep refining their engine so that the more common use of CSS to hide text for harmless purposes like navigation menus (and so on) are recognized as benign, but if you are about to use hidden text for some fancy design gimmick on your page, you might want to test it out on some obscure page on your site to see if Google’s algorithms choke on it. After all, always remember your site’s life depends on a computer program, not a human. It may be obvious to you and other people that the code is harmless, designed for some acceptable purpose, but computer software can only follow a set of preprogrammed rules.
Note that neither the navigation menu created by my Free CSS Navigation Menu Button Wizard nor the one created by the Free Drop Down Navigation Menu Wizard uses hidden text for the various menu items (or anything else for that matter), so don’t worry. They are straightforward menus that do not use any trickery to accomplish their jobs.
Getting Your Link to Appear on the First Page of the Search Engine Results
I get many queries everyday from new webmasters reading thesitewizard.com, asking me how they can get the link to their site to be shown on the first page of the Google search engine results. In fact, for some of them, getting their site to appear anywhere in the first few pages of Google’s results would already be a victory.
If you are in a hurry to get your site noticed, and have a budget allocated for your site’s search engine promotion, one instant way to get to the first page of Google’s results page is to buy advertisements on the words or phrases you think people will search for. Before you summarily dismiss this, read everything I have to say first.
Google’s Adwords (the name of their advertising program) actually operates according to your budget: that is, you can spend according to what you can afford. It also allows you to place the adverts on precisely the keywords you would have wanted for your site to appear in the search engine results. Unlike the normal search engine however, you control the exact keyword which will trigger the display of your advertisement. The facility comes with a price though. If a particular set of keywords is popular, the amount of money you will have to sink into your advertisement will probably increase, not only because you have a lot of potential customers clicking on the advert (which is a good thing) but also because your competitors are bidding for the same set of keywords (which is not so pleasant). Yes, I used the word “bidding”. The procedure has the overtones of an auction.
Many new webmasters I deal with don’t consider this as a viable option, because it involves cash-outlay. I agree that if you are merely running a personal site or a hobby site that does not receive an income, advertising this way is probably out of the question. You should then work on applying the usual search engine promotion tips and hope for the best in the long run. However, if your site is a business site that yields an income, you might want to calculate the costs and benefits to see if you can actually earn more this way. Treat your expenditure on the advertisements like all other business expenditure and calculate your return on investment (ROI). If you spend (say) 50 cents per click on your advertisement, and every 100 clicks gets you one person who spends $100 on your site, you would have made a profit of $50 for each batch of a hundred clicks (ie, $100 – [$0.50 x 100] = the profit of $50). This is income that you would not otherwise have made had you not advertised. Of course, as in all things, it’s possible to go overboard and spend more than you earn. You might want to consider setting aside an budget for a month or two as an experiment, and adjust as you go along to see if this approach increases your profits.
Google is now, arguably, the most important search engine around. Knowing what you should not do to survive Google, as well as learning one way to throw money at the problem of getting an instantaneous good placement on its search engine results page, is now a very important part of website promotion.
Copyright 2006-2017 by Christopher Heng. All rights reserved.
Get more free tips and articles like this, on web design, promotion, revenue and scripting, from https://www.thesitewizard.com/.
Do you find this article useful? You can learn of new articles and scripts that are published on thesitewizard.com by subscribing to the RSS feed. Simply point your RSS feed reader or a browser that supports RSS feeds at https://www.thesitewizard.com/thesitewizard.xml. You can read more about how to subscribe to RSS site feeds from my RSS FAQ.
This article is copyrighted. Please do not reproduce or distribute this article in whole or part, in any form.
- Your Website’s Spelling and the Search Engines
- Other Ways (Less Obvious) to Promote Your Web Site
- How to Set Up a robots.txt to Control Search Engine Spiders
- How to Make Money From Your Website
- Affiliate Programs: Free Sponsors and Advertisers
- Appearance, Usability and Search Engine Visibility in Web Design
- Which Web Host Would You Recommend? (FAQ)
- How to Create a Website
- How to Change the Message Shown Before the Comments Field in WordPress
- How to Use Google Fonts and Other Web Fonts in BlueGriffon
- Can I Change My Website’s Address to HTTPS Without Getting an SSL Certificate?
- How to Make a Button Run a Server-Side Script (eg, a PHP, Perl, or Python Script) (HTML)
- How to Add a (Self-Hosted) Video to Your Website with Expression Web
- How to Prevent Your Website from being Placed in a Frame
- How Do You Get Access to a Domain Name You Just Purchased? What to Do After You Buy a Domain Name
- What’s the Difference Between a Domain Name Registrar and a Web Host?
- How to Make a Mobile-Friendly Website: Responsive Design in CSS
- What’s the Difference Between a Content Management System (CMS), a Blog, a Web Editor and an Online Site Builder?
- How to Create a Blog
- How to Make / Create a Website: The Beginner’s A-Z Guide
- Tips on Choosing a Good Domain Name
- Expression Web Tutorial: How to Design a Website with Microsoft Expression Web
- Dreamweaver Tutorial: How to Design a Website with Dreamweaver CS6
- BlueGriffon Tutorial: How to Design a Website with BlueGriffon 3
- How to Design and Publish Your Website with KompoZer (free WYSIWYG web editor)
- Free Feedback/Contact Form Wizard
It will appear on your page as:
More Tips on Google Search Engine Results Placement
Copyright © 2006-2017 by Christopher Heng. All rights reserved.
thesitewizard™, thefreecountry™ and HowToHaven™ are trademarks of Christopher Heng.
This page was last updated on 26 April 2017.