Archive for the ‘Search’ Category

Find Links To Your Site

Greg Parmer sent me a private tweet asking how to find what sites are linking to your pages. He later left a comment on Improved Google Ranking with one answer, and hinted at this follow up post.

Greg commented that one way is to use Google search. For example, he could search for “link:networkredneck.blogspot.com” to see some of the links to his blog, Network Redneck. My experience has been that using Google in this way will show some of the links, but for my blog it only shows a few of the actual links.

A second way is to use the web logs to your site. Most of the major analytic tools should show you the URL’s for the top referrers to you site. In addition, I will frequently load parts of ISU Extension‘s raw log file into Excel, and use that see who is referring people to your site. Using the log file, you see the URL’s of people linking to you, and also how many times people follow the link.

A third way to see who is linking to you is by using the Google Webmasters Tools. To use these tools, Google requires you to verify that you are the owner of the site. Once verified, the tools give you a lot of information about how Google sees your web site. The links to your site are located in the External Links option under the Links button.

The Google Webmasters Tools gives the most complete list that I’ve seen of links to your site, including links that have not referred people to your site. They show what page is linking to you, which page is being linked to, and the latest date that Google saw this link. I would like to see them add a column for what text is used in the link to you, maybe someday.

If you are using another method, please post a comment as I’d like to hear about it.

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Improved Google Ranking

Last fall, @aafromaa posted a tweet that said she couldn’t find my blog when she searched for Brain Webster. I responded that it wouldn’t have helped much if she had searched for Brian Webster because my blog was on the 6th page of Google Results. @gparmer took this as a personal challenge to raise my ranking.

By January, my ranking was up to number 19. Next time I checked was last week, and I was on the first page. I had a couple of other people check, and the results ranged from 4 to 6.

Here’s things that helped raise the ranking when searching for Brian Webster:

You’ll notice that very few changes were to the blog itself. Almost all came from other people and/or other sources.

Here are some take aways from this little experiment:

  1. It takes time to improve your Google ranking. It’s almost a year since @aafromaa‘s initial tweet.
  2. You can’t do it alone, much of the help I received came from other people.
  3. Use appropriate page titles. I changed the name of my blog because people are more likely to search for Brian Webster than Brian Webster’s. This is likely the biggest change that helped improve the ranking. (When you search Google without the ‘s, I’m currently number 6, with the ‘s I’m at 32.) I made this change because people are more likely to search for me without putting in the ‘s.
  4. Get quality links to your page/site. From the above list, the quality links to my blog are probably my staff page, and Greg’s Bookmarks. The reason I say this is because these .edu sites probably have a higher quality rating from Google, therefore they are higher quality links. Of all the links, the one from my staff page is probably the best because it’s coming from another page about Brian Webster (Sorry Greg)
  5. Don’t fall into the trap of “link farms“, you can do it with relevant links.
  6. Very few of the changes where to the blog itself, most were from other sites and other people.

I had a slight advantage because it was obvious what search term I was trying to improve on, my name. It would have been a lot harder to get to the first page for terms like “child development” or “soybean rust”.

[Update – 8/21/2008:  Here are some ways to Find Links To Your Site]

Google Snippets

Getting your page to show up as a top link on Google is one thing, having people click on it is another. What Google shows as the snippet is a big factor in whether someone clicks.

One of the things Google may use for a Snippet is the page’s “description” meta tag, see Improve snippets with a meta description makeover

The following video was included in a post The anatomy of a search report. In it, they talk more about how Google determines what to include in the snippet.

[Update: The embedded video didn’t seem to come through in the syndication feeds, so here is a direct link to the YouTube video “Matt Cutts Discusses Snippets.” ]

We can’t control what Google uses as the snippet. We can control what we put in the description meta tag. Google can choose whether or not to use it.

Lynette and I hope to meet this week to talk more about snippets.