No one knows exactly how Google ranking features work. Google keeps it hidden for obvious reasons: Google wants to maintain better search relevancy and prevent optimizers from moving sites to a higher position in search results.
Several months ago I redesigned several of our sites. Yesterday I checked and found that these sites are on the top position in Google for some popular search terms. I did not expect that really. The content there is good and it is not changed much. However after the redesign site has moved up.
I think the reason is my changes to the markup. Earlier it had a lot of <div> and <table> tags. Now the markup reflects the logical organization of the information. This worked good and I want to share some principles of such design. Here they are:
- Use minimum markup. Markup to content ratio counts! The lower this ratio—the better.
- Use semantic markup. If items are arranged as a list, use <ul> or <ol>. This is how news are organized on the home page of this site. It is a list. This book should help you know more. Get it, it is invaluable!
- Move content block to the top of the markup. While not confirmed by Google I feel that Google likes the content at the top better than when content is at the bottom
- Place logo and navigation to the bottom of the template. Use absolute positioning to place them in the proper place on pages
- Use rel="nofollow" for external links that you are neutral about. For example, the link to Packt Publishing on the right has this attribute.
- Make sure that pages are valid. It is not enough to validate only the template! TYPO3 sometimes may produce invalid HTML even if your template is valid
- a text browser like Lynx. You can also use the online version. This will tell you how Google sees your web site.
- a W3C validator. This will check your pages for errors. Fix them all.
After testing make sure you have a sitemap added for your site in the Google Webmaster Central. Unfortunately none of existing TYPO3 extension produce Google sitemaps correctly. Soon I will publish an extension that does. Currently it is being tested on this site.
I hope that these steps will help you to make better sites and achieve better positioning in Google search results. Of course you also need to have a good content for that. But it goes far beyond this article.