Google is harder to manipulate than the other search engines, and Google tends to trust new sites much less than their competitors do. If you run a new website, do not expect to rank well in Google for competitive queries until AFTER you rank well in Yahoo! and MSN.
If you have an old, well-trusted domain but have not focused on SEO yet, then doing simple things like fixing up your page titles and gaining a few authoritative or descriptive inbound links might be all you need to do.
Matt Cutts describes his overview of the SEO process in this audio interview:
Note how he states that it is a process and you need a certain amount of authority before you will be able to compete in Google.
Google is quick to index new sites, usually within a few days to a month (depending on the quality and quantity of your inbound links). During the first month or two, it is common for your site to go into and out of their database many times until you have built up sufficient link popularity. Link building can help get your site indexed and keep you in the index.
Google primarily focuses its algorithm on linkage data. On-page criteria is weighted exceptionally low for shorter and highly competitive search phrases. To do well in Google, you will need to target low-competition phrases using many different pages, or think of ways to get others within your community to want to link to your site. Some of the more common ideas for improving your link reputation are to do the following things:
look at a few current press releases on PR Web, Google news, or Yahoo! news for formatting examples. Don Crowther has good PDF reports offering templates and press release tips at http://www.101publicrelations.com/. SEO-PR.com also creates press releases for an affordable rate.
- Create a quality, topical directory one level above your category (slightly broader). By giving links to others in your field, some of them might take notice of your presence.
- Write an interesting blog about your topic. Link out to recognized topical authorities.
- Write compelling articles and get them syndicated.
- Sponsor 501(c) tax-exempt organizations (or buy/rent other links) or sponsor other sites.
- Reciprocate links with other quality sites. It is hard to get quality sites to want to reciprocate until you are somewhat integrated into the web, have built a brand, or are trusted for other reasons, so it may not be worth chasing reciprocal links too hard off the start.
- Place advertisements on relevant, related sites.
- To keep your link profile looking natural to Google, make sure you mix your anchor text heavily and get at least a few links from high-quality sites.
- When your site is brand new, if you take a less is more approach to link building, and only focus on gaining authoritative high-quality links, that will help you more than an aggressive campaign where you actively build many low-quality links.
You will still want to structure your pages properly using heading tags, page titles, and the other page elements to help you rank well in all search engines, but current, quality links are what matter most with Google.
Off-topic links still count toward your link popularity. If you already have many links from within your community, then you may receive a great ranking boost by sponsoring a few non-profits or by renting a few, strong, inbound links from other websites. If you are in a competitive field, you need to build many on-topic links.
Be careful with how above the radar you are with link buys though. Established, trusted, and well-branded sites can get away with using far more aggressive SEO techniques than a new site could.
Anchor text is important, but all throughout 2006 Google depreciated the effect of anchor text and started placing more weighting on link authority and domain age related trust.
It can take up to three months for your inbound links to help improve your Google rankings for competitive search terms. If Google believes your site is a trusted authority, the delay time will not really exist. With Google, you want to build linkage data over time to minimize the chances of it appearing unnatural.