Home > Articles > Business & Management

The Five Ingredients of Google Optimization

This chapter outlines 5 factors to keep in mind to earn Google's trust and improve your search results ranking.
This chapter is from the book

By now, I've shed some light on how Google ranks the millions of sites on the Web. As a business owner or marketer, you are on a constant quest to gain Google's trust. And on your quest, you will need to keep exactly five factors in mind. I call them the five ingredients of successful SEO. You already know the most important one: links (the very currency of trust in Google's eyes). The others are keyword selection, meta page title, URL structure, and time. Even if those terms sound like jabberwocky to you right now, I promise they'll be second nature by the time you finish this chapter.

Before we get started, I want to make sure you understand a few basic vocabulary terms that will make your reading of this chapter much easier:

  • Keywords—Keywords, or search terms (these expressions are interchangeable), are the words that are typed into search engines such as Google.
  • Inbound links—As Google is analyzing its vast database of websites, trying to determine which ones to select as the 10 final, first-page contestants, it puts a high price tag on what's known in the industry as inbound links. Inbound links are links from other websites that point to your website, which hopefully result in your site gaining Google's trust.
  • TrustRank—We know from the preceding chapter that the more links your site receives from other trusted websites, the higher its TrustRank will be, and therefore the higher its likelihood of showing up at the top of the search results. TrustRank is one of the two main factors Google uses to determine which results to show on the first page for a search.
  • Meta page title—A meta page title, the other main factor used by Google to determine which results to show on the first page for a search, basically is a short description of what your site is about, which people who program websites put into a special area of the website code. It is like the headline of a newspaper. There is a different meta page title for every page on your site, and Google pays special attention to it.
  • URL—A uniform resource locator (URL) is the same thing as a domain name, or a web address. It's the http://www.example.com that you type in when you want to visit a website.

Ingredient One: Keyword Selection

Now that you understand some of the basic terminology and concepts behind ranking, let's get down to the nitty-gritty of keyword selection. Selecting your search terms (or keywords) is not difficult. All you do is think about what you would like people to type into Google to make your website pop up. For example, I would like it if my personal website, http://www.evanbailyn.com, were the first result when someone typed in Who is the handsomest man on earth? This would cause people to believe that I am considered the handsomest man on earth. Why? Because Google says so! People put a lot of trust in Google's rankings.

If I managed the website for a personal injury law firm in New York, I would want that website to show up when someone types in personal injury lawyer new york. How did I choose that search phrase? I just thought about it for two seconds and decided that people would probably type it in if they were looking for a personal injury lawyer in New York.

Those phrases, who is the handsomest man on earth? and personal injury lawyer new york, are keyword phrases. I chose them because they seemed like the best searches to bring new visitors to the two websites in question for their respective purposes.

Of course, there are more scientific methods for choosing keywords in addition to the "think about it for two seconds" method. Here they are.

Take an Informal Survey

Ask your friends what they would type into Google if they were looking for the product or service your company sells. If you own a website that sells shampoo for people with dry hair, ask people around you: What would you type into Google if you want to find a new moisturizing shampoo? Their answers might be as general as buy shampoo, or they might specifically search for dry hair shampoo, or they might start with some research and type, what are the best shampoos for dry hair? These are three very different keyword phrases, and it is invaluable to know which of them most people would type so that you can set your strategy.

Use the Google AdWords Keyword Tool

This free tool is the de facto standard for keyword selection in the SEO world (see Figure 2.1). It shows global and local statistics of how many people are searching for the keywords you enter, along with a list of related terms and their search volumes. You can access the tool directly using this link: https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal. Without a doubt, bookmark this tool for future use.

Figure 2.1

Figure 2.1 The Google AdWords Keyword Tool. Always change the default Broad match type to Exact.

Capitalize on Competitors' Work

Your competitors have probably already spent a lot of time and energy doing research on the keywords that make them the most money. Why not take a few seconds and avail yourself of all that work? To do so, simply type into Google what you believe to be your main keyword, and look at the blue underlined heading of each of the 10 results that subsequently appear. The keywords you find in those headings are probably the ones that your competitors have determined make the biggest difference to their bottom lines. Why do I say that? Well, first of all, to have gotten into the top 10 results for your main keyword, your competitors are definitely doing something right, SEO-wise, so it's reasonable to assume they know a thing or two about keyword selection. Second, one of the oldest rules in SEO is that you put your main keywords into your meta page title, which Google ports directly into your site's blue underlined heading whenever your site appears as a search result.

So let's say I sell gift baskets. Is the right keyword for me gift baskets? Perhaps it's gift basket as a singular. Or perhaps it's order gift baskets online. I'm not sure, but I'm going to see what my competitors think by typing gift baskets into Google (see Figure 2.2).

Figure 2.2

Figure 2.2 Don't overlook what you can learn about the keywords your competitors deem important.

After a quick glance at the headings of these results, I can immediately see that my competitors believe the keyword gourmet gift baskets is a lucrative one. Two out of the top four websites have the keyword gourmet in their headings or descriptions. So I will now add it to the list of keywords I want to optimize for my gift baskets company. It also seems that my competitors like birthday gift baskets, food gift baskets, and wine gift baskets. All three of these keyword phrases will be considered because I know from looking at these websites that they have put a lot of work into their companies, so they probably have a good sense of which keywords deliver the most new sales.

Another somewhat sneakier and more awesome way of capitalizing on your competitors' hard work is using free traffic measurement services to spy on the keywords for which your competitors are already ranking. I used to think that this kind of tool couldn't possibly exist because only I have access to my internal traffic logs and therefore know which search keywords bring my site the most traffic, but then I tried running the tool against my own site and found that it was about 90% accurate.

The best free keyword-spying tool is Alexa. Go to http://www.alexa.com, type in a competitor's website, click the Get Details button, and then click the Search Analytics tab. On the right side, you will see Top Queries From Search Traffic (see Figure 2.3).

Figure 2.3

Figure 2.3 Alexa.com's Search Analytics report for imdb.com, showing the top keywords delivering traffic to IMDB.

Using Alexa or other free keyword-spying tools is one surefire way to know which keywords are actually delivering traffic to your competitors. The keywords from which they receive traffic might be the best keywords for you; however, keep in mind that just because a keyword delivers traffic to a site doesn't mean it delivers new sales to a site. If there were a New Sales Spying Tool out there, it would be quite popular. However, the next best thing to a New Sales Spying Tool is a pay-per-click campaign.

Spend a Few Bucks on a Pay-Per-Click Campaign

There is no better way to understand the effect of your website showing up on the first page for a particular keyword than instantly getting it to the first page and seeing how many sales you make from it. This is essentially what you can do with a Google AdWords campaign (http://www.google.com/ads/adwords/). For a few hundred dollars, you can get your website to show up above the regular (organic) search results, in the shaded Sponsored Results area. While the sponsored results are less trusted by the average searcher than the organic results, there are definite advantages to spearheading an SEO effort with a brief Google AdWords campaign.

The most significant benefit of running a paid campaign on Google is that you can quickly learn which keywords produce the most sales for you. In the keyword selection process, this knowledge is invaluable. Not only can you try out the couple of keywords you think would bring the most benefit to your business, you can try out hundreds of keywords at once and not pay unless someone clicks your ad. In doing so, you might stumble upon the fact that the plural of your main keyword performs much better than the singular; one of your three most obvious keywords outperforms the other two by a wide margin; or some random keyword you never would have thought of is a sleeper, producing numerous sales.

When you gain a better understanding of your best-performing keywords, you can gradually wean yourself off the expensive Google AdWords system and focus on SEO (although there is nothing wrong with keeping a pay-per-click campaign running at the same time as doing SEO, as long as you are carefully watching the campaign to make sure you are making more money than you are spending). Google AdWords can work very well for targeting the lesser-searched keywords in your industry because of the rule that you pay only when someone clicks. I have some clients that use paid search only for those lesser-searched keywords and focus their entire SEO efforts on the three or four big keywords that bring in the most sales; this approach generally works well. I give a full tutorial on how to start a Google AdWords campaign to complement your SEO campaign in Chapter 6, "Google Adwords as a Complement to SEO."

InformIT Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from InformIT and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.


Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites, develop new products and services, conduct educational research and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.


If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020