Google Webmaster ToolsGoogle’s algorithm for deciding which websites show up where in searches may be a secret, but they’re more than open about giving helpful advice. If your small business website is struggling to perform well in important searches (like “your business category + your geo location”), you should check out what Google says you should do.

Webmaster Guidelines

To find out what Google thinks are the best practices for building and maintaining a website, skim through Google Webmaster Guidelines. It has great recommendations for design, content, quality and technical aspects of your website, including images and video.

Webmaster YouTube Channel

Want to know what Google thinks about linking to or getting links from spammy websites? Want to know what makes a website spammy? Google will tell you. Check out their YouTube channel. It’s full of great short nuggets of helpful info.

A recent discussion between Matt Cutts, the head of Google’s Webspam team, and Eric Enge, an SEO consultant, is very informative: Matt Cutts and Eric Talk About What Makes a Quality Site.

Webmaster Tools

If you want to understand some of the basics, Google has great information in their Webmaster Tools Help. In order to use it, you need to create a free account for your website. Your account will provide information about the traffic to your site, the health of your site (if they detect any errors), what people are searching for when they find your site, and more.

Webmaster Central Blog

They also host a blog, the Webmaster Central blog, where you can find tons of information on topics related to crawling and indexing sites for the Google index. What is the Google index? It’s their “directory” of all the websites out there. Every site that they crawl gets identified and classified and ranked according to their ever-changing algorithm. In order for a site to show up in search results, it has to be crawled and indexed. And if Google isn’t finding your site, or has trouble interpreting what your site is about, what you do and where you do it, your site isn’t going to be highly ranked. This blog can be a bit technical, but it’s full of great info.

Discussion Forum

The Google Webmaster Discussion Forum is an awesome place where you can ask specific questions and you’ll find other webmasters who can answer your questions and /or Google employees who also monitor and participate.

Helping your website show up well in Google’s search results isn’t a one-shot deal. Since new sites are added to the web every minute, existing sites are changing and improving, and Google is constantly tweaking their algorithm, it’s important to stay actively involved in the ongoing improvement and maintenance of your website. The more informed you are, the less likely you will become a target for “specialists” who are just out to make a buck by dazzling you with their jargon.

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