Something dramatic has happened to my web site’s listing within Google – and it’s not good. For the past umpteen years if you searched for “graham jones” this web site (www.grahamjones.co.uk) was always Number One on Google – both the .com and the .co.uk versions. Yesterday, www.grahamjones.co.uk completely disappeared from Google’s listings. If you search for “graham jones” you do find several references to me, as well as some pages from deeper within this site – but as for my home page, nothing. At first sight this may not be that important – most people, of course, aren’t searching for me by my name. For the “long tail” keywords I’m going for, I do very well. For instance “blogging public relations” I’m No. 2 on Google. But it’s the disappearance of my home page that reveals more about Google and the way it ranks sites. Indeed, it shows up how simple the Google algorithm really is – indeed how basic it is. Perhaps they have been fooling us into believing it’s rather complex? Here’s what happened to remove my home page from the index.
Several months back I changed the design of this web site to allow my home page to incorporate my blog. That, I figured, would help my site’s ranking within Google because it would be seen as regularly updated, fresh and so on. Indeed, that worked. For the past umpteen years this web site has had a lowly Page Rank index of 3 for Google. Within a couple of months it has gone up to 4. Equally, my Alexa ranking has shot up and is growing exponentially. The impact of including a blog on my home page has been substantial. However, in order to make a blog work for your target keywords, you need to get them “up front” in your titla tag. (The title tag is the name of the web page you are looking at that appears in whie text in the bar above the menu bar of your browser.) A blog uses your headline as its title tag. However, crucially, blogging software puts your headline in the title tag after the name of your blog. That means your important keywords have low prominence in the title and are therefore not given the ranking they deserve. The only way out of this is to have a short name for your blog. In my case it’s just “GJ”; many people avoid giving their blog a name, just so their keywords get higher prominence in the title tag. But, by removing “graham jones” from my title tag, I’ve managed to get myself removed from Google’s index for that keyword.
What this means is that Google clearly relies on the title tag more than any other part of your web page for its ranking. I know this is important – otherwise I wouldn’t be using a blog to gain me high ranking for long tail keywords. But the complete removal of my home page from the index demonstrates clearly that the title tag is given the most important status as far as Google’s algorithm is concerned. You’ll find SEO experts telling you this anyway – but clearly it shouldn’t be neglected.
However, consider for a moment my long tail keyword “blogging and pubic relations”. I only wrote that blog entry a couple of weeks ago yet it’s No 2 in Google out of around 260 pages. The title tag includes the keyword “blogging and public relations”, but the text does not. If you check Google for the keyword you’ll find that only three sites actually have that phrase in their title tag and they are the top three listed by Google. In other words, Google has shot my blog entry right to the top simply because of the title tag.
Of course to SEO old handers this is all obvious; and true, I was aware of the importance of the title tag. But my experience this week has shown me how significant it really is – and how blissfully simple the Google algorithm really is. Put your keyword right up front in your title tag and Google will rank you very highly for that keyword – almost (but not quite) regardless of your body text.
My problem is that around 12% of the people who search for this site use my name to find me. That’s because they’ve heard me speak at an event, for instance, and just want to check me out. Now they won’t find me. I’ve partially solved the problem by setting up an Adwords campaign on my name. My next project is to change the way my blog is integrated into the site so that I can restore the title tag “graham jones” to my home page.
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+