So you’ve got an awesome website, but Google hasn’t figured out how awesome it is yet, and as a result you’re not turning up on the first page of results where you would like to be! Perhaps your church is being trumped by other local churches, so no-one new is coming along because they haven’t looked on page 2 or 3? It’s the question that everyone with a website asks – ‘how can I get up onto page 1 of Google?’ . Well welcome to the world of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO for short!), the world of making Google think you’re worthy of a top spot in their rankings.
If you’ve got no idea about anything related to SEO I recommend doing a bit of reading to get your head around the basics. SEOMoz is a great company who provide a really great resource called a Beginner’s Guide to SEO.
If you already know a bit about the basics and you’re ready to get cracking then I want to point you to 3 really great Firefox plugins that can help you on your SEO journey, on your quest to the holy grail of being on Google’s first page!
On-page factors on your site can play a role on how high you rate on Google. Using SeoQuake you can run a quick assessment on your page to see wher you’re doing well and where you might be falling down. Is your page title the right number of characters? Do you have a meta-description? Are you using headings properly? These on-page factors should be the easiest for you to influence if you have control over your website, having said that they only a small piece of the puzzle in Google’s eyes…
Another significant factor on how Google ranks your site is how fast your site is. Google has realised that people want access to information quickly, people don’t want to wait 10 seconds while your page loads. This means that Google actually penalises your site if it’s slow to load. Using plugins like Yslow or Page Speed you can run simple tests on how quickly your site loads, at the end of the test it spits you out a score telling you how well your doing. But even better than just giving you a score, these plugins tell you where you can make improvements to speed up your site. For example are you loading multiple css files or js files? Is your site leveraging browser caching? Are you serving scaled images? With the help of these plugins I managed to boost my churches site speed by some 20 points with only half-an-hour of tweaking.
A word of warning, some of the fixes require a bit of expertise, but if you’re willing to spend some time searching the web you’ll find other people who have implemented the recomendations (especially if you’re using WordPress).
Perhaps most importantly for boosting your ranking is the task of getting people to link to your site. Google thinks your site must be good if you’ve got other highly ranked sites pointing to yours. This means getting links from directories, other websites, blogs, commenting on blogs, posting on forums, you name it – whatever creative ways you can use to generate links to your site! However Google doesn’t treat all links the same, there are links that are ‘followed’ by Google, and some that aren’t. So to maximise your efforts you want to focus on getting followed links. This is where the ‘NoDoFollow’ plugin comes in handy, it color-codes links on a page for you so you can see if links from that page are followed or not. I found this plugin to be especially handy to work out which blog commenting was contributing to boosting my sites rank.
Using these handy plugins I managed to lift my church from page 3 of Google’s rankings up onto the first page in the space of a couple of months. It won’t happen overnight, and you’ll need a concerted link building campaign, but it can happen especially if your keywords are quite specific like ‘albury church’. Anyway hopefully these plugins will set you on the right path. If you’ve used any other great plugins on your SEO journey let me know because I am always keen to hear what other people are using!