Google Ranking – Separating Fact from Myth

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In recent years there has been a huge amount of time devoted to dissecting just what works and does not in terms of SEO and ranking highly on Google (and let’s not forget Bing/Yahoo). Much of what is written is either out of date or is misguided. To do the subject full justice would require a much longer article than this, but let me pick out some of the salient facts (or likely facts) and myths (or largely pointless or irrelevant factors).

Other authors have pointed out that in the absence of Holy Writ from Google stating exactly how they work in detail (and good luck with that one) there are really three main ways in which to sort the wood from the trees:

  1. Google’s official releases
  2. Their patent filings
  3. Experimental analysis to see what demonstrably works

So, distilling the product of these three methods, what do we find?

Keywords are Key


We probably all know that ‘keyword stuffing’ was once commonplace, and percentage levels of usage were prescribed for every page. The result was copy that made sense to web crawler software but not to human beings. Thankfully Google has much better intelligent crawlers now and keywords must be used with much more care. In terms of keyword density, your words are being ranked against assessments of how normal literate communication would flow.

So do use your keyword in the URL – but diminishing returns set in when you repeat it.  Get it in (if you can do so naturally) within the first 5 words. High on the page is good. Having it in the Title Tag helps with searches and social media. Other good places to have key words and phrases are in the Header Tag (especially H1) and in the ALT text attached to images.

Another piece of good news for writers is that you no longer have to strain to bend copy unnaturally to the exact form of the keyword: Google is able to recognise it and serve it up to searchers when it comes in the plural form or has a different ending.

Keyword Myths, on the other hand, include these, none of which matter (at least for ranking purposes):

  • Meta keywords
  • Meta descriptions
  • Keywords appearing in HTML or CSS/JavaScript comments

Expert Authorities



I always tell clients about the need for Rich Content, and that holds good (Rich Media got a boost with the arrival of Panda 2.5 from Google): but maybe I should rephrase that as Expert Content. Because whether you believe it works or not, they are now using assessment techniques that seek to distinguish expert writers from those who plagiarise or merely follow their leader.

Specifically, a system called QDF – Query Deserves Freshness – gives a higher rating to sites that are seen to fill a need where a search would benefit from having the right content (and it is perceived to be in short supply). It doesn’t stop there – your whole site is under scrutiny since the introduction of ‘Hilltop’, an algorithm that assesses the relevance of what are rated as ‘expert sites’.

Within this, Google is looking for what have been called ‘information nuggets’ in the text, which add up to a ‘Novelty Score’ across the whole site. This can therefore be a real source of competitive advantage. Long copy (2000 words or more per page) is actually a good thing.

So good writing and superior content will win the day – and I say Amen to that. Even spelling and grammar are rewarded. It all means that unless you are a first class copywriter you should draft in expert help from writers who will soak up the essence of what you do and then put it into compelling (and correct) words.

Keep it Real

I have always thought it strange that so many companies, including huge ones, resist giving out phone numbers, addresses or emails. Well now it can be confirmed – real contact details are positively rated as a sign of a genuine, solid operation, as opposed to sham companies or miniscule ones.

If you are marketing to the UK, then a .uk site is also going to get better search results from Google so keep it local when selecting your domain names.

In the Myth category is that creating identical duplicate sites under different URLs is clever. Once, maybe, but definitely a no-no now.

Linking Up

Page Authority is a measure of how many outbound links it has to other pages: your Home Page will usually win this contest but it highlights the need for good site architecture. It also points up the often-ignored fact that outbound links are important if they are pointing to credible, well-rated sites.

(We all know that inbound links from popular, respected sites are gold dust in SEO terms).

Other Tips


Having an ‘https’ (SSL) on your domain name has positive ranking, as well as security, benefits.

And as I have written before, mobile-friendly sites get preference when it comes to searches from mobile devices.

Finally, don’t ignore the importance of flagging up key text and sub-headings by using Large Font, Bold and Italic emphasis where appropriate. This too adds ‘Google Juice’.

At Hannon Digital we eat, drink, sleep and breathe digital media including the creation of optimised websites.  When reading them you can take it as read that we will be using all our expertise in the above and many other aspects, to make you look good and perform well online. Let’s talk about developing a social website for your operation, soon.