An Oldie but a Goodie – Search Engines

I posted the following information about search engines almost two years ago.  It’s still a good primer on how search engines work.

Pay careful attention to the section on repeating your keyword phrase in the text.  The phrase should be in the page title, included in the text a bunch of times, bolded and included in link text.  It will be a compromise between readability and word repetition.


Search Engines 101

Search engines are important to the success of your website. There’s no doubt about that. But how do search engines work? How do website owners get their sites to show up? Do website owners have to pay for listings?

What a Search Engine Does
Some of the most popular search engines are Google, Yahoo, AOL, MSN and Excite. All search engines collect information about websites. People go to search engines when they need help finding information. Search engine visitors type in a few words to describe what they’re trying to find. The search engine looks through the data it’s collected and provides a list of web sites for the person to visit.

Keywords or keyphrases are the words that people type into search engines when they’re seeking information. It’s important to try and think of what words people will use when looking for your site.

There are a few rules of thumb for picking key words:

  • A two or three keyword phrase is best. Imagine the difference between someone typing in “hotel” and someone typing in “Oregon hotel”. Using two or three words will help you connect with your target market.
  • Your keywords should be something that people will actually type into search engines. Scoring well for a phrase that no one uses won’t help.

Once you’ve determined the keywords for your site those keywords should be worked into the website design. Ways of doing this include:

  • Using keywords multiple times in the home page text.
  • Using keywords in Meta tags. Meta tags are special coding on a web page that search engines use.

The goal here is to figure out what potential customers will type into a search engine. Then we optimize your site for those keywords so that your site will show up in search engines for the keywords that you’ve chosen.

Site Ranking
Site ranking is the order that websites appear on a search engine results page. This is extremely important. Studies have shown that most people will only look at the first page of results from a search engine. Also, people are more likely to click on links at the top of the list.

Search engines match what people typed in (what people are looking for) with websites. The list of suggested sites provided by the search engine shows the sites it thinks are the best matches first. So how do search engines decide which site gets listed first? That’s the million-dollar question! Different search engines use different methodologies to determine their rankings. Also search engines change their own methodology from time to time to try and give better search engine results.

It’s important to track your search engine listing over time. If it starts to drop then it’s time to rework the home page of your site to try and get better results. This paper only lists a few ways to improve search engine rankings. There are dozens of things to do. Over time some of these become more effective and some become less effective. So it’s important to watch your site’s listing and take action if the listing drops.

Two Types of Listings
The process of getting sites to rank highly in search engines is called Search Engine Optimization or SEO. Doing it without paying for rankings or listings is called Organic SEO.

Organic SEO involves submitting your site to individual search engines. Your site should be designed so that it does well for the keywords you’ve chosen. This method takes time but generally costs less and provides longer lasting results.

Most search engines also provide a paid listing service. Sometimes the listing is in the regular search engine results. Sometimes the listing is in a special section with other paid listings. This method provides immediate results however if you drop out of the paid program your site listing can disappear.

The most important, and most difficult, part about getting sites listed in search engines is selecting the keywords. The right keywords can boost your site’s visibility and your company’s profitability by enabling potential customers to find your site.

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