When you spend months or years on a website, not to mention thousands of dollars, it’s hard to step back and look at it objectively. Can you look at it through the eyes of your users? Can you look at it the way Google does?
If you can look at your website the way Google does, you’ll probably discover areas in which your website needs work. So in that spirit, I’m going to tell you how you can see your website from Google’s perspective, and how you can then target the areas that need improvement.
First, Google finds your website
In order to see your website, Google needs to find it. When you create a website, Google will discover it eventually. The Googlebot systematically crawls the web, discovering pages, gathering information and indexing that content to be returned in searching.
You can help the Googlebot with this process, and you should. If you go through the steps below, your site will get indexed faster.
· First, create a sitemap — a sitemap is a special document created just for search engines. If your site lacks a sitemap, you need to install one. WordPress users can install the Google Sitemap Generator for an easy but effective way to create one. Otherwise, you can use sites like xml-sitemaps.com to generate one. Then you’ll need to upload the site map file to your root directory.
· Submit your website to Google Webmaster Tools — Google Webmaster Tools is the go-to resource for lots of valuable information. As a first step, you should sign your site up with Google Webmaster Tools to ensure that it’s being indexed and returned by Google. Once you’ve done this, it’s time to add your sitemap. In Google Webmaster Tools, click on your site. Then, navigate to “Crawl” and then “Sitemaps”. If there is no sitemap, click “Add/Test Sitemap” in the upper right corner. Add the sitemap you created in the step above.
· Go the extra mile — if you want to go the extra mile, you can ask Google to index your site on the Webmaster Tool URL submission page.
Now that Google sees your website you need to find out what they’re going to see when they look at it.
Google looks at your title
After checking your robots.txt file, Google looks at a nugget of content on your website — the page title. It’s a meta tag, enclosed by <title> in your page’s HTML code.
Here’s how Google sees your title tag:
· Google sees your entire title, but only 65 characters matter. Those 65 characters is what a user will see when your page appears in the search engine results pages (SERPs).
· Google sees all the titles on all your pages, and wants each one to be unique. Don’t give every page on your site the same title.
· Google sees the keywords in the title, but doesn’t want to see keyword stuffing. In other words your title tag should contain more than just keywords.
Google looks at your description
After looking at your title, Google moves on to your page description.
The page description is another meta tag, this time enclosed by the <description> tag.
Although Google indexes your meta description, it doesn’t use it as a ranking factor. In other words, you’re not going to get higher rankings with some sizzling genius of a keyword-focused description tag. A description is there for your users, and Google looks at the description to display to users on the SERP.
You should include a meta description on each page, recognizing that Google looks at it, but doesn’t depend on it as a major ranking factor.
Make sure you write a brief meta description for each page, make it roughly 160 characters, and most important write it for humans and search engines.
Google looks at content
Now we’ve come to the most important aspect of what Google sees… your content.
By “content,” I mean everything that is unfettered by HTML code and displayed for users in all its glorious brilliance — undaunted by length requirements, and free to convey powerful, compelling, and useful information.
Every single word on your page is seen and indexed by Google. Choosing the right words and keywords is therefore important when creating content for your website. Google is not limited in how many pages it will crawl, index, and return. It reaches everything.
Taking a fresh look at your website from Google’s perspective helps you to break out of the rut of obsessing over the same old things on your site.
It’s likely that Google cares about some factors that are different from what you keep looking at. What I’ve listed above are the most important of those factors.
Why don’t you take a few minutes with your website, going through each of these factors. See if you can catch a glimpse of what Google is seeing to start improving your ranking.