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Why & How Search Engines Choose Their Top Listings

Methods for top listings in the search enginesThe search engines are a great resource for information and they offer us the ability to have our web pages listed for free, but keep in mind that the search engines are in a multi-billion dollar industry. Because of this, the search engines are compelled to list only the most relevant web pages in their top 10 listing results.

The Quality of Your Web Pages Is a Reflection on the Search Engines

The listing results that the search engines deliver to their users are a reflection of that engine and web searcher’s have come to expect nothing but the best. When they conduct a search, searchers expect the most relevant listing results possible. This is what the search engines attempt to deliver.

Some search engines perform better than others. There have been situations where a search engine’s top listings consisted of sites that had no real information, or the pages didn’t load properly; or most of the links were not working.

The last thing a search engine wants is to have their searchers make an assumption that this search engine shows poor results. The search engines don’t want to risk losing searchers to another search engine, since that equates to lost revenue.

Understanding Search Engine Algorithms

The search engines are not biased as to who gets top rankings. Each search engine has their own set of algorithms (criteria) to help them determine which web pages best fit their pre-set criteria and which web pages don’t.

Those web pages that do a better job of delivering what the search engine algorithms are looking for tend to perform better in the search engine listing results.

The higher your pages are listed (especially in the top 10 listings) on a search engine:

  • The greater your website visibility
  • Which will attract a greater volume of highly targeted, highly qualified traffic
  • Which in turn, can mean greater sales

The goal for any website wanting to have their web pages rank well in the major search engines is to try to fit the mold (as set by the search engine algorithms).

In order to fit the mold you need to understand what factors the search engines use to make this determination.

When trying to figure this out, keep in mind the following;

  1. The end result is that the search engines want to show the most relevant results to a searcher’s query
  2. So your web pages must provide actual information (unique content) based on what the searcher is looking for (the search term used by the searcher)
  3. As a top listing, your web page must also provide a good user experience once the searcher has left the engine and entered into your site

Optimize Your Site & Server for the Search Engines

The major areas that search engines look at when determining how they will rank and list your web pages include your server and your site.

SERVER

It is imperative that your server is search engine and visitor friendly. This means that your server should:

  • Have a fast response time
  • Provide your site with a unique IP address
  • Have an impeccable up time percentage
  • Have a reverse DNS that is working correctly
  • Not have open DNS
  • Ensure your nameservers resolve correctly
  • Be ready for high traffic volume if the search engines send you a large volume of traffic each day

Important Note: If your server is slow, or not responding for any reason, this can also create a poor user experience, which makes it less likely that the search engines will even consider allowing your site to rank in the top ten for important search terms (or keyword phrases) found on your web pages. These type of server issues can have a significant negative impact on your web page rankings. View more information about server related issues and SEO.

SITE

When they come to visit your website the search engine robots will look at your site’s structure; all of your web pages individually and then your website as a whole.

In order to ensure good user experience, there are various areas of your website that the search engine robots will look at. Does your site include (or have):

  • A custom 404 error page
  • A robots.txt file
  • Broken links
  • Slow loading pages
  • Duplicate content
  • Or pages with very little or no content

Remember that the search engines feel that your website and your web page content is a reflection on the way searchers/users perceive the search engine’s results, which is a reflection on the search engines.
If the search engines allow sites with broken links, slow loading pages, page errors and pages that don’t provide what the user is looking for there is a higher risk that the searcher/user will go to another search engine to find what they need.

The search engines use artificial intelligence as a part of their algorithm to try and determine not only what your web pages are about, but to also ensure that you are not using any “black hat” underhanded tactics to try and have your web pages look more relevant than they actually are.

The more web pages that you have that support what the overall theme is about the more relevant your web pages will seem to the search engines.

A website that has 500 pages dedicated to a particular subject will likely be seen as more relevant than a website with only 5 pages dedicated to that subject. This is why it is important to continually add new content to your site on a regular basis that is unique, as well as informative.

SEO On-Page Factors

SEO Content Optimization TipsThere are a number of strategies you can use to improve your search engine optimization efforts, some of which include on-page optimization and how to avoid duplicate content issues.

On-Page Optimization

On-page search engine optimization relates to on-page modifications that assist your web pages in becoming more relevant to specific keyword phrases contained within your website (the same phrases used in a search query).

By helping to build relevance for your web pages through various areas on your page that the search engines look at, the search engines are better able to determine how relevant your web pages are for specific keyword phrases used in a searcher’s query.

Optimizing On-Page Content

One important factor in successful on-page optimization is content. Should you attempt to apply optimization to web pages with little or no content you are more likely to exceed what would be optimal density for that given keyword phrase.

When you are creating your website text content or working on existing page content, look at the page as a whole and how your visitors would perceive it. Select a specific topic that encompasses your keyword phrase and create text copy centered around that keyword specific topic.

Important Note: If your website is an e-commerce site it is important to know that your descriptions provide the information a visitor will use to make a purchasing decision. If you have only a sentence or two to describe your product; it is simply not enough. This level of content is not enough for your visitors to make a purchasing decision, and it’s not enough for the search engines to make an informed decision about what the page is about or if your web page is worthy of ranking well.

Avoiding Duplicate Content Issues

If you are a distributor for a larger company, it is important that you understand it is highly likely that the same product names and descriptions the wholesaler or manufacturer provided you with will be the same they provided to all their distributors; your competitors.

If your content is identical to the content found on other websites it will cause a search engine’s “duplicated content filter” to be set off when the search engine robots visit your web pages.

In this case, the search engines will choose the page with the longest history, which is usually the original page on the manufacturer’s or wholesaler’s website.

Duplicate content is a serious hindrance making it nearly impossible for your web pages to rank.

When a wholesaler or manufacturer provides you with product names and descriptions it is imperative that you re-work the information and re-write the content so that it is unique.

The way you do this is to provide helpful information, incorporate testimonials and product reviews. There are specific thresholds where content can be considered duplicated, related or unique.

The more unique content you add the greater your chances that the search engine robots will see your pages as unique and worthy of competing for the same keyword phrases as your competitors.

With all this being said, it is most important to ensure your server and your site set up are “search engine friendly” before actually attempting on page optimization factors.

If your server is slow and your site has errors in the code; it doesn’t matter where you put your keywords phrases or what else you do for on-page optimization. By fixing errors “from the ground up” you are making your site relevant and ready for on page optimization. Read more about SEO and server related issues here.

Continue looking for and contacting other “authority sites” within your industry and think outside the box, when determining who those “authority sites” are and how they relate to your site.

Remember to continue to add quality unique content to your site on a regular basis; if you are not savvy with HTML, ask your website designer to add a blog to your site, which will allow you to add content to your site with ease.

Lastly, remember that if you continually add unique content to your website, write topic specific pages that revolve around the theme of your targeted keyword phrase and consistently build your web page content, you are playing an active role in your on-page optimization and will gain more control of how your site is perceived, rated and ranked.

Search Engine Optimization- Facts & Factors

Although we all find search engines a great resource for information and they offer us the ability to be listed for free, they are in a multibillion dollar industry. The results that the search engines deliver to their users are a reflection of that engine. If a search engine shows a site that has no real information, or the pages don’t load right, or the most of the links are not working; that searcher can make an assumption that this search engine shows poor results. If this determination is made there is a possibility that the user may use another engine; which equates to lost revenue.

The search engines are not biased as to who gets top rankings, but their algorithm helps them to determine which sites fit the mold and which ones don’t. The goal for any site wanting to rank well in the major search engines is to try to fit the mold. In order to fit the mold you need to understand what factors are used to make this determination. When trying to figure this out, keep one thing in mind; the end result is for the search engines to show the most relevant results to a searchers query, provide actual information based on what the searcher is looking for and for the results shown to provide a good user experience once the searcher has left the engine and into your site.

Below are the four major areas the search engines look at when determining where your site will rank.

Optimize Your Site & Server for the Search Engines

1. Server – It is imperative that your server is search engine & visitor friendly. This means that it has a fast response time, your site has a unique ip address, has an impeccable uptime percentage, reverse DNS works correctly, you do not have open DNS, your nameservers resolve correctly and it is overall ready if the search engines sent you a large volume of traffic each day.

Important Note: If your server is slow, or not responding for any reason, this can create a poor user experience. It is less likely they will even consider allowing your site to rank in the top ten for phrases that are important to you. These type of server issues can impact your rankings.

2. Site – The search engines look at your sites structure, all of your pages individually and then as a whole. There are various areas they look at to help ensure a good user experience which includes a custom 404 error page, your robots.txt file, broken links, slow loading pages, duplicate content, and pages with very little content. Remember your site and it’s content can reflect the way users perceive the search engines results. If they allow sites with broken links, slow pages, errors and pages that don’t provide what the user is looking for; there is a chance they may consider going to another search engine to see if they can find what they are looking for.

Important Note: The search engines artificial intelligence as a part of their algorithm to try to determine what the page is about as well as ensure you are using any sneaky attempts to make your site look more relevant than it actually is. The more pages that you have that support what the overall theme is about the more relevant your site will be seen in the search engines.

Someone who has 500 pages dedicated to a subject will likely be seen more relevant than someone with 5 pages dedicated to a subject. This is why it is important to continually add new content that is unique, as well as informative; to your site on a regular basis.

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PPC OR SEO –Which is right for your business?

Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is coming of age… in a big way. From Fortune 500 corporations to sole proprietorship’s, more and more companies are starting to realize the power of the Internet for brand awareness, client retention, lead prospecting, and revenue generation.

This has lead to huge interest in, and demand for, the two most-effective SEM strategies: Pay Per Click (PPC) and Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

PPC is the process of bringing visitors to a website by paying a ‘click-through’ fee for each click. This is accomplished by ‘bidding’ on keywords that are relevant to the business. Results are usually displayed in the ‘sponsored’ or ‘featured’ areas with the highest bidder getting the number one ranking.

SEO is the process of making a website more search engine ‘friendly’ to help it rank higher. Improvements are made to the site content, internal and external linking structure, server configuration, and Meta Tags. Search engine ‘spiders’ visit the site and attempt to classify what it is about. When a search is conducted, the website is compared to other websites for relevancy to the topic being searched for. Results are displayed in the ‘natural’ or ‘organic’ areas in order of most-to-least relevant.

Which one is best? That depends entirely on your business requirements and budget constraints. Don’t let anyone tell you that one is better than the other… they both have their advantages and disadvantages and each is geared towards meeting certain needs and wants.

PAY PER CLICK PROS & CONS

PPC Pros:

  • Fast… top rankings can be achieved in a matter of hours or days –not months.
  • Very little website changes required.
  • You can target as many keywords as you want.
  • Control… you can control/ change almost all aspects of the campaign.
  • Costs are only incurred when someone clicks on your ad.
  • Results can be tracked and measured precisely… improving ROI.
  • Permits geographic targeting… pick your country, region, state, city, or town.
  • Permits running of ads at different times… 24×7, morning, afternoon, evening, night.
  • Will direct users to the exact page on your site you want them to visit.
  • Allows for testing of landing pages and conversion rates.
  • Immediacy… get instantaneous, real-time feedback on changes/ adjustments.
  • Ideal way to ‘test’ whether online marketing is right for your business.
  • Must rank for a particular keyword? If you have the budget, you can rank for it.

PPC Cons:

  • Rankings disappear as soon as you stop paying.
  • Can be expensive in the long term.
  • Be wary of ‘bidding wars’… costs can quickly spiral out of control.
  • Susceptible to ‘click fraud’… people/ competitors clicking on your ads to drive up costs.
  • Keywords are initially reviewed and approved/ disapproved by the search engines.
  • The cost for keywords is going up.
  • Search engines don’t care how much you value a keyword… if it doesn’t generate enough traffic, they will disable it.
  • Your rankings can be affected by the number of ‘click-throughs’ your ad generates… so even though you ‘bid’ for the number two position, someone else may get that spot.
  • Rankings are viewed by people as being a form of ‘advertising’… some users consider this a plus, others a negative.
  • Most people prefer to click on ‘natural/ organic’ (i.e. SEO) results rather than PPC ads.

SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION PROS & CONS

SEO Pros:

  • Rankings can remain for a long time after the optimization process is done.
    You don’t have to pay every time someone clicks on your listing.
  • Long-term costs can be lower than PPC.
  • Good ROI and is relatively inexpensive when compared to other forms of advertising… both online and offline.
  • People trust SEO rankings more than PPC rankings… more than twice as many people will click on an organic listing than a PPC listing.

SEO Cons:

  • Results are not guaranteed… be very wary of any company that guarantees top rankings.
  • Higher start-up costs and longer timeframe… approx. 2-6 months to start seeing results.
  • Rankings are unpredictable… top rankings can come and go based on any number of factors that are beyond your control.
  • Requires on-going maintenance to ensure website remains relevant to search engine algorithm changes.
  • Many changes may have to be made to the site itself to make it search engine friendly.
  • Changes may have to be made to the Web Host server(s).
  • Good SEO costs money… you get what you pay for.
  • Geographic targeting is more difficult than with PPC.
  • To the search engines, ‘content is king’… websites need to have good, unique content.
  • Content written to target keywords isn’t usually the most compelling or the easiest to read from a human perspective.
  • You may not know whether your SEO company is using ethical or unethical techniques… unless they are certified.
  • Competition is fierce and some companies use unethical practices to attain top rankings.
  • Un-doing what is already done can be difficult… especially if your site has already been penalized in the past.
  • Some keywords are just too competitive to be even worth going after… unless you have a large budget.

PPC & SEO SIMILARITIES:

Both…

  • Provide highly targeted, motivated customers… people who are actively searching for your products/ services.
  • Enhance corporate sales and marketing efforts… leading to improved profits.
    Help to maximize a website’s exposure on the Internet.
  • Are great for brand awareness, lead prospecting, and revenue generation.
  • Can turn a website from being a business expense to a business asset.

The Internet is vast, immensely vast… people turn to the search engines for help in finding what they are looking for… PPC and SEO make it possible for people to find your site. Ultimately, an online marketing strategy that combines both PPC and SEO strategy is the best strategy to pursue but there a very few companies that can afford the luxury of investing in both.

Making the right decision is not easy and this is where considerable research should be done on selecting the right company to work with. They should be willing to openly discuss both PPC and SEO with you, and provide solid input as to which of these two Search Engine Marketing strategies would be best suited for your business. They should be active participants in helping you to develop and implement an SEM strategy that successfully meets your online business goals and requirements… so choose carefully.

In their simplest and purest forms; SEO is about optimizing and lucking into rankings… PPC is about controlling and paying for rankings.
About the author:
Chris Genge is the President of 1st on the List Promotion Inc, a website promotion firm that specializes in search engine optimization and pay per click management. Chris writes on current and emerging search engine marketing theories and has been involved in the SEO industry since 1997. He and his team focus on researching and implementing the most effective and ethical search engine optimization techniques. To learn more visit /