Q I have a website built around a blog. No matter what I seem to do, its pages always do badly on Google searches. How can I improve its PageRank so that it appears higher up in search results, and the site gets more visitors?
A Strictly speaking, PageRank only applies to one of the techniques used by Google, and no other search engine, to determine the order in which search results are presented. Its algorithm is detailed in this Wikipedia article, and is of largely historical interest.
Search engine optimisation (SEO) is a surprisingly large industry. For online vendors, getting to the top of search results can make a big difference in their visitor numbers and resulting sales. Because of this commercial interest, Google and the other search engines are very secretive about how they determine the return order of search results, and change their algorithms frequently.
It is possible still to obtain basic page ranking values for sites, and there are tools such as PageRank Viewer (around £44.99 from the Mac App Store) which will display these values to you. However they are now very crude, ranging between 0 and 10, and unlikely to return anything other than 0 or perhaps 1 for non-commercial sites.
The best indicator that you can use for free is to try some typical searches which you would expect prospective visitors to use, and count which page of results you first see hits from your website; this will also work for search engines other than Google.
Do not try to ‘cheat’ the search engine by including lots of unused links, cross-linking pages, or other tricks in your web pages. Good, sensible use of tags which are spelled correctly is important. Take every opportunity to publicise your site without being too pushy. And above all, get to know what is popular by using the site statistics, and Google Analytics if available.
Comments Factors which are normally important in determining search ranking include:
- Links to your site from other important and popular sites. Although hard to gain, these are important not only because of their influence on search ranking, but because they will actually bring visitors.
- Carefully chosen metadata, particularly tags. Tag accurately, specifically, but not excessively.
- Posting articles and pages about specific topics which are not overwhelmingly popular elsewhere. Avoid topics and tags which overlap with many commercial or news sites, which you will be unable to compete with in search ranking.