It's not easy to snag a top spot in Google search results.
Google is continuously changing its search algorithms and placing an emphasis on fresh, relevant and quality content, say experts.
While it's almost impossible to keep up with the more than 500 algorithm changes Google makes annually, you can adopt a search-engine-optimization strategy that not only helps improve your overall rankings, but provides better content to users.
"Google's goal is to scour the Internet and find the most high-quality, relevant sites and give users information they are looking for," says Tiffany Oberoi, a senior software engineer with Google in Mountain View, Calif. So when developing your SEO plan, think about who your audience is and what things they are searching for, she notes.
"The plan for what your user is going to like is what Google is going to like," says Oberoi, who encourages small businesses to visit google.com/webmas ters for more guidance. Google Webmaster Tools provides detailed reports about your page's visibility on Google.
Google's Webmaster Central Blog (googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com) is another helpful site, offering regular updates and best practices from Google's Webmaster team. They also announce some of their latest algorithm changes on the Inside Search blog, including a recent one that focuses on users' queries and providing more up-to-date, relevant results.
Don't get too caught up in the individual algorithms, though.
Good content: Diane Pfadenhauer of EP Advisors in Northport has learned not to read too much into it. She focuses on providing solid content and the continued online branding of herself as the "hr lawyer."
"I use 'hr lawyer' a lot," says Pfadenhauer, who specializes in human resources and employment litigation. In fact, it's part of her blog domain name and her social media handles, including on Twitter, and when you type 'hr lawyer' in a Google search, her website (strategichr lawyer.com) appears at the top of the search results.
"I think it's often associated with me," she says.
Having the right, relevant keywords for your product or industry is imperative, say experts.
Use keywords on your site that users would search for, says Jon Rognerud, Los Angeles-based author of "Ultimate Guide to Search Engine Optimization" (Entrepreneur Press; $29.95).
Google AdWords' keyword tool can help you search for relevant keywords, says Rognerud, noting that WordTracker.com is also a good keyword tool. Look at the sites of competitors and see how they are using keywords on their pages, he says.
Don't try to overstuff your site with keywords, but rather place them in a way that makes sense. "Think about how would you write them naturally so it reads well," says Rognerud, who also recommends adding social media buttons for Facebook and Twitter on your site. This will encourage people to comment and link back to your site, he says, noting that Google picks up on these "social signals."
Freshness factor: It pays to have a blog, Rognerud adds. "Google loves fresh content."
And if you don't have a blog, at least try to update your website through video, photos, etc.
"A website that isn't updated on a constant basis is going to fall in the Google rankings very quickly," says Bruce Chamoff, a North Babylon SEO and Internet marketing specialist.
So try to think of the most engaging ways to deliver content to your users, he suggests.
"Think about it from the users' perspective," adds Oberoi. "Know your users and think about what's best for them."