Effective Web Marketing: Common Sense SEO Understanding Search Engine Boundaries

Website Development

In a large sense, search engines are the gatekeepers of the web.  Unless you can learn their rules, you will not be attracting too many people to your website or blog.  Their tools are a spidering or crawling  process which goes out onto the web and follows URLs on web pages to other web pages, and a large and powerful database which indexes those pages, and their content.

It is the main job of anyone who is engaged in search engine optimization to make that website friendly and hospitable to search engines.  Help them do their job, and do not adopt the attitude that you can co-opt them.  Ig you push that envelope too far, the engines will penalize you by deducting points from your page, or, in extreme cases, by refusing to index your pages at all.

It’s important to understand that a search engine sees ONLY text.  It can’t understand pictures, or movies, or Flash files or any graphics.  Only words and text are indexed by the search engine.  It can see code, but disregards it.  And the text which it sees, the search engine will try to put that text into some intelligent context to help assign some meaning when it matches the text to a search.  Different search engines accomplish this task in slightly different ways, but the basics are the same.

The better search engines accept site maps.  These are XML files that show all of the indexable pages (or files) on a site, along with information about the files, such as creation date, most recent update date, and its position in the site hierarchy.  These files are very helpful to the search engine in evaluating the site, and, in fact, submission of one will frequently bring about a new reindexing of the site when it is submitted.

Search engines attach more weight to text at the beginning of a page.  Text which matches phrases found in the Title of the page is assigned an especially important ranking, and text which is further down the page is assigned a diminished importance.  Some engines lose patience as they get further and further down a page, and quit indexing after a certain point.  So a page with lots and lots of javascript code near the top of the page may be thumbing its nose at the search engine, and will possibly be rewarded with a low ranking because of that.  If you must use javascript in your pages, annex that code to a separate file, and reference that file in the HTML.

Strictly speaking, not all search sites are search engines.  Yahoo!, for instance, is a directory where sites are indexed by hand by a staff of people who categorize sites.

But in the search engine category, Google is the 800 pound gorilla.  It has nearly an 80% share of the global market today, though this has shrunk nearly 3% in the past year, as Yahoo!’s share has brown from 9% to 12%.  So, obviously, it makes a lot of sense to pay attention to what Google is doing.

Google has two forms of placements in their pages.  One is AdSense, a Pay-per-Click (PPC) program where subscribers pay for each phrase they wish to advertise under.  Those paid ads appear either on the top of the google page, or on the right of the page, depending on your chosen Google page format, when a user searches for a phrase that matches the one paid for.  Each time the advertiser’s ad appears, Google charges his account an amount varying on the placement premium the PPC client has agreed to pay.

The rest of the Google pages are printed the ‘free’ or organic search results.  The objective is to construct your web page such that your page ranks high in the organic search listing.  Now the actual formula Google (and the other search engines) use to determine which sites get a high ranking, and which do not is a highly guarded secret.  And it is ever changing, and varies from search engine to search engine.  If it were publicized, everyone would adjust their web pages to accommodate the formula, thus defeating the purpose of the formula.  Not only does the ranking formulae change constantly, but the demand for those key phrases is ever changing, as is the re-working of sites all jockeying for position in the competition for high visibility.

Most users tend to favor the organic search results.

So the takeaway from this article is that prime placement in the organic rankings is a very valuable asset, but it is fleeting and ever buffeted by changes in competition, formulaic changes in the search engines, and even with rank of other pages in the website.  Second, because of all of the diverse forces at play, the placement of a website in any given search listing will fluctuate according to ALL of those factors.  So it is not possible to control your site’s placement in a search result – you can only hope to influence it.  Having said that, it is clear that search engines bestow honors on sites that produce fresh, new content that is helpful to the consumer, and that is well organized with good links.

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