Why are the Search Engines Important?
The Search Engines and, in particular, the Major Search Engines, play an extremely important and vital role on the internet. They put end users in touch with the information they want. They present the end user with a list of websites containing information that appears to be relevant to the search term, phrase or word they used.
The more descriptive or fine-tuned they make their search phrase, the better their chances will be of being presented with appropriate and relevant content. But if their search phrase is very broad, vague or consists of only a single word, then their chance of being presented with the content they are seeking is less likely. In such instances they will be presented with a list of thousands of websites, all of which have a slight association with their search term but are unlikely to yield the relevant result they were looking for.
From your point of view as owner of a website, it is vitally important to try to get your site listed on as many search engines as possible, especially the major ones:
Google • Yahoo • MSN Search • AOL
Whilst focusing on the major search engines, it is also important to endeavour to get listed on as many other search engines and directories as possible, particularly those that are specifically directed towards your own country or locality, including directories like Yell.com and Thomsons in the UK. The more online listings you have in different locations both worldwide and locally, the better your chances are of your website being found by your targeted end users and prospective customers.
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Search Engine Optimisation
In the world of optimising websites for the major search engines there is only one statement that is absolutely true and factual:
No one in the entire world can guarantee a top ten listing for your website!
That's right! There is not a single person, business or corporation anywhere in the world that can give a cast-iron guarantee that they will get your website listed in the top ten listings of any of the major search engines. Period!
It is an impossible task!
It can't be done!
It can't be achieved!
In fact no one can even guarantee you a top-50 or top-100 slot, so beware of anyone who claims to "know the secret of search engine optimisation" and is promising or guaranteeing a top listing.
Of course some self-proclaimed SEO (search engine optimisation) experts may be able to prove their claim, but only if they use an obscure keyword or key-phrase that no one is ever likely to use when searching. For example, you may get a top listing for the key-phrase "mid Atlantic luxury under sea homes", but it is highly unlikely that anyone will ever be searching for a mid-Atlantic under sea home, luxury or otherwise! So if no one is searching for that particular phrase, you are not going to get any traffic to your website and you are not going to get any business, even if you are at the number one slot!!!
But if you are in the business of selling luxury homes under the sea in mid-Atlantic, then you will probably get top billing in all the search engines. If, however, you are one of several million businesses competing for a share of the lucrative online market in your business sector, using an obscure keyword or key-phrase is not going to help you rise to the top of the pile and become a hot, top-listed website.
So if anyone tells you they can get you to the top of the Search Engines for your fav keyword(s) like homes, hamburgers, web design, or cell phones, do yourself a real favour and turn them down flat. Put your Cheque Book away. They cannot fulfil their promise, but they can certainly help to empty your wallet!
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Why Is A Top Listing So Difficult?
There are two primary reasons:
Too Many Websites...
- Too many websites all competing for the same top positions, and
- Constantly changing Search Engine listing rules and algorithms
Although it is virtually impossible for anyone to check or keep count, it is estimated that there are in excess of 4 billion websites on the internet. That's a staggering 4,000,000,000 or more, and that is a lot of websites!
For any given business sector or trade there are thousands -
in many cases millions - of websites advertising their trade or sector, and all of them are competing for the same client base. For the end users who are actually searching for the goods and services that the trade or sector specialises in. And, particularly for ecommerce enabled sites who sell online, to encourage the end users to buy from their site.
And as they are all promoting the same sector or trade, they are all competing for the relatively few keywords or key-phrases that are associated with their industry.
With a search for specific keyword or key-phrase in a Search Engine typically returning 10 websites per page, how many websites can actually be listed on the first page? It's a no brainer - only 10!
If there are a million websites all from the same trade or sector, how many can be listed on the first page of a search? Again, it's a no brainer - only 10!
So no matter how many websites exist that are displaying similar content, only 10 of them can actually be listed on the first page of a search. PERIOD! And only 100 of them can be listed in the first 10 pages of a search listing.
So if there are a million or more websites in the same sector all competing for the same limited keywords or phrases, you will appreciate it is a monumental task to get into the top-100 listings, let alone achieve the most coveted listing of all time - a top-10 placement. And once a website has achieved such an exalted position, it is also a monumental task to try to overtake or replace it.
However, sometimes the search engines themselves can come to your aid, particularly during one of their frequent change phases when new rules and algorithms are introduced and former top sites disappear from view...
Constantly Changing Search Engine Rules and Algorithms...
All the major search engines apply a complex set of rules and algorithms to determine the relative value of a particular site which, in turn, determines where the site will appear in their listings. And, in order to keep their listings fresh and as fair as possible, the algorithms they use tend to change fairly frequently, sometimes up to 3 or 4 time a year. These frequent changes often completely eradicate some websites from the listings, demote top listings to less prominent positions and, more importantly, promote new sites to the top slots.
This is excellent news for sites that get promoted. Less so for those that are demoted or completely disappear, particularly when you realise that the demoted sites probably paid a lot of money to achieve their top listing in the first place!
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Why Do the Search Engines Change Their Algorithm So Often?
Many organisations exist solely for the purpose of trying to find out how to achieve a top listing in the search engines. They devote their entire time trying to ascertain what works and what doesn't, in an endeavour to break the algorithm and reveal the "algorithm's secrets" to the world at large. Indeed, many get quite close and are quick to announce their results. And before long, webmasters across the world start to follow suit and implement their recommendations wholesale, and millions of websites start to mirror each other in terms of the optimisation recommendations.
Which is good for some sites. Some achieve better listings. Some obtain more traffic and more business. But with millions of other sites doing the same thing - all optimi their sites in exactly the same way - the search engines once again have a dilemma! How can they sort out the wheat from the chaff and only give top billing to sites that deserve it?
Simple. Change the rules once again! Change the algorithm! And, most importantly, never reveal the algorithm detail.
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Does a Big Spend on Optimisation Guarantee a Top Listing?
No! As previously advised, spending a lot of money does not guarantee you a top listing. Nothing does! But providing your SEO experts know what they are doing, they will hopefully spend your cash wisely and ensure that your site has been correctly optimised and effectively promoted in an endeavour to help your site attain a prominent listing.
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If Money Isn't The Answer, What Is?
On the internet, Content is King ! Nothing else really matters !
Without good content...
If you think about it, the search engines exist to present you and other end users with the information you have requested using a keyword search. If they keep presenting you with poor sites or sites that do not really provide you with the information you want, you're going to give up.........or at least stop using that particular search engine.
- ...all the optimisation recommendations in the world won't help a poor site get a top billing.
- ...it is of little consequence how many quality links you have or what keywords you use.
- ...a massive spend on optimisation and promotion is unlikely to yield the desired results.
But if they present you with top quality sites within the first 2 or 3 pages - within the first 20 to 30 listings - you are more likely to continue using that search engine in the future. Why? Because it gave you what you were looking for when you wanted it. Without too much hassle! Without a lot of searching!
And if you are constantly presented with top quality sites that provide the information you want virtually on demand, then you are likely to recommend that search engine to all your relatives, friends and colleagues as well. Thus helping to further promote the search engine, which is good from their point of view.
But to keep the interest of you and your friends, the search engine must constantly be striving to ensure that you are being presented with the best possible match for your search keywords, and to ensure that the content they present you with is both worthwhile and fresh. To achieve this, search engines are constantly searching for new and updated content pages, and they absolutely love content pages that change often. Change means "new content" and "new content" means "fresh content".
Thus the key website optimisation processes are:
- Fill your web pages with good quality textual content.
- Frequently update the content to keep it new and fresh.
If you achieve these two things on most of your web pages and follow the standard optimisation rules for meta tags, titles and keywords, then your website is likely to figure strongly in search engine listings for a very long time.
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What You Need To Know
|Optimising web pages for the major search engines is an essential part of web design. It consists of ensuring that the background hidden section of your web pages convey the right information about the visible content in a format that is acceptable to the search engines.|
The hidden section of each web page has metatags which must convey relevant factual information about the page, including a page title, keywords, and a description of the visible page content.
Keyword Rich Content
It is important to try to provide written content that is rich in keywords which are directly relevant to the content, and that they are used in an appropriate and contextual way. Ideally, it is best to focus each page on a specific topic or theme and incorporate the relevant keywords or phrases.
Note: Many search engines now ignore the entries in the keyword metatag and now create their own from the visible page content.
Frequently Updated Pages
Search engines love websites which are frequently updated with new pages or entries, as this ensures that their listings are kept fresh and relevant. In this regard, a News or Weblog that is frequently updated tends to score highly.
Avoid Scams / Quick Fixes
Do not, under any circumstances, attempt to use any scams or quick fixes to improve your position with the search engines. The SEs are now very sophisticated and virtually nothing can get past them. If your website is considered guilty of using scams, it could be barred for life.
This important background file indicates to the SEs which pages they should include in their index and which pages they should completely ignore.
Google XML Sitemap
This background file is the latest way of advising Google, Yahoo and MSN Search of the pages you want them to include in their index. Highly recommended.
Search Engine Submission
This is the original way of advising search engines that your website exists and, using appropriate SE Submission software, is still a good way to notify thousands of search engines that your website is active.
Keyword Rich URL
With the demise of the keyword metatag, using keywords in your domain name can help improve your SE ranking. Ideally, the keywords should be separated by hyphens, eg, british-web-site-design.com, as this clearly identifies the individual keywords. The equivalent un-hyphenated domain name, britishwebsitedesign.com, is just a jumble of meaningless characters to many SEs so does not have the same impact.