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Are your web pages actually worth Google linking to?

I often hear people saying that they can’t get a good position in Google searches for a certain term, even though they’ve tried hard to do everything right. They’ve ensured the title and tags are correct, there’s an on-topic headline, it’s a prominent part of their website, and other sites have linked to the page. The problem often turns out to be something particularly fundamental: the page just isn’t worth linking to.

Think for a minute why Wikipedia pages come up so high in the Google results for almost everything. Sure, they’ve almost certainly got loads of links, and it’s very obvious what the page is about. But the main thing which Google has identified about these pages is that they’re informative resources which are likely to provide the answer to what the searcher needs to know. At its core, Google wants to be a helpful librarian. If someone comes in and asks: “Can you find me a book about blue widgets?”, the librarian will suggest one which is a good reference to everything you need to know about blue widgets. The librarian won’t say: “Go and have a look at this company’s catalogue, that has lots of blue widgets in it”.

Many product suppliers think (rather arrogantly) that because they enjoy a significant market share in terms of sales, Google should “suggest” their company whenever somebody searches for their products. But there’s no reason why it should know, or care, that the company is a major supplier. It’s not a company directory. For those who are looking to find out who sells blue widgets, there are ads all around the results, presumably featuring the major suppliers. The “natural” search results are designed to explain the topic.

So if you’re hoping to feature highly in the Google results, ask yourself if the web page you’re presenting is a good resource on the subject. Here’s a little test: take a look at what’s actually on the page. Click on a page you’re quite proud of, hit Ctrl-A (select all) and Ctrl-C (copy). Now go to a plain text editor, like Notepad. Click Ctrl-V (paste) and look at the actual text which was on your page. Does that look like a good reference on the subject? Or is it just a mess with about 100 words of real content buried in there somewhere?

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