If Google believes that you have misspelled your search query, it will show you the search results for what it thought you meant to type. Google’s “Did you mean….” is useful when a word is mis-typed, but what if you are typing and spelling your brand name correctly and Google just doesn’t recognise it? Potential customers will be directed elsewhere and may never find you!
To test this I typed in “WaspX”, a wasp and hornet spray brand name, but instead, Google’s search results offered me several hair removal options, information on the wax-eye native bird and the opportunity to purchase some encaustic wax (used for art) to help bring out my creative side!
Wanting to improve the search engine visibility of WaspX, I felt that I first needed a better understanding of how Google’s search engine works.
How Google Search Works
When you do a Google search the results that you receive are based on three key processes:
Using a huge set of computers Google uses a computer programme, called Googlebot, to fetch or ‘crawl’ the billions of pages on the web. Google’s crawl process begins with a list of web page URLs, generated from previous crawl processes. Googlebot visits each of these websites detecting links on each page which are then added to its list of pages to crawl. New sites, changes to existing sites, and dead links are noted and used to update the Google index.
Googlebot processes each page it crawls so that a massive index of all the words it sees and their location on each page can be compiled.
When a user enters a query, Google’s machines search the index for matching pages and return the results that they believe are most relevant to the user. Relevancy is determined by over 200 factors, one of which is the page rank for a given page.
Matt Cutts (an ex-Google software engineer) said that if enough people are searching on something, it would get corrected pretty quickly. So the task is to make sure that WaspX ranks well in search result pages. Googlebot must be able to crawl and index the site correctly. Challenge Accepted!
SEO to the rescue
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is the process of using strategies, techniques and tactics to obtain a higher rank on a search engine’s search results page in order to increase the number of website visitors.
Google’s Basic Website Guidelines
- Make pages primarily for users, not for search engines
- Don’t deceive your users
- Avoid tricks intended to improve search engine rankings
- Make your website stand out from others in your field
- Monitor your site for hacking and remove hacked content as soon as it appears
- Prevent and remove user-generated spam (i.e. inappropriate comments, links to poor websites) on your site
Help Google find your pages
Make sure that all of the pages on the site can be reached by a link from another findable page. The referring link should include text or an image. If an image is used it should have an alt attribute. This is a description of the image and it is important for several reasons. Firstly it provides Google with useful information about the subject matter of the image. The information is then used to help determine the best image to return for a user’s query. Secondly there are a lot of people who may not be able to see images on a web page due to for example, their device display settings; visual impairments and those who use a screen reader. They may also have a low-bandwidth connection. The descriptive alt text provides these users with important information.
Ask your webmaster to provide a sitemap file. This is a file that lists your URL’s and includes information such as, when it was last updated, how often it changes, and how important it is in relation to other URLs in the site. This allows search engines to crawl the site more intelligently.
Make sure that you limit the number of links on a page to a reasonable level.
Make sure that your web server correctly supports the If-Modified-Since HTTP header. This feature essentially tells Googlebot one of two things about a webpage:
- The webpage has not changed, no need to download again.
- The webpage has changed so download again because there is new information.
This feature will also save you bandwidth.
Keep your robots.txt file up to date. This file indicates those parts of your site you don’t want accessed by search engine crawlers, such as image files.
Ways to help Google find your site
Add your URL – Submit your website for inclusion in Google’s index.
Search Console – Submit a Sitemap of your website to Google.
Structured data – Label your structured content to help users find pages relevant to their search.
Make sure that any sites that should know about your pages are aware your site is online.
Help Google understand your pages
- Create a useful, informative site. Ensure pages are clear and accurately describe your content.
- Make sure that your site includes the words that you think people would type to find your pages.
- Ensure that your titles and alt attributes are descriptive, specific, and accurate.
- Design your site to have a clear page hierarchy.
- When using a content management system, such as WordPress, make sure that it creates pages and links that search engines can crawl.
- Allow search bots to crawl your site without session IDs or URL parameters that track their path through the site.
- Make your site’s important content visible by default.
- Make a reasonable effort to ensure that advertisement links on your pages do not affect search engine rankings.
Help visitors use your pages
- Use text instead of images to display important names, content, or links.
- Ensure that all links go to live web pages.
- Optimise page loading times. Fast sites keep users happy and improve the overall quality of the web.
- Design your site for all device types and sizes, including desktops, tablets, and smartphones.
- Different browsers and even different versions of the same browser can see your site differently, so review your site’s appearance and functionality on multiple browsers to make sure that all your visitors are getting the experience you worked so hard to design.
- Check that your pages are useful for the visually impaired by testing usability with a screen-reader.
8 practices to Avoid on your Website
Everyone wants to be on page one of a Google search as users rarely move to page two but do not be tempted to conduct any of the following practices in an attempt to boost your sites rankings. Identification by Google can negatively impact your site’s ranking in search results and they can and do exclude websites from this process.
1. Automatically generated content
Content that makes absolutely no sense but which contains some key search words. This ‘gobbledygook’ can be generated from, for example a text translation tool or through content combining from different web pages.
2. Participating in link schemes
This is where links are used to try to manipulate Google’s PageRank. PageRank is a programme used to count the number and quality of links to a page in order to estimate how important the website is. It is assumed that more important websites receive more links from other websites. Examples of link schemes include the buying or selling of links known to pass PageRank; excessive link exchanges and the use of automated programmes to create site links.
This refers to the practice of presenting different content to human users and search engines. Both the user and the search engine are being deceived. The goal of cloaking is to boost a website’s search engine rank on certain keywords. Cloaking is considered a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines because it provides users with different results than they expected. If a site gets hacked, it’s not uncommon for the hacker to use cloaking to make the hack harder for the site owner to detect.
4. Sneaky redirects
This practice sends a visitor to a different URL than the one they initially requested. There are good reasons for doing this, such as when moving your site to a new address. However, like cloaking, this practice is deceptive because it attempts to display different content to users and to Googlebot, and can take a visitor somewhere other than where they expected to go.
5. Hidden text or links
Hidden texts or links inserted into your websites content to boost Google’s search rankings should also be avoided. Examples of this bad practice include, using white text on a white background, locating text behind an image and setting the font size to 0.
6. Doorway pages
These are pages or websites created to boost rankings. They are not good for the user as they often lead to multiple similar pages in their search results but in the end each result ends up taking the user to the same destination. They can also lead users to pages that are not as useful as the final destination. Examples of doorways include having multiple domain names or pages targeted at specific regions or cities that channel users to one page or pages that are generated to take visitors into the actual usable or relevant part of a site.
7. Scraped Content
This is where high quality, keyword dense content is stolen from one site and placed onto another without the original owner’s knowledge or permission. It is not modified at all or only slightly. This is illegal. What you do in fact need to do is to create original content that will set your site apart from its competitors and keep your visitors returning, which in turn will provide more useful results in Google searches.
8. Loading pages with irrelevant keywords
This is where a web page is stuffed with keywords or numbers in an attempt to manipulate rankings in Google search results. These keywords may appear in a list or group, or out of context and lead to a poor user experience. Examples include blocks of text listing towns and cities a web page is trying to rank for or repeating the same words or phrases so often that it sounds unnatural.
Undertaking any of the above mentioned practices in order to boost rankings can lead to Google negatively impacting upon your site’s ranking in search results.
Get Website Help!
Having explored the what-to-dos and the what-not to-dos I now know how to help Google’s search engines find a brand with an unusual spelling. Adopting SEO strategies to help Google find and understand a site’s pages; making it user friendly; avoiding the practices that Google views negatively will all work to boost rankings. So if Google thinks that your brand is misspelt follow these guidelines and help your potential customers to find you now!