Everyone seems to have a different opinion about Google and how they rank websites organically. Billions of dollars have been made by SearchEngine Optimization (SEO) professionals who provide services aimed at improving your web ranking. But is SEO a science or dark art?

The most common answer I get? It depends.

Science comes in the form of creating a task list of best practices that you can go through to make sure you are at least ticking all of the boxes.

A dark art takes place when you tune all of the “web knobs” available to you optimize your web presence and in doing so, improve your organic ranking. Just getting your keywords right to match what you think a potential customer is searching on and looking at with respect to your online presence is just the tip of the black hole. (More on that in next week’s blog)

If we start with the science part of organic search, here is a Google chart I found that most SEO experts seem to agree with:how google views your website

So here are the “Nibbling Around the Edges” (see November 30 blog post) recommendations for cracking the cover on the SEO black hole:

Look at your Google Analytics account (get one if you don’t have one and get the code on your website). Figure out what keywords Google is seeing on your site. Figure out which ones have the potential to drive the most traffic. All keywords will have stats next to them in Google.

Look at your site page tags (that’s the text in the top left corner of the page next to the browser symbol). Make sure they are categorized and don’t just have page tags that say “Home” on your home page. You need a content description for the page. Preferably one that gets lots of searches on Google. You want people to find you for something other than your company name.

Check out how many other sites link to your site. You can do this by checking your back links on Yahoo Site Explorer (siteexplorer.search.yahoo.com). HINT: You can also check your competitor’s site to see who links to them. Maybe they are listed in a directory you should be in.

Look at your web content and make sure you have content on every page that speaks to your key words.

Find out from your web hosting company how many other people share the IP address your site sits on. If there are other sites on the address that Google doesn’t like, your site could be guilty by association and getting a bad grade from Google. Make sure you are in good company.

Stay tuned next week when we simplify more “dark art”: How to figure out where your ideal customer starts their search.

Happy Googling!