How to Create A Website: Ranking High in Search Engines

Learning Objectives

Level: beginners
Target: anyone with a website

In this How to Create A Website: Ranking High in Search Engines tutorial, you will learn how to rank your website high in search engines in order to bring you lots of visitors.

Have You Created A Website Yet?

We highly advise you to learn by doing. If you still haven’t created your first website, you may follow the how to create a website within an hour guide first. You can make your own website in four simple steps:

  1. Choose a domain
  2. Set up a website host
  3. Install the website software – WordPress
  4. Website design with themes and write posts
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how to create a website: ranking well in search engines

How to Rank Well in Search Engines Guide

Why ranking high in search engines is important for your website?

More than 80% of people will try to find what they want using search engines, in particular Google which accounts for the lion’s share at around 80%. Repeated studies have also shown that if your website can rank number 1 for a particular keyword, you will get more than 33% of all visitors searching for that keyword.

Imagine, if your website ranks number 1 for the keyword “website”. According to Google Adwords keyword tools, the keyword “website” has been search for around 201,000 times in a month. Ranking number 1 for this keyword alone will bring in around 66,330 visitors to your website! Better still, the actual number will be much higher that this as you will not only rank well for the keyword “website” but also much more related keywords like “create a website”, “build a website”, “website design”, “website development” and the list goes on.

Having many visitors to your website will allow you to earn money online either by displaying online advertisements (such as Adsense) or recommending affiliated products (such as Clickbank). Many people have earned a lot of money through their websites (like John Chow and Pat Flynn).

I understand ranking is important. How to rank number 1 for my website?

In order to rank your website well, you will need to have a more in-depth knowledge of “search engines” and how they work as these will determine how successful your website will go in the search engine rankings. When you know how search engines work, you will know what to do in order to lure them rank you higher in the search engine results pages. There is a large community built around “search engine optimization” which aims to rank websites higher in search engine results pages.

Which are the search engines?

When we are talking about search engines, we mainly focus on Google as Google alone accounts for around 80% of search engine traffic of the whole internet. Bing and Yahoo (though named differently, these two display the same search results as they used the same server to generate the search results) are the second largest player account for below 20%. There are much more players in the search engines landscape but none of them are important enough to catch our attention. So for the time being, when we are talking about search engines, we mean Google, Bing and Yahoo.

How do search engines work?

In simple terms, search engines work through a 3 step process: crawling > indexing > ranking.  It is through these 3  steps that search engines get to understand all the websites on the internet.

Crawling

When visiting a site, search engines first try to read the text of the webpage without the decorative graphics or the photos. You can see what the search engines see by right clicking on a webpage and select “view source”. If links are present on the page, search engines will try to follow the link and go to another webpage (either on the same website or on other websites) and try to crawl that new webpage.

Indexing

During reading the text of the webpage, search engines will try to make a statistics of the number the occurrence of individual words and put your webpage as well as the statistics into a very large database so that the search engine will get to know your webpage. This database is to be used in the 3rd step.

Ranking

With the statistics of all the webpages in the internet, the search engines will try to rank the webpages for keywords. Keywords are the search words users of the search engines type in the search boxes. The actual rules for ranking the webpages are top secrets for the search engines that no one knows (except the engineers working there). When a person type a keyword in the search box of a search engine, the corresponding search results and the associated rankings will be displayed almost instantly to the person.

search engine result page

Using the keyword “website” again as our example. The search engine results page will tell you the total number of webpages that is in the search engine’s database (around 1,090,000,000 webpages Google thinks are relevant). You will see the results just below the 1st advertisement. Advertisements are marked with the word “Ad” beside the URL or with “Ads” above the block of advertisements. (By the way, the advertisements are called “Paid Search” while the search results are called “Organic Search“.)

What can I do to rank my website higher in search engines?

As we know search engines work in a 3 step process, we need to try to focus on helping the search engines to work better with your website in each of these steps so that search engines can understand your website correctly.

Help Search Engines Crawl

  • First, you need to sign up Google Webmaster tools and submit a sitemap of your website to it. You can just use your RSS feed (usually at http://yourdomain.com/feed) or install a plugin like Yoast’s SEO to help you automatically generate a valid Google sitemap.
  • Another way to let search engines know the existence of a website is through a link from another webpage it has crawled.  Try to obtain links from other established websites or webpages. You might ask, I don’t know the owner of other websites, how can I get a link to my website on them? The easiest way is to write very high quality articles and reach out to other websites to let them know your articles.
  • You can also include links from your own existing articles to your new articles to help search engines find them.
  • One easier method is to find websites with “Comments” sections and post useful comments to them. There is often a field asking you to fill in your website URL there.

Help Search Engines Index

  • As search engines are just computer programming which understands only codes and texts (photos and graphics are largely ignored up to this moment), you can help search engines index your website by including all the text as text (i.e. don’t include an image with lots of texts in the hope that search engines will be able to see them).
  • When using graphics or photos, add the description of the graphics or photos to the field named “Alt Text” so that search engines can get a sense of what the graphics or photos are about.
  • When using sub-headings, remember to mark them as such using “heading2″,”heading3″,”heading4”, etc. In the visual editor of WordPress so that search engines will know that they are sub-headings. You will need to place the cursor at the sub-heading and select from the Format drop-down selection.
    subheading formatting

Help Search Engines Rank

When trying to rank your website, search engines will consider a large number of factors coded by the engineers as rules. These rules are ever-changing as the engineers are experimenting different combinations of the factors in order to present the best quality search results to the users of the search engines. Below are a number of important elements considered by most people to be among the rules of search engine ranks (as search engines are trying to find quality results for humans, these rules are mostly common sense):

  • Do research to understand how many people search the keyword you would like to use.
  • The titles of the articles are very important and should contain the keywords. The length should not be too long.
  • Keywords need to be repeated and bold so that search engines will understand those words are important.
  • Write in natural language with correct grammar and spelling.
  • Don’t write too short, write longer so that search engines will be able to understand better.
  • Get more people to share your articles as this will be seen as a proof that your articles are of great qualities.
  • Write consistently. To be seen as an expert in a field, you need more than a few articles on that topic. Write better and write more. Search engines will take into account the number of articles you have written on a particular topic and judge the values of the articles collectively.
  • To help you with the above tasks, you can make use of Squirrly SEO (for beginners, paid subscription but has a free plan). Squirrly SEO will guide you through the research and provide interactive hints on how to write better for both human and search engines. It will give you the amount of searches per month the keywords have and whether you have completed all the tasks to help search engines rank. The tool will also give you a score on how well you have implemented the tactics to help search engine rankings. Below is a screen shot of the writing interface of WordPress after Squirrly has been installed.
    squirrly seo plugin for WordPress

But remember never try to trick search engines by using dishonest methods (e.g. fill up the page with lots of keywords), the engineers behind the search engines are very clever at detecting these black hat SEO and will penalize any wrongdoings. The worst penalty is that your website will be banned from the search engines forever.

Additional Tips (for Google only)

Ever wonder why some search results will have the photo and name of the author showing up (just like the image below) while other won’t?

google+ authorship

It not only looks great but also makes your articles more attractive. This inclusion of author’s name and title is called Google+ Authorship. Follow the steps below to add your own Google+ Authorship to your posts:

  1. Sign up for a Google+ account if you haven’t done that. Make sure you have uploaded a great portrait of yourself.
  2. In WordPress admin area, in Users > Your Profile, copy and paste your Google+ URL into the field and click ‘save’.
    Adding Google Plus Profile
  3. Back to your Google+ account, in the About tab, add the website address of your WordPress site to it by clicking ‘Edit’ at the bottom of the box.
    Adding Google Plus Profile Step 2
  4. Test whether you have set up Google+ Authorship correctly with this tool. Usually only posts can be marked with author information.

Tools Mentioned in This How to Create A Website Guide

  • Google Adwords Keyword Tool – A free tool to allow you to check the number of times the keyword has been searched in Google. You need to have a Google account to sign up for the Google Adwords account (luckily it is free to sign up a Google account easily).
  • Google Webmaster tools – A free must-have tool for any website owners to monitor the health of your website in Google search engine’s eyes. After registering your website with the tool, you will be able to receive important messages from Google about your website.
  • Google Analytics – A free tool by Google to allow you to track the number of visitors visiting your website. You can also know where they are from and which pages of your website are most popular. It is another must-have tool for website owners. Again you will need a Google account to sign up a Google Analytics account.
  • WordPress Plugin Yoast’s SEO – A free plugin for your WordPress website to help you with many of the setting required for making it search engine friendly. A must-have for all websites.
  • WordPress Plugin Squirrly SEO – An interactive tools which will remind you to complete all the tasks required to help search engines ranks your website better. Though it is subscription based, a free plan is also provided for light users. We have installed this useful plugin in the WP Learner website.

Conclusion

After reading through this How to Create A Website: Ranking High in Search Engines tutorial, you have equipped yourself with the essential knowledge to help you writing posts that search engines love. It’s your turn to create a great website.

Create your own website now with the How to Create A Website Guide if you still haven’t had your own website!

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Edward Chung

Website Creator at edward-designer
Edward Chung, PMP, is a graphic designer turned full-stack web developer and project manager. Edward learnt how to create a website the hard way, spending hundreds of hours in learning programming languages before rolling out his first design portfolio website. Edward understands the pains and thus wrote this Fast and Easy Guide to help fellow wannabe website owners to create a website in an hour’s time.
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